Skip to main content

Congratulations 2020 South Asia Graduates!

June 16, 2020

The UW South Asia Center congratulates the 2020 graduates of the International Studies (South Asia) MA program, as well as those with a focus on the study of South Asia from affiliated graduate programs.

Marshall Azad

Degree: MA in South Asia Studies, Jackson School of International Studies

Research interests: Bangladesh, Chittagong Hill Tracts, Elder Care, Domestic Labor, Conservation, Environmental Movements, Critical Race Theory, Social Reproduction

Final papers: “Counter narratives in Bangladeshi development discourse: Shorbojon Kotha (People’s Voice), a platform for voices opposing the Rampal power plant,” and “A Household in Crisis: The predicament of live-in domestic workers caring for aging employers”

Honors & awards: FLAS 2018-2019, FLAS Summer 2019, Conlon Fellowship 2019-2020

Favorite class: Bengali & Critical Race Theory

Future plans: I’ll be working on a farm and doing mutual aid work in my home town. We’ll be growing food for low-income families and those impacted by COVID-19.

Advice for new students: I wish I had read Annihilation of Caste during my first quarter. If you haven’t read it already I would highly recommend it. Other advice would be to support your classmates as much as possible and take advantage of the bike shop on campus. Good luck!


Julia Chatterjee

Degree: MA in South Asia Studies, Asian Languages & Literature (anticipated August 2020)

Research interests: Indo-Iranian Languages and Literature (Sanskrit, Gandhāri, Urdu, Farsi), Ancient to Early Modern History of South Asia, Writing Systems

Final papers: “Implications of Multiscriptality on Socio-Political Histories of Greater Gandhāra” and “Occult Sciences, Sorcery, and the Divine: Anxieties of Power in the Dastan-e-Amir Hamza” (working titles)

Honors & awards: FLAS (Urdu, Persian), India Association of Western Washington Scholarship, AIPS-Berkeley Urdu Language Program in Pakistan

Favorite class: Intensive Elementary Persian

Future plans: I hope to spend some time abroad (post-COVID19), continue working as a language instructor and mentor, and explore other impact-driven, community-oriented opportunities. I’d also like to continue writing (multilingual) historical fiction.

Advice for new students: Here are my two cents: First, community is everything. Find the people with whom you can share your burden and your joys, who will empower and inspire you within and outside the academy. Second, be more than your graduate work. If I were to do things differently, I would have tried harder from the moment I entered graduate school to cultivate and nourish a healthy self-confidence that wasn’t bound to my graduate student status.


Eshan Dabak

Degree: MA in Comparative Religion, Jackson School of International Studies

Research interests: Hindu diaspora, American religious history, religious pluralism

Final papers: “Ayyappan in the Supreme Court: Freedom, Reform, and Modernity in the 2018 Sabarimala Case,” and “I’ll Teach You Garba: The Construction of a Hindu Religious Community in an American University”

Honors & awards: Top Scholar Fellowship 2018-2019, FLAS (Hindi) 2019-2020

Favorite class: Religion Theorized (Christian Novetzke)

Future plans: Yale Law School

Advice for new students: You are not expected to read every page of every book assigned for class. Really!


Taylor Hamilton

Degree: MA in South Asia Studies, Jackson School of International Studies

Final papers: “Empowerment for Educated Women in Pakistan as Portrayed in the Drama Zindagi Gulzar Hai,” and “Agrarian Suicides in Punjab: Structural Antecedents and Suggested Interventions”

Honors & awards: FLAS (Hindi), Critical Languages Scholarship (Urdu) Conlon Fellowship

Favorite class: I really enjoy learning languages so all of my Hindi and Urdu classes were my favorite.


M.A.I.S. South Asia student Parijat Jha

Parijat Jha

Degree: MA in South Asia Studies, Jackson School of International Studies

Research interests: Migration, Labor, Political Economy, Anthropology of the State, Anthropology of Emotions

Final papers: “Humor as a Political Intervention: Comic Visions and Representations of Kashmir” & “Ham to Sirf Mazdoor Hain, Hamein Kyon Maarenge? : An Inquiry Into Violence and the Work of Hope in Kashmir”

Honors & awards: FLAS 2019-2020 (Urdu), FLAS Summer 2019 (Hindi)

Future plans: Pursuing PhD in Anthropology at Cornell

Advice for new students: Be kind to yourself, if you are having a hard time understanding something you are not alone. Communicate the challenges you experience to your advisor, they are here to help you. Maybe most importantly work with one another to build a community. Many of us are only here for a short period of time and move to Seattle from faraway places, building a community helps create a thriving environment for intellectual inquiry and general cohesion.


