Syed Mir Waleed

Syed Mir Waleed, anthropology graduate student, has received a $19,740 Wadsworth International Fellowship from the Wenner-Gren Foundation. The one-year award – renewable for up to four years – will support his work on humanitarianism in his home region of Kashmir. 

“The program’s goal is to extend and strengthen international ties and deepen anthropological expertise globally,” he says. “The financial support provided by the Wenner-Gren Foundation will help promote anthropological knowledge and tools in regions such as Kashmir, where the discipline is underrepresented.” 

Waleed completed his undergraduate degree in mechanical engineering at the University of Kashmir in
2018. In 2019, he was part of the Young India Fellowship program at Ashoka University, one of the country’s leading liberal arts and sciences universities. It was there he changed course, finding an intellectual home in the social sciences. At the same time, outside the classroom, Waleed was a national-level athlete who planned to pursue basketball professionally.

“Growing up in the conflict-affected Kashmir region, I was intrigued by questions of sports, nationalism(s), militarism, and notions of development,” he says. “I couldn’t pursue these questions in a physical sports setting. Eventually, I decided to pursue these themes academically.”

Engaging with social sciences, coupled with his personal experience, inspired Waleed to pursue a Master of Arts in Liberal Studies (MALS) from Ashoka University in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology in 2021. In fall of ’22, he was admitted to UCI’s Ph.D. program in anthropology. 

“My interest in the Department of Anthropology at UC Irvine is majorly due to faculty expertise and sub-specializations across different geopolitical contexts; especially, the various ongoing projects of the faculty on questions of state, militarism, and security studies,” he says. “The doctoral program at UC Irvine allows for interdisciplinary collaborations and opportunities. I look forward to working not only within the Department of Anthropology but also with faculty at the Center for Ethnography which will help me put together a coherent methodological toolkit for my dissertation research.”

His research on humanitarianism builds from his personal, professional, and scholarly experiences. 

“I believe that raising questions that weave together sports, development, and militarism can spark important critiques, and critical discussions and propose new pathways for studying conflict-affected communities,” he says.

During his first year as an Anteater, Waleed had the opportunity to work as a Graduate Student Researcher (GSR) for UCI anthropology assistant professor and advisor Samar Al-Bulushi on their co-authored article "Security Regimes: Transnational and Imperial Entanglements” for The Annual Review of Anthropology.

“Working with her opened doors for me to think broadly about security-related questions in contexts of political conflicts,” he says. 

As he continues working on his project in the UCI anthropology doctoral program, he’s also looking forward to developing anthropological tools that could be helpful in navigating conflict zones. 

“Within the discipline of anthropology, new methodologies such as ‘patchwork ethnography’ were designed by anthropologists in the West due to the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic,” he says. “However, what are the different ways to do ethnographic fieldwork within the omnipresence of a military-pandemic? I’m interested in developing new and decolonial ways of doing ethnography; focusing primarily on militarized zones.”

Wenner-Gren funding for his research begins in the fall and runs through September 2024. 

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