Asma Abbas, PhD
Senior Research Fellow
Asma Abbas is Full Professor of Politics and Philosophy, and Director of Transdisciplinary and Experimental Studies, at Bard College at Simon’s Rock, where she began as an Assistant Professor in 2005, upon receiving her doctorate in political science from the Pennsylvania State University. She also holds a Master’s in Liberal Studies from the New School for Social Research, and Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Business Administration from the Institute of Business Administration, Karachi. Asma is associated with the Global Centre for Advanced Studies as a Senior Research Fellow.
Abbas is former Dean of Academics and Professor of Liberal Studies at the Indus Valley School of Art and Architecture in Karachi, Pakistan, and former Fulbright-Masaryk Distinguished Chair in Social Studies at Masaryk University in Brno, Czech Republic. At Bard College at Simon’s Rock, she has also held the positions of the Emily H. Fisher Faculty Fellow, the Division Head for Social Studies, the Faculty Convenor of the Simon’s Rock Study Group on Institutional Transition and Mission, and the Director of Proseminar in Social, Political and Humanistic Inquiry. She is associate faculty at the Brooklyn Institute for Social Research, and also advises and teaches in the M.Phil. in Art and Design at the Indus Valley School of Art and Architecture. She is founding organiser of Hic Rosa, (and its international travelling Studio in Materialist and Anticolonial Politics and Aesthetics), the Falsework School for alternative community political education, and ACCREW (art, culture, community, and education workers) Caucus of the Democratic Socialists of America.
Her work is situated at the intersection of global politics, ethics, and aesthetics, and combines historical, materialist, feminist, comparative, postcolonial, and continental perspectives. She understands herself as a historian of form and method interested in probing historically contingent experiences, in the service of anticolonial, anticapitalist, antifascist, and anti-nationalist hospitalities, imaginations, and cultivations in every facet and practice of knowing and being. Her hope is to provoke the potency and history of these materialities as a means of revitalising the political, and in order to acknowledge the labour of those ordinary subjects whose possibilities call to be unlocked from the legibilities, identifications, and locations granted them within dominant narratives. She finds her companions in a host of thinkers working in critical and political theory, political aesthetics and poetics, gender studies, black studies, critical ethnic, Muslim studies, colonial and postcolonial studies, medieval studies, deviant theologies, literary theory, and Global South studies.
As director of Hic Rosa, and as a continuation of the Materialism and the Colony conference she organised at Bard College at Simon’s Rock in 2013, Abbas continues to convoke spaces for thinking about the imperatives of a contemporary materialist and anticolonial politics and aesthetics, by way of a yearly summer studio. Alongside these, she continues to extend her work on the history of the left in South Asia and the Middle East. She is translator of a memoir of a founders of the labour movement in Pakistan, and is collaborating on an art and history project that works with stories and narratives from the left, especially to highlight internationalist conversations and commitments where one expects them the least, due to presumptive immediacies of space and time, orientalist scripts of political and cultural denouement, and fallacious hierarchies of political need and desire.
Abbas is the author of Liberalism and Human Suffering: Materialist Reflections on Politics, Ethics, and Aesthetic (Palgrave Macmillan, 2010), and Another Love: Overtures to a Politics of the Unrequited (Rowman & Littlefield, 2018). She is currently working on In the Ninth Circle of Hell: Betrayal, Translation, Politics, an experimental political phenomenology/ethnography titled Anti-Odysseus: Fugues of the Non-Homeric, and a series of essays on the “hatred of education” (in the same key as Rancière’s Hatred of Democracy). She is also curator and co-editor of a large-scale collaborative pandemic writing project Falsework Smalltalk: Aesthetic Archives, Political Education, and Recitations of a Future in Common, to be published at the turn of the year. Her work has been part of several volumes and anthologies, and her essays have appeared in Hypatia, Theory and Event, Democratic Theory, Journal of Politics, Politics and Culture, among others. Beyond the US and Pakistan, she has been part of academic, political, and artistic engagements in Poland, Czech Republic, Ireland, Sweden, Spain, Austria, Germany, the Netherlands, India, France, Canada, UAE, and the UK.