Broadly speaking, I study popular politics, religious conflict, the political economy of corruption and urban development in North India, building on ethnographic, statistical and spatial data generated in so far 18 months of fieldwork since 2008, primarily among the country's large and diverse Muslim population. I have also written research software, curate a comprehensive public repository of statistics on religion and politics in India and contribute to open data initiatives.

While much work on religion and politics in India aims to understand Hindu-Muslim riots, engineered by politicians who exploit communal prejudice for electoral gain, and in the process tends to treat Muslim Indians as a monolithic block, my research pays closer attention to religio-political dynamics within religious communities and asks how these intersect with growing aspirations for 'development'. My first monograph on ambivalence and ambiguity in Gujarat for instance studied the production of peace (rather than violence) by showing how both developmentalist and faith-based activists link political protest to religious ideas and communal belonging in a post-conflict setting. Through subsequent publications, I revealed the fallability of instrumental calculations in fluid religio-political contexts and demonstrated how Muslims' electoral choices mirror those of non-Muslims, varying across time and space in response to local demography and political history. Most recently, I intervened in the heated debate on Muslim 'ghettos' in Indian cities, arguing that these are not necessarily the straightforward product of communal violence - as has been assumed so far - but that financial and social pull factors equally contribute to residential clustering. To support this view, I demonstrated how a socially segmented bureaucracy structures the political economy of urban development and how certain kinds of local knowledge determine how built reality is perceived, navigated and marked as 'ghettoized' - irrespective of actual degrees of segregation.

My overarching aim with all of this is to lift the study of Muslim South Asia, which has long been caught in ideological readings and a partition- or at least violence-centric perspective, to the same level of theoretical as well as, crucially, methodological sophistication that characterizes the study of non-Muslim sociality. In the long run, studying how Muslim Indians navigate wider social change within the context of the world's largest secular democracy should also help to rebut persistent claims of Muslim exceptionalism in global academic as well as popular discourse.


A. Politics and poetics of belonging


Following my research on Muslim peace activists in Gujarat and on North Indian electoral politics, I am now more broadly interested in what it means to belong as Muslim in contemporary India. For a second monograph, I currently explore this theme with an ethnographic case study of urban politics, masculine aspirations and religious reform in Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh. A (very) initial take on this project can be found in my Blog, a Prezi, and a mapping portal. I have also organized two conference panels on the contemporary city together with Chris Taylor (Boston University) and Bea Jauregui (University of Toronto) that led to a special issue on "life with 'too much history'" in the open access journal SAMAJ (my own contribution to the latter - on the "Wazirganj Terror Attack" - won a best paper prize from the Association for Asian Studies in 2014). This project is a bit of a never-ending story, but so far has resulted in the following publications:

Related Special issues

Susewind R, Taylor C (Eds.) (2015). Contemporary Lucknow: Life with "too much history"? South Asia Multidisciplinary Academic Journal, 11, [gold OA].

Related Articles

Susewind, R. (2015). Spatial segregation, real estate markets and the political economy of corruption in Lucknow, India. Journal of South Asian Development, 10(3), 267-291. Abstract
Susewind, R. (2015). The "Wazirganj terror attack": Sectarian conflict and the middle classes. South Asia Multidisciplinary Academic Journal, 11, 1-45 [gold OA]. Abstract
Susewind, R, Taylor, C. (2015). Islamicate Lucknow today: historical legacy and urban aspirations. South Asia Multidisciplinary Academic Journal, 11, 1-42 [gold OA]. Abstract

Related Chapters

Susewind, R. (2016). Urban segregation a decade after the Sachar report. In R. Hassan (Ed.), Indian Muslims: Struggling for equality of citizenship. Melbourne: Univ. Press. p. 122-45.

