Research and Academics 

Sadaf Jaffer is a scholar with research interests in Islamic, South Asian and gender studies. Her current book project, entitled “Secularism, Sexuality and Islam: Ismat Chughtai’s Indian Muslim Progressivism,” elucidates alternative Muslim subjectivities through the lens of a prominent Urdu writer and cultural critic. Jaffer is currently a postdoctoral research associate in South Asian Studies at Princeton University where she teaches courses on Islam, South Asia and South Asian American studies. Prior to this appointment, she served as a postdoctoral fellow in Global Studies at Stanford University. Jaffer has published a paper in the Journal of Women’s History entitled “Women’s Autobiography in Islamic Societies: Towards a Feminist Intellectual History” in addition to posts on the Foreign Policy Research Institute, Huffington Post and the Altmuslimah blogs. She earned her bachelor’s degree in foreign service from Georgetown University and obtained her Ph.D. in Near Eastern languages and civilizations from Harvard University with a secondary field in  women, gender and sexuality studies.

Learn more about Sadaf’s Academia



Ph.D., Harvard University 2016

Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations: Indo-Muslim Culture Program

Secondary Field Certificate: Studies of Women, Gender, and Sexuality

Certificates, University of California, Berkeley Urdu Language Program 2006, 2007

Academic-year Advanced Urdu Language, American Institute of Indian Studies (Lucknow, India)

B.S., Georgetown University 2005

School of Foreign Service: Regional Studies of the Islamic World, cum laude with honors in major

Certificate: Muslim-Christian Understanding, Junior Year Abroad: American University in Cairo


professional appointments

Postdoctoral Research Associate, Princeton University 2016-present

Program in South Asian Studies, Princeton Institute for International and Regional Studies

Postdoctoral Fellow, Stanford University 2015-2016

Literary Cultures of Muslim South Asia, Sohaib and Sara Abbasi Program in Islamic Studies




Secularism, Sexuality, and Islam: Ismat Chughtai’s Indian Muslim Progressivism. Manuscript completed.

Journal Articles and Reviews

“Sacred Duty: Ismat Chughtai’s Cosmopolitan Justice between Islam and the Secular.” Manuscript in progress to be submitted to The Journal of South Asian Intellectual History.

“The Many Lives of Urdu: Language, Progressive Literature, and Nostalgia.” Manuscript in progress to be submitted to Modern Asian Studies.

“Women’s Autobiography in Islamic Societies: Towards a Feminist Intellectual History.” Journal of Women’s History vol. 25 no. 2 (Summer 2013): 153-160.

Review of Racialized Bodies, Disabling Worlds: Storied Lives of Immigrant Muslim Women, by Parin Dossa, American Journal of Islamic Social Sciences vol. 26 no. 4 (Fall 2009): 129-130.

“Constructing Piety: A Closer Look at Farhat Hashmi’s Controversial Al-Huda Foundation.” Chowrangi (Fall 2005): 48-49.

Web-based Publications

“Finding Hope in Islamic History.” Foreign Policy Research Institute E-Notes (December 6, 2017).

“Amal and Afaf: Egypt’s Revolutionary Underdogs Deserve an Inclusive Constitution.” Co-authored with Mina E. Khalil. Huffington Post (July 19, 2013).


awards, grants and fellowships

Diversity and Inclusion Program Development Fellowship, Princeton University Graduate School 2017

Momina Cheema, AM ‘08 Memorial Graduate Research Fellowship, Momina Cheema Foundation 2013

Derek Bok Certificate of Distinction in Teaching, Harvard University 2013

Derek Bok Certificate of Achievement in the Practice of Teaching, Harvard University 2012

South Asia Initiative (SAI) Graduate Student Associate Program, Harvard University 2011-2012

Duke Feminist Theory Conference Grant, Women, Gender and Sexuality, Harvard University 2011

FLAS Fellowship for Persian language and Middle Eastern Studies, Harvard University 2010-2011

Weatherhead Center Pre-Dissertation Grant, Harvard University 2010-2011

Summer FLAS Fellowship for Persian language study, University of Wisconsin-Madison 2009

Summer FLAS Fellowship for Persian language study, University of Chicago 2008

South Asia Initiative (SAI) Graduate Research Grant, Harvard University 2008

Urdu Language Program Fellowship for two years of study in Lucknow, India, UC Berkeley 2005-2007

Summer Programs for Undergraduate Research (SPUR) Scholarship for History, UCLA 2004

Boren Scholarship for Arabic study and cultural immersion in Cairo, Egypt, NSEP-IIE 2003-2004


selected presentations


“The Obscenity of Everyday Life: Pleasures of Food and Sex in Ismat Chughtai’s Liḥāf.” The Annual Conference on South Asia, Madison, WI.

