Photo: Ahsan Kamal, from

Alumnus Ahsan Kamal (Sociology Ph.D ‘19) has been awarded the Pirzada Dissertation Prize in Pakistan Studies for his dissertation, Saving Sindhu: Indus Enclosure and River Defense in Pakistan (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 2019).
Awarded by the Institute for South Asian Studies at the University of California, Berkeley, the prize recognizes “the best work in the humanities, social sciences, law, or public health on Pakistan, the region that is Pakistan, or things to do with Pakistan.”
The dissertation is an inquiry into the death and defense of rivers through three stories of enclosures and activism from the Sindhu darya, known in English as the Indus River. “My dissertation thesis examines the development of Indus Basin Irrigation System (IBIS), its social and ecological consequences, and the political conflicts that emerge at three major sites of the IBIS — Tarbela dam, canal irrigation in southern Punjab, and the Indus delta region” shared Kamal.
His work investigates the conditions under social movements contest river infrastructure such as dams and canals and how they do so: whether they focus on local effects of the infrastructure projects, such as flooding, erosion, and water scarcity, or whether they form river-wide alliances with communities throughout the Indus basin. Read the complete abstract of the award-winning dissertation here.
During his time as a graduate student at UNC-Chapel Hill, Kamal taught undergraduate courses in the department of sociology. He also conducted research on the interaction between law enforcement and Muslim communities in the United States, and on environmental movements in Latin America.
Currently, Kamal is a lecturer at the National Institute of Pakistan Studies at Quaid-i-Azam University in Islamabad, where he teaches courses on politics and history. His research interests include state formation and conflicts, governmentality and politics, colonial institutional history and contemporary politics, subaltern political movements, Islam and secularism, and political theories of violence.
A virtual award ceremony for the Pirzada Dissertation Prize will take place on Zoom on Monday, April 12, 2021, from 9 – 11 am (PST). Register for the program here.

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