Related Conference papers

Susewind, R. (2016). Complicating the 'Muslim ghetto' in urban India. In: Department of Sociology, University of Copenhagen (job talk).
Susewind, R. (2016). Complicating the 'Muslim ghetto' in urban India. In: Department of International Development, King's College London (job talk).
Susewind, R. (2016). Dreaming in the shadow of history: Three young men and their aspirations in Lucknow, India. In: European Conference on South Asian Studies, July 27-30. Warsaw. Abstract
Susewind, R. (2016). Rifah-e-Aam: Politics and poetics in India's changing public sphere since 1857. In: Mitteldeutscher Südasientag, June 3. Leipzig. Abstract
Susewind, R. (2016). The rise of middle-class morality and the decline of identity politics. In: Max Weber Center for Advanced Cultural and Social Studies, University of Erfurt (job talk).
Susewind, R. (2015). Muslim segregation in urban India a decade after the Sachar report. In: Diversity, equality, citizenship and Indian Muslims, September 18-19. Singapore. Abstract
Susewind, R. (2015). Property and propriety: Religion and urban conflict in India. In: Faculty of Theology and Religious Studies, University of Groningen (job talk).
Susewind, R. (2015). Property and propriety: Religious segregation in urban India. In: Institut für Asien- und Afrikawissenschaften, Humboldt Universität Berlin (invited talk).
Susewind, R. (2014). Ambiguität aushalten: Toleranz in Lucknow. In: Exzellenzcluster Religion und Politik, Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster (invited talk).
Susewind, R. (2014). Die große Bedeutung kleiner Distanzen: Wohnungsmarkt und Religion in Nordindien. In: Neue Mobilitäten und Immobilitäten in Asien (Weingartener Asiengespräche), November 14-16. Weingarten. Abstract
Susewind, R. (2014). Religious segregation without overt discrimination: the political economy of bureaucratic collusion in Lucknow. In: Urban South Asia, October 2. Oxford. Abstract
Susewind, R. (2014). The "Wazirganj terror attack": Local democracy, land development and religious revivalism. In: European Conference on South Asian Studies, July 23-26. Zurich. Abstract
Susewind, R. (2014). Middle class moralities and masculine aspirations: Anti-poor rhetoric in Lucknow's contemporary Muslim landscape. In: Young South Asia Scholars' Meet (YSASM), July 21-22. Zurich. Abstract
Susewind, R. (2014). Real estate, religious revivalism and local politics in contemporary Lucknow. In: Religion as resource: Local and global discourses, July 18-20. Tübingen. Abstract
Susewind, R. (2014). The "Wazirganj terror attack": Local democracy, land development and religious revivalism. In: Association for Asian Studies (AAS), March 27-30. Philadelphia (SAC prize for Best Graduate Student Paper). Abstract
Susewind, R. (2013). Working towards love marriage: Longing and belonging of young Muslim men with large aspirations in provincial India. In: Work in a globalising world, April 8-10. Bielefeld. Abstract
Susewind, R. (2011). Religious belonging: how to think it, how to recognize it. In: Religion and Social Theory: Developing a New Agenda for the Sociology of Religion (Sociology of Religion Study Group, BSA), April 11-13. Birmingham. Abstract
Susewind, R. (2010). How do Muslims in North India digest discourses on Muslimness?. In: DAVO Werkstattgespräche, September 20-24. Marburg. Abstract

B. Muslim politics in North India


Since several years, I also curate a comprehensive statistical dataset on religion and politics in India under an open license, which eventually became the basis for half my PhD by publication. This dataset combines electoral, GIS and Census data with booth-level estimates of religious demographics based on the linguistic connotations of electors' names (algorithm published in Field Methods; upscaling courtesy Oxford's Advanced Research Computing unit). Based on this fine-grained data, I analysed Muslims' electoral choices in UP's 2012 assembly elections (unpublished conference paper and Prezi) and, together with Raheel Dhattiwala at the University of South Australia, in India's 2014 general elections (published in Economic & Political Weekly and reprinted in Internationales Asienforum). In both instances, we found quite some spatial variation in vote pattern and partly attributed the same to rural/urban disjunctures, the extent of ethnic coordination, minority concentration and riot history. I currently expand this work towards quantitative studies of urban segregation and the political economy of corruption, some of which has been published here:

Related Articles

Susewind, R. (2015). Spatial segregation, real estate markets and the political economy of corruption in Lucknow, India. Journal of South Asian Development, 10(3), 267-291. Abstract
Susewind, R, Dhattiwala, R. (2014). Spatial variation in the "Muslim vote" in Gujarat and Uttar Pradesh, 2014 (reprint). Internationales Asienforum, 45(3-4), 353-381. Abstract
Susewind, R, Dhattiwala, R. (2014). Spatial variation in the "Muslim vote" in Gujarat and Uttar Pradesh, 2014. Economic & Political Weekly, 49(39), 99–110. Abstract

Related Chapters

Susewind, R. (2016). Urban segregation a decade after the Sachar report. In R. Hassan (Ed.), Indian Muslims: Struggling for equality of citizenship. Melbourne: Univ. Press. p. 122-45.

