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Professor Nayanika Mookherjee


BA (Hons); MA; PhD.

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Professor in the Department of Anthropology  
Co-Director (Social Sciences and Health) in the Institute of Advanced Study  


The overarching theme that connects my work concerns an ethnographic exploration of public memories of violent pasts and aesthetic practices of reparative futures. I have explored these processes in relation to (a) gender-based violence in conflicts [Spectral Wound (2015, 2016), Modern Asian Studies (2012), Social Text (2012), Journal of Royal Anthropological Institute (2006), Drishtipat (2003), Edited books (Mookherjee 2008, 2004)] (b) war crimes [Arts of Irreconciliation (In preparation), Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East (In Preparation), Special Issues of Journal of Material Culture (2015), Journal of Historical Sociology (2013), Journal of Royal Anthropological Institute (2011), Mobilities (2011), Economic and Political Weekly (2011, 2007, 2006), Critique of Anthropology (2009), Feminist Review (2008), Space and Culture (2007)] and (c) transnational adoption [Childhood (2007)]. Overall, my work engages socio-cultural anthropology with interdisciplinary and contemporary debates.

Nayanika joined Durham University in 2011 as a Reader in Socio-Cultural Anthropology and became a Professor in 2018. Before that she was in the Sociology department in Lancaster University prior to which she was a Post-Doctoral Fellow [Society for South Asian Studies, (British Academy)], in the Department of Anthropology, University of Sussex. She did her BA (Hons) in Presidency College, India; her MA in Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, India; and PhD in Social Anthropology from School of Oriental and African Studies - SOAS, University of London.

Other commitments and activities include:
  • Member of the ESRC Grant Assessment Panel (GAP) (2015-2019).
  • Member of the Editorial Board, Identities
  • 2012 - now : Core member of the Ethics Committee of the World Council of Anthropological Associations (WCAA)
  • Interview on my book (The Spectral Wound, 2015) on BBC Radio 4’s Thinking Allowed by Laurie Taylor (from 14 minutes).
  • 2015. Spectral Wound Shortlisted among the first three places of the BBC Radio 4’s Thinking Allowed’s Best Ethnography Award. (the book is discussed from 16-24 mins)
  • 2014. Awarded the Mahatma Gandhi Pravasi Samman (one of 30 awards, celebrating the Achievement of Global Indians), House of Lords, London, 9th October 2014. 
  • 2014. Invited as a delegate and expert to the Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict held in London from 10-13th June which was co-chaired by UK Foreign Secretary William Hague and UN Special Envoy and actor Angelina Jolie. (
  • Member of the ESRC (2010-2014) and AHRC (2012-2015) Peer Review College .
  • Member of the organising committee of the 2013 Conference of the International Union of Anthropological and Ethnological Sciences (IUAES), to be held in Manchester and was also a core member of the organising committee of the April 2012 ASA Annual Conference held in Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), Delhi, on Arts and Aesthetics in a Globalising World.
  • 2007: ASA Executive Committee Member: Member, Executive Committee and Ethics Officer, Association of Social Anthropologists of the UK and Commonwealth (ASA). 2007-2012; Set up and co-ordinated the Association of Social Anthropology Ethics Blog; updated the ASA Ethics Code in 2011 through a two-year consultation with ASA members.

Dr Mookherjee has successfully co-supervised the following PhD students:

Past Phd Students

Swati Parashar: Militant Women in Kashmir and Sri Lanka (defended with no corrections, Senior Lecturer in Gothenburg University, Sweden)

Leon Moosavi: White Muslim Converts in UK (ESRC 1+3; defended with minor corrections and offered a job in Liverpool University)

Elisabeth Grindel: Partners of Overseas Students and Internationalisation of Higher Education in UK (defended successfully, Academic Director, Nottingham Trent International College)

Mirza Taslima: Experiences of Childlessness Among Middle Class Women in Dhaka (University Studentship – defended with minor corrections); Head of Department, Department of Anthropology, Jahangirnagar University, Bangladesh.

Zobaida Nasreen: Forced Displacement of Indigenous Women in Chittagong Hill Tracts in Bangladesh (Commonwealth Scholarship - defended with minor corrections); Assistant Professor, Department of Anthropology, Dhaka University, Bangladesh).

Pina Sadar. 2017 Faith, Fashion, Feminism: the Veil in UK (Co-supervised with Yulia Egorova) (successfully defended with minor corrections); Media and Cultural Public Policy, Ministry of Culture, UK government.

Current Phd students:

Aethiqah Abdul-Halim: The Veil in Indonesia (Co-supervised with Yulia Egarova) (funded by the Indonesian government).

