I am a postdoctoral research fellow at the Center for Governance and Culture in Europe (GCE), University of St. Gallen, Switzerland. Trained in the field of anthropology, I work at the intersections of critical migration research and affect studies to bring to light the undeniable power of emotions, feelings, motivations, moods, and other affective processes in the migratory lives of people subjected to unequal mobility through restrictive border regimes.
My current research inquires into the situation of irregularised migrants in and around Vienna, Austria, as part of PRIME, a (Horizon Europe funded) comparative research project studying the variation in irregularisation across the EU member states and the UK.
I was awarded a PhD (magna cum laude) in social and cultural anthropology at the University of Munich (LMU). My doctoral research inquired into irregularised migration and in/voluntary return as part of a DFG-funded project led by Professor Martin Sökefeld. Between 2019 and 2022, I conducted over a year of multi-sited ethnographic fieldwork in Germany, Pakistan, and Italy, in addition to several months of “remote research” during periods of travel restrictions due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Over this time, I investigated the everyday experiences of irregularised migrants holding Pakistani citizenship. Starting with their precarious legal status in Germany and Italy, I probed into their often coerced, if not forced, return to Pakistan and the strategies they devised to overcome or challenge such a return. As such, my dissertation (summa cum laude) complements a growing body of anthropological knowledge and ethnographic research on so-called "voluntary returns" that has thus far focused largely on Africa and Latin America.
Some of my past publications have focused on the impact of migration, biography and gender on the ageing process (Journal of Bodies, Sexualities, and Masculinities, 2020); how so-called “voluntary returnees" lack volition and agency due to (supra)national policies and practices of German officials (NUST Press, 2020); gendered affects and vulnerabilities in the lives of irregularised and returning migrants (Routledge, 2023); the entanglement of religious cosmologies and restrictive migration regimes in the lives of irregularised migrants from Pakistan (Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, under review). Please see publications for a complete list.
My interest in social anthropology is heavily interdisciplinary. While my work lies at the nexus of anthropology of migration and affect theory, I am also interested in research on and discussions around the issues of religion, power, violence, borders, the state, inequality and gender. Particularly stimulating for me is the intersection of anthropological inquiry into some of these issues with other fields, such as moral philosophy, political science and sociocultural psychology. These interests have been shaped by my Master’s degree in medical anthropology from Heidelberg University and multidisciplinary training from the prestigious School of Liberal Arts (University College Utrecht) at Utrecht University, where I received my Bachelor’s degree on a full scholarship.
My extensive linguistic skills facilitate my field research and include Urdu (native language), English (educational language), German (B2), Seraiki (paternal language; fluent), Punjabi (maternal language; fluent), Hindi (proficient; oral) and Dutch (A1).
Beyond academia, I remain heavily engaged in discussions at public forums, popular scholarship and activism around the topics of (irregularised) migration and unequal mobility. I routinely participate in panel discussions organised by advocacy groups and NGOs such as the Bavarian Refugee Council, the International Organisation for Migration and the Bavarian Refugee Volunteer Association (UnserVeto). My contributions to such forums have covered various topics related to my research, from conditions of initial departure of irregularised migrants to their post-return life in Pakistan. However, I also take a keen interest in topics beyond my current research; for instance, in one public workshop, I focused on the impact of climate change on emigration from Pakistan, or as my interlocutors like to call it, "bahir jana" (literally going outside; to move abroad/overseas). My central aim is to always give a representation to the critically missing voices of irregularised migrants in the very debates that highly impact their lives. In that vein, I have also written about my interlocutors’ complex lives in magazines such as Sapiens, Hinterland, and Der Spiegel. In 2023, I joined the advisory board of The Other Side of Hope, a UK-based literary magazine edited by refugees and migrants. Most importantly, since 2019, I have been a core member of the Munich-based group, The Long Run, which works on various grass-roots anti-racist solidarity initiatives.
PhD University of Munich (LMU), Germany
M. A. Heidelberg University, Germany
B. A. (Hons) University College Utrecht, The Netherlands
Fellowships | Scholarships | Grants
Postdoctoral Fellowship at the University of St. Gallen within a Horizon Project
3-Month PhD Completion Grant (given up upon securing the above position)
2019 - 2023
Doctoral Fellowship at the University of Munich (LMU) within a DFG Project
2018 - 2018
Thesis Completion Grant, Heidelberg University
2012 - 2015
UCU Scholarship, University College Utrecht
Professor & HoD University of Munich (LMU)
Chairman German Anthropological Association
Constanze Weigl-Jäger (2nd M.A. Supervisor)
Prog. Coordinator Institute of Gerontology
Magnus Treiber (2nd PhD Supervisor)
Professor University of Munich (LMU)
Assistant Professor New Economic School
Professor Heidelberg University
HoD Anthropology at South Asia Institute
Professor Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO)
Co-Director PRIO Migration Centre
Professor University of Toulouse (IAST)
Senior Researcher World Bank (DIME3) & CNRS
University College Utrecht (Retd.)
Board Member Bavarian Refugee Council
Board of Directors Bellevue di Monaco