Sadia Abbas
Assistant Professor
Department of English
Rutgers University-Newark
I specialize in postcolonial literature and theory, the culture and politics of Islam in modernity, early modern English literature—especially the literature of religious strife—and the history of twentieth-century criticism. Before coming to Rutgers I taught at the University of Michigan and at Williams College. I have published essays on Robert Southwell, the fiction of the Muslim diaspora, Jewish converts to Islam and migrants to Pakistan, the uses of Reformation in contemporary Muslim thought, and treatments of subjectivity in contemporary theorizations of Muslim female agency. My research interests range from film, European perceptions of Europe’s own history and identity, networks of cultural circulation in the Mediterranean, religion, theology and theory, religious fundamentalisms, neoliberalism, the rise of the global right, contemporary British fiction, gender and religion, early Netherlandish and Renaissance painting, contemporary Pakistani art, to the transformation of Pakistani popular music in the past fifty years. My recent research engages with the global circulation of Islamism, especially in its relation with left politics, the colonial construction of religious identity, Pakistani laws between imperialism and the military, and aesthetic responses to Islamism and the state in the Pakistani Anglophone novel and contemporary painting. My book, At Freedom’s Limit: Islam and the Postcolonial Predicament is forthcoming with Fordham University Press. In this I examine how contemporary critical theory and political discourse constitute Muslims. I am interested how a series of impasses in western thought (regarding the Enlightenment, liberalism, the Reformation and Protestantism) and an anxiety about the crisis of Muslims in the Euro-American midst get worked out on the bodies of Muslims and through the figure of Islam. So as not to grant a priority to the metropolitan context, the book has a double structure in which I discuss some of the responses to imperialism and the internal confrontation between secularism and religion and also the confrontations between orthodox and heterodox versions of religion in Muslim-majority societies. Current projects: A novel, A Change of Colour, set in Karachi a couple of decades ago. I am hoping to complete this soon. A book, in its early stages, tentatively titled Space in Another Time: Essays on Ruins and Monuments. This project extends a line of thinking regarding the importance of ruins to artists contesting religio-national narratives articulated in the final chapter of At Freedom’s Limit. I read an array of essays, novels, poems, paintings, archaeological artifacts and spaces across Northern Europe, the Mediterranean and South Asia in order to interrogate varieties of Hellenism, in order to rethink the idea of Europe and the narratives of postcolonial nation-states the idea stabilizes. A study, in its early stages, of Pakistani painting which examines the relationship between techniques of painting and postcolonial conceptions of the nation.