Alessandro Corso (Co-supervised with Kate Hampshire) (ESRC DTC funded Phd) Refugees in Lampedusa.

Jacco Visser: The Impact of the Bangladesh War Crimes Tribunal (Co-supervised with Sarah Dybris McQuaid) (Funded by the Danish Research Council, Aarhus University, Denmark).

Benjamin Hildred (Co-supervised with Bob Simpson) (ESRC DTC funded Phd) Cricket and Reconciliation in Sri Lanka

Anita Datta (Co-supervised with Tom Yarrow) (ESRC DTC funded Phd) Political and Academic activism of LGBT organisations in India.

Arthur Eirich (Co-supervised with Elisabeth Kirtsoglou) (ESRC DTC funded Phd) Militant Kurdish women.

Research Projects:

1. Public Memories of Gendered/Sexual Violence during wars/conflict situations As a Richard Carley Hunt Fellow awarded by the Wenner Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research (New York),my book emerging from an extensive fieldwork in Bangladesh is: The Spectral Wound: Sexual Violence and Public Memories and the Bangladesh War of 1971) is published in 2015 with Duke University Press (Foreword by Prof. Veena Das). See The Spectral Wound for further information about the book and the Somatosphere Book Forum: Here are a few chosen reviews of the book:

  • Acutely aware of the methodological and ethical quandaries of attempts to recover or give voice to survivors, Mookherjee offers instead ethnographic accounts of her birangona interlocutors’ everyday worlds as she encountered them. She juxtaposes these to a reading of testimonial cultures that have developed around the figure of the birangona; critical analysis of visual and literary representations; and conversations with a range of activists, including those responsible for “rehabilitating” so-called war-affected women and girls. This is multi-sited ethnography at its best. – Dina Siddiqi, International Feminist Journal of Politics.
  • "[Mookherjee] asks, ‘What would it mean for the politics of identifying wartime rape if we were to highlight how the raped woman folds the experience of sexual violence into her daily socialities, rather than identifying her as a horrific wound?’ That is the central question of this powerful and perceptive book." — Michael Lambek, Journal of Royal Anthropological Institute
  • "The Spectral Wound is an exceptional book. It has thoroughly explored its subject from every conceivable angle in such a way as to give it a real intellectual richness." — Nardina Kaur, Economic & Political Weekly
  • "It is a pleasure to review books that offer an innovative reading of important areas of recent scholarship. Nayanika Mookherjee’s book throws an epistemic challenge to previous authors and interpretations on the subject." — Rachana Chakraborty, Social History
  • "Mookerjee's exemplary and closely argued The Spectral Wound highlights the central conundrum of making wartime rapes public: heroism, implied and acknowledged by the designation birangona, can only be acquired by making your shame public....[An] uncommonly complex and delicately observed study..." — Ritu Menon, Women's Review of Books

2. Aesthetics, Affect and the Bangladesh War Crimes Tribunal
As part of a Leverhulme Research Fellowship (2009-2011) this project seeks to explore the configuration of the nation-state and the relation between art and politics through the evocation of senses by various affective apparatus (like museums, memorials etc.) in the context of the setting up of the Bangladesh war crimes tribunal. I was also invited for a one month scholarly residency in the Rockefeller Foundation in Bellagio as part of this project. Linked to this I co-organised an International Inter-disciplinary Conference 'Melancholic States', 27-29 September 2007. The manuscript under preparation from this project (Arts of Reconciliation and the Bangladesh War of 1971) is contracted with the Cultural Memory in the Present Series, Stanford University Press.

3.'War-Babies', Genetic Citizenship and Transnational Adoption
As a British Academy Mid Career Fellow I undertook this project to examine the contested relationship between genetics, and the nation-state through the prism of 'war babies' (children born as a result of sexual violence during wars) in Western Europe and North America. Through this, ideas of belonging and citizenship are theorised in the context of Transnational Adoption.

4. Ethics and Ethnographic Research Co-awarded, 'ESRC Research Training Programme: Ethics and Ethical Practice in Social Science, 2006-2009' and developed a website on research ethics.

Research interests

  • Anthropology of politics, state, violence, memory, and human rights
  • Gendered violence during wars
  • Aesthetics, affective apparatus (museums, memorials), senses and the nation-state
  • Political kinship and transnational adoption
  • South Asia
  • Ethics

Research groups


Authored book

Book review

Chapter in book

Edited Journal

Journal Article

Newspaper/Magazine Article

Other (Digital/Visual Media)

Supervision students