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Department of History


Sarah Waheed

Title: Assistant Professor
Department: History
College of Arts and Sciences
Office: Gambrell Hall, Room 147
Headshot of Sarah Waheed


Sarah Waheed is a specialist of South Asian history, and teaches about medieval, early modern, and modern South Asia. She is a cultural historian who specializes on South Asian Islam in global and local contexts across the India-Pakistan divide. Her approach to the past is transregional and comparative and her scholarship broadly speaks to issues of religion and secularism, colonialism and nationalism, and gender and memory.

Sarah Waheed received her PhD from Tufts University in 2011, and has been the recipient of several fellowships and awards, including a Mellon Foundation Dissertation Research Fellowship by the Council in Library and Information Resources and most recently a Fulbright Scholar. Her first book, Hidden Histories of Pakistan: Censorship, Literature, and Secularism in Late Colonial India was published by Cambridge University Press in 2022. The book offers a timely examination about the cultural politics of the left in the Pakistan movement. It shows how left-leaning intellectuals drew from long-standing literary traditions of Islam in a period of great duress and upheaval in the mid-twentieth century, complicating our understanding of the relationship between religion and secularism. Rather than seeing 'religion' and 'the secular' as distinct and oppositional phenomena, this book demonstrates how these concepts themselves were historically produced in South Asia. Through a detailed analysis of trials for blasphemy, obscenity, and sedition, and feminist writers, the book argues that Muslim intellectuals engaged with socialism and communism through their distinctive ethical and cultural past. In so doing, she provides a fresh perspective on the creation of Pakistan and South Asian modernity.

She is currently working on her second book, In Search of Chand Bibi: Muslim Warrior Queen of IndiaIn 1595 Chand Bibi (1550-1600) of Deccan sultanates in southern India, defeated the most powerful forces of her time: Mughal imperial armies. Who was this queen? And what kind of world made her possible? In the very first monograph of Chand Bibi, the book project focuses upon the inadequately studied subject of Muslim female power in pre-modern India. By turning to the Deccan region, it also challenges the north-centric perspective of Mughal imperial development that dominates histories of India’s Persianate past. The book also problematizes modern ideas of an India long characterized by perpetual Hindu-Muslim conflict where Muslim women exist only on the margins, “behind the veil”, as oppressed victims of enduring patriarchy. At the heart of the book is a quest to solve the mystery of what happened to Chand Bibi, given the multiple narratives which exist about her enigmatic end, raising universal and methodological questions about how historians grapple with myths and legends. Chand Bibi’s death is mired in mystery: in some sources, she appears to have been murdered by her own soldiers; in others, she committed suicide to avoid capture by the Mughals; and in yet a third, it is said that she disappeared by escaping with her female companions in underground tunnels. How do historians make sense of competing narratives of the same event? What possibilities emerge when we narrate the past by centering perspectives confined to the margins? What counts as credible source material? What do various archives reveal about the afterlives of events and peoples?


B.A. Bryn Mawr College
M.A. University of Chicago
Ph.D. Tufts University


HIS 103: Introduction to South Asian History
HIS 367: Partition of India and Creation of Pakistan
HIS 365: The Indian Ocean World

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