“Reading Disgraced in the Age of Trump: Critical Race Pedagogy, Representation, and the theory of Islamophobia as Racism.” American Comparative Literature Association Annual Meeting, University of California-Los Angeles, CA.

“The Ethical Zoroastrian: Transformation in the Autobiography of Dastur Dhalla.” Association for the Study of Persianate Societies Conference, Tbilisi, Georgia.

“Masculinity and Authenticity in the American Muslim Blogosphere.” Symposium on Muslim Masculinities at the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA

Invited workshop participant for “Who Speaks for Islam?” Princeton University Muslim Life Program, Princeton, NJ.


Roundtable participant for “Apology Accepted? Combatting Islamophobia without Sacrificing Critical Perspective in the Academy.” Middle East Studies Association, Washington, DC.

Co-organizer and presenter for “Half Moghul, Half Mowgli: A Conversation with Riz Ahmed on South Asian and Muslim Identity in Society and the Arts.” Princeton MLP, Princeton, NJ.

Invited workshop participant for “Covering Islam & Muslims: A Workshop for Journalists.” Princeton University Muslim Life Program, Princeton, NJ.


“Ismat Chughtai between Progress & Nostalgia.” Conference on South Asia, Madison, WI.

“Good Beyond God: Pakistani Atheist Women Online.” The Muslim South Asia Research Forum Workshop on Negotiating Technologies, SOAS, University of London, UK.

Invited workshop participant for “Global Muslim Modernities and the Post-Secular.” Duke-UNC Islamic Studies Graduate Student Workshop, University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill.

“Islam in South Asia though the Arts.” Stanford Institute on Islam, Stanford, CA.


Invited workshop participant for “Genres of the Imaginaire: How Creativity Mediates Islam through Local Vernaculars,” part of a series entitled “Being Muslim: How Local Islam Overturns Narratives of Exceptionalism,” Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN.

“Pakistan/Blogistan: Utilizing Social Media for Feminist Intellectual History.” American Historical Association Annual Conference, Washington, DC.


“Queer Feminism in Islamicate South Asia: Ismat Chughtai on Social Justice.” The Annual Conference on South Asia, Madison, WI.

“Feminist Theory: Social Media and South Asian Intellectual History.” Feminist Preconference to the Annual Conference on South Asia, Madison, WI.

“Zoroastrianism Beyond Blood: Dastur Dhalla’s Transformational Autobiography.” Celebrating a Treasure: 140 Years at the First Mehrjirana Library International Conference, Navsari, India.


“Researching Life History in Mumbai.” SNDT Women’s University, Mumbai, India.


“Ismat Chughtai’s Call to Social Justice.” Women’s Autobiography in Islamic Societies: Representation and Identity Conference, American University in Sharjah, UAE.

Invited panelist for “Is the Global Narrative about Pakistan Fact or Fiction?” South Asia Initiative Pakistan Series, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA.


“Dangerous Subjects: The Obscenity Trials of Ismat Chughtai & ‘John’ Radclyffe-Hall.” National Women’s Studies Association Annual Conference, Denver, CO.

“Ancient Hatreds? Questioning Identities in South Asia.” Currier House, Cambridge, MA.


selected university teaching

Princeton University, Instructor

Islam in South Asia: Literary Perspectives

South Asian American Literature and Film

Stanford University, Instructor

Urdu Literature and Bombay Cinema

Harvard University, Teaching Fellow

Understanding Islam and Contemporary Muslim Societies (Ali S. Asani, Extension School)

Modern India and South Asia (Sugata Bose and Amartya Sen, General Education)

Sex & the Citizen: Race, Gender & Belonging in the US (Caroline Light, General Ed.)

Introductory Urdu Hindi (Richard Delacy, Sanskrit and Indian Studies)



Student Outreach Coordinator, Program in South Asian Studies, Princeton University 2017-Present

Advisor, “Women of Islamic Studies” Database Project 2017-Present

Manuscript Reviewer, Oxford University Press, Pakistan 2017-Present


Professional associations

American Academy of Religion

Association for Asian Studies

American Comparative Literature Association

American Historical Association

Association for the Study of Persianate Societies

National Women’s Studies Association