My research spans the fields of critical international relations, women, gender and sexuality studies, comparative politics and migration studies with a regional focus in the Middle East and South Asia. Specifically, I study how war rearranges the conduct, performances and understandings of gender and sexuality among diasporas of war. My research places every day people’s experiences of war and displacement at the center of international relations, with a particular focus on Muslim women and queer and trans Muslims. As an interdisciplinary researcher, I conduct multi-method qualitative research including ethnography, interviews, focus groups and interpretive methods.
Another area of my research explores the intersection of surveillance regimes and queer and trans Muslim identities, experiences and movements in the United States. I study the queer and trans Muslim experiences of Islamophobia and homophobia in urban cities and the emergence of local movements, queer politics and Muslim solidarities.
Current Research Abstract: "From War to Empire: Diasporic Journeys, Gender Politics and Sexuality Theorizing"
Among academics and policymakers, interest in diasporas is increasing. Civil conflict, terrorism, global warming and human rights violations are creating ever-growing diasporic communities around the world. In particular, many diaspora communities are the product of war. War is quintessentially a masculine phenomenon and activity, yet warfare has unexplored effects on exiles’ understanding of gender and sexuality. How do experiences of war and displacement shape understandings, conduct, and performances of gender and sexuality in exiles’ new homes? Centering this question, my dissertation interrogates formations, negotiations, and contestations of gender and sexuality among diasporas of war, through in-depth qualitative study of Afghan diaspora in the United States. I argue that war rearranges the order and norms of gender and sexuality, not only among the population experiencing war firsthand but also among the population fleeing wars— refugees, immigrants and their descendants. Even though the order and norms of gender and sexuality are challenged in exiles’ new homes, they are still reinterpreted and restructured within the binaries of masculine and feminine, the protector and the protected, the breadwinner and the homemaker and the good heterosexual and the bad homosexual.
My research findings demonstrate that patriarchal war diasporas establish rigid and violent norms of gender and sexuality in public and private spaces, wherein heterosexual men recuperate their masculinity through protecting their families’ honor in order to cope with “new” spatial, political, social and cultural changes. Heteronormative imaginations of homeland come to define, restructure, and reinforce diasporic hierarchies of gender and norms of sexuality in exiles’ new homes. However, my dissertation also challenges the oppressed, weak, sexless and apolitical Muslim woman narrative by introducing the concept of double lives, a practice of diasporic feminism that calls attention to re-theorization of freedom and agency in feminist international relations. Through ethnographic work into the everyday lives of Afghan diaspora women, I theorize that living double lives is a political act informed by social, historical and political realities and circumstances.
My ethnographic research puts diasporic studies and gender and sexuality studies in dialogue with scholarship on political violence, militarism, feminist international relations, and security studies. Currently, a large amount of research on important actors engaged in warfare exists. However, very little research explores how war impacts concepts of gender and/or sexuality among people who have been expelled from or fled their homelands. In order to understand war, it is important to study and understand people’s experiences with and in war. The intervention that my research makes is to integrate experience, memory, and trauma to understand the formation of gender identities and performances and sexuality among war diasporas.