In Memoriam: Saba Mahmood (1962–2018)

Saba Mahmood, Professor of Sociocultural Anthropology at the University of California, Berkeley, passed away this weekend. Professor Mahmood’s work engaged the relationship between religion and secularism in postcolonial societies, paying special attention to issues of sovereignty, subject formation, law, and gender/sexuality. She authored numerous books, including Politics of Piety: The Islamic Revival and the Feminist Subject, a landmark text in anthropology and social theory, which interrogated liberal assumptions about the proper boundary between ethics and politics, freedom and unfreedom, the religious and the secular, and agency and submission.

Mahmood was a key participant in a number of UCHRI programs. In 2007, together with Charles Hirschkind, she convened at UCHRI the important two-week summer Seminar in Critical Theory on “Cartographies of the Theological-Political.” With Mayanthi Fernando, Mahmood led a studio, “Regulating Sex/Religion: Secular Citizenship and the Politics of Diasporic Difference,” for UCHRI’s Religions in Diaspora and Global Affairs initiative. In March 2017, UCHRI organized an event in her honor at Berkeley that brought together scholars indebted to and influenced by her work.

“Saba has been a thought partner for UCHRI programming across a broad range of areas and activities,” states UCHRI director David Theo Goldberg. “Our much valued friend, always deeply insightful and incisive, she has opened up for us compelling objects of analysis, ways of thinking and doing. Leaving all of us with enormous impact and influence, I will miss Saba terribly”