Related Software

Susewind, R. (2016). name2community: Ngram release.
Susewind, R. (2014). name2community: Initial release.

Related Conference papers

Susewind, R. (2016). Complicating the 'Muslim ghetto' in urban India. In: Department of Sociology, University of Copenhagen (job talk).
Susewind, R. (2016). Complicating the 'Muslim ghetto' in urban India. In: Department of International Development, King's College London (job talk).
Susewind, R. (2016). Complicating the 'Muslim ghetto' in urban India. In: Institute of Asia and Pacific Studies, University of Nottingham (invited talk).
Susewind, R. (2016). The rise of middle-class morality and the decline of identity politics. In: Max Weber Center for Advanced Cultural and Social Studies, University of Erfurt (job talk).
Susewind, R. (2016). Muslim "ghettoization"? A quantitative comparison across eleven Indian cities. In: British Association for South Asian Studies, April 6-8. Cambridge. Abstract
Susewind, R. (2015). Muslim segregation in urban India a decade after the Sachar report. In: Diversity, equality, citizenship and Indian Muslims, September 18-19. Singapore. Abstract
Susewind, R. (2015). Property and propriety: Religion and urban conflict in India. In: Faculty of Theology and Religious Studies, University of Groningen (job talk).
Susewind, R. (2015). Property and propriety: Religious segregation in urban India. In: Institut für Asien- und Afrikawissenschaften, Humboldt Universität Berlin (invited talk).
Susewind, R. (2015). What's in a name? Inferring religious community from South Asian names. In: Bielefeld Science Fair, March 26. Bielefeld.
Susewind, R. (2014). Die große Bedeutung kleiner Distanzen: Wohnungsmarkt und Religion in Nordindien. In: Neue Mobilitäten und Immobilitäten in Asien (Weingartener Asiengespräche), November 14-16. Weingarten. Abstract
Susewind, R. (2014). Religious segregation without overt discrimination: the political economy of bureaucratic collusion in Lucknow. In: Urban South Asia, October 2. Oxford. Abstract
Susewind, R. (2014). The "Wazirganj terror attack": Local democracy, land development and religious revivalism. In: European Conference on South Asian Studies, July 23-26. Zurich. Abstract
Susewind, R. (2014). Real estate, religious revivalism and local politics in contemporary Lucknow. In: Religion as resource: Local and global discourses, July 18-20. Tübingen. Abstract
Susewind, R. (2014). The "Wazirganj terror attack": Local democracy, land development and religious revivalism. In: Association for Asian Studies (AAS), March 27-30. Philadelphia (SAC prize for Best Graduate Student Paper). Abstract
Susewind, R. (2013). Maulana Singh Yadav? Samajwadi Party and the ’Muslim vote’ in 2012. In: Contemporary South Asia Studies Programme, University of Oxford (invited talk).
Susewind, R. (2013). Intra-Ulema politics, religious innovation and local elections in India. In: Leadership and authority in Asia (DGA), June 20-21. Berlin. Abstract
Susewind, R. (2013). Maulana Singh Yadav? An empirical exploration of the "Muslim vote" in the sixteenth assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh. In: Comparing urban and rural politics in India (EECURI workshop), March 18-19. London. Abstract
Susewind, R. (2013). What's in a name? "Muslim names" and belonging in North India. In: DGA-Nachwuchstagung, January 18-20. Jena. Abstract
Susewind, R. (2012). Maulana Singh Yadav? Samajwadi Party and the ’Muslim vote’ in 2012. In: Department of Sociology and Social Work, Aligarh Muslim University (invited talk).