Akanksha Misra

Degree: PhD in Gender, Women & Sexuality Studies (anticipated August 2020)

Research interests: Gender and Sexuality, Transnational Feminist, Body, Phenomenology, Education

Dissertation title: “The Erotics of Pedagogical Spaces: Schools, Sexuality, and the Desiring Body in India and Turkey”

Honors & awards: AIIS Junior Fellowship (2017-18), AAUW International Scholarship (2013-14), Simpson Center Society of Scholars (2018-2019)

Favorite class: Feminist International Political Economy (Priti Ramamurthy)

Future plans: Joining SUNY Plattsburgh as Asst. Prof of Gender and Women’s Studies

Advice for new students: Listen with compassion, think with reflection, and live with abandon!


Rafeel Wasif

Degree: PhD in Political Science (anticipated August 2020) (Alum, South Asia Studies, 2014)

Research interests: Nonprofits/NGOs, Political Islam, Data Science for Social Good, Text-as-Data, Social Media, South Asia

Dissertation title: “Terrorists or Philanthropists: Assessing the Effect of 9/11 on Muslim Nonprofits in the US and Pakistan”

Honors & awards: ARNOVA Doctoral Fellow, ARNOVA Graduate Diversity Scholar (Declined), Taraknath Das Prize for Best Graduate Paper in Comparative and International Politics, Fulbright Scholar

Favorite class: Political Islam (Robinson) and Theories of International Relations (Prakash) – While the former developed my love for studying Muslim societies and Muslim organizations, the latter course exposed me for the first time to literature on NGOs/nonprofits

Future plans: I am starting a Postdoctoral Fellowship at the Lily School of Philanthropy at Indiana University–Purdue University (IUPUI) where I will build on my research on Muslim nonprofits and Muslim philanthropy. Lily School is the only school in the world that focuses solely on Philanthropy, and has a center focused exclusively on studying Muslim philanthropy, and I am very excited for the next stage of my academic career.

Advice for new students: Graduate school has probably been one of the most rewarding times in my life, but at times, it is also incredibly frustrating. My advice is to use it well. Always find questions that interest you and make you excited to get out and work on them. Another main advice from my side is to be humble and human. I always advise people to take breaks and find hobbies that excite them beyond the monotony of research and classwork. Seattle is probably the most beautiful place I have ever lived in and has so much to offer. I always advise people to take advantage of it and take time out to enjoy themselves and make a community. Academia is not a sprint; it is a marathon. Be cognizant of your physical and mental health. Eat well, sleep well, make friends, and find some activity that you like to stay active. Always make time for family and loved ones. Try to travel through the US if you are coming from abroad. Engage in conversations with people from all kinds of backgrounds. Better humans generally make better scholars!


Ali Mehdi Zaidi

Degree: MA in South Asia Studies,  Jackson School of International Studies

Research interests: My thesis was on the practices of drug rehabilitation in Quetta, Pakistan for which I conducted field work for a month during the summer of 2019. I investigated the processes of addiction and rehabilitation arguing that historical socio-political patterns inform people’s processes of understanding addiction. I also studied the role of the family and conceptions of masculinity in positioning the drug addict as an addict. My other paper analyzed pamphlets released by the Muslim League Students association to its volunteers just before 1947. I argued that the understanding of propaganda within League literature warrants a move away from conceptualizing a coherent, ideologically consistent meaning to the idea of Pakistan. I received an Honors for my work during the program. My program was funded by the Fulbright program.

Final papers: “‘The Planes That Crash’: Tuning, Masculinity and Drug Addiction in Quetta, Balochistan,” and “‘Tareeqa-e-Tabligh’: Propaganda, Performance, and the ‘Pakistan Movement”

Future plans: After the MA, I accepted an offer to start in Stanford’s Anthropology PhD program scheduled to start as soon as COVID-19 allows. There, I hope to seek training in medical anthropology. My eventual aim is to conduct an ethnography of the Hazara community in Quetta studying various social processes that have emerged in response to the ethnic cleansing of Shia-Hazaras in Pakistan over the past three decades. These processes include but are not limited to local and international migration, drug addiction and rehabilitation, a regenerative role of the Hazara dead.

Advice for new students: It is a conceit of academic life to assume that research happens in an environment that is perfect. By which I mean that other life, the life of the researcher ceases to be; as if, in putting on the hat of the graduate student, the life of the individual is on hold. Necessarily, research happens in the space between relationships forming, relationships breaking, people dying, personal crises happening, pandemics breaking out, and dreaming becoming possible in political life again. Account for this. Set aside space in life overall for school/research. You are more than just a student. And it is not a zero sum game. Devoting time to emotionally, nutritionally, politically or spiritually fulfill yourself will make your work/school/research more informed, more kind, and more human.

South Asia Center

Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies
University of Washington
Box 353650
Seattle WA, 98195-3650