C. Ambivalence and ambiguity of religion


To assume a considerable ambivalence of religion vis-a-vis violent conflict is increasingly common, but few consider how this plays out on the level of the individual. My first monograph (a substantial reworking of my diploma thesis, published by SAGE) contributed to close this gap with a typology of Muslim peace activists in Gujarat, comprising of "faith based actors", "secular technocrats", "emancipating women" and "doubting professionals". Based on narrative interviews and psychometric scales, I argue that the "ambivalence of the sacred" does not merely unfold between violent and peaceful actors - as most scholars assume -, but can also be experienced within the hearts and minds of either. I further argue that one should more carefully distinguish between "ambivalence" and "ambiguity" as two distinct manifestations of religion's relation to violence, a theoretical contribution that I developed in subsequent papers. More on this project can be found in my book, a blog entry, and a Prezi. A decade on, I intend to embark on a small re-study, talking to the same activists and see how they fared - but for now, these are the original outputs from this first project of mine:

Related Monograph

Related Articles

Related Chapters

Susewind, R. (2013). Unity in diversity? Muslim civil society and Muslims in civil society in Gujarat, India. In D. Khudori, E. Mbokolo (Eds.), Religious diversity in a globalised society: Challenges and responses in Africa and Asia. Brawijaya: Univ. Press. p. 221-8.
Susewind, R. (2013). Muslimische Friedensaktivisten in Gujarat, Indien. In J. Kursawe, V. Brenner (Eds.), Konfliktfaktor Religion? Die Rolle von Religion in den Konflikten Südasiens. Baden-Baden: Nomos. p. 75-95.

Related Conference papers

Susewind, R. (2015). Typology design and the scope of small-n studies. In: Center for the Interdisciplinary Research on Religion and Society, Bielefeld University (invited talk).
Susewind, R. (2014). Ambiguität aushalten: Toleranz in Lucknow. In: Exzellenzcluster Religion und Politik, Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster (invited talk).
Susewind, R. (2013). Moral clarity and the challenge of ambiguity. In: Nelson Mandela Centre for Peace and Conflict Resolution, Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi (invited talk).
Susewind, R. (2012). Being Muslim and working for peace. In: Department of History, Babasaheb Bhimrao Ambedkar University, Lucknow (invited talk).
Susewind, R. (2012). Being Muslim and working for peace. In: National Institute of Pakistan Studies, Qaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad (invited talk).
Susewind, R. (2012). Ambivalence and ambiguity in Gujarat. In: Department of Sociology and Social Work, Aligarh Muslim University (invited talk).
Susewind, R. (2012). The ambivalence and ambiguity of belonging at home: Being a Gujarati Muslim peace activist. In: The Gujarati Community: Globalisation, Mobility and Belonging (Gujarat Studies Association), February 15-16. Dubai. Abstract
Susewind, R. (2011). Secularized secularism and the forgotten Muslims of Gujarat. In: Communal harmony and secularism: Indian experiences, November 11-12. Allahabad. Abstract
Susewind, R. (2010). "Glaubensbasierte Akteure" und "säkulare Technokraten": Muslimische Friedensaktivisten in post-conflict Gujarat, Indien. In: Gewalt in Südasien (AK Neuzeitliches Südasien, DGA), November 19. Hamburg. Abstract
Susewind, R. (2010). Exploring the ambivalence of the sacred: Muslim identities and peace activism in Gujarat. In: Religion Shaping Development: Inspirational, Inhibiting, Institutionalised?, July 21-23. Birmingham. Abstract
Susewind, R. (2010). "Opfer" und "Aktivistin": Zwei Muslima ringen mit und um Religion in post-conflict Gujarat, Indien. In: Deutscher Orientalistentag, September 20-24. Marburg. Abstract
Susewind, R. (2009). Being Muslim and working for peace. In: DGA-Nachwuchstagung Asienforschung, July 3-5. Bonn.

D. Additional side-projects


Besides my core interests, I get involved in side-projects from time to time, be it publishing from my Master's dissertation, through my work as early career representative in the German Association for Asian Studies, or other collaborations with friends and peers. This resulted in the following papers:

Related Special issues

Susewind R (Ed.) (2016). Development and social change across Asia. ASIEN: The German Journal on Contemporary Asia, 138.

Related Articles

Dettmer, I, Heinrich, A, Klorer, E, Susewind, R. (2016). Starke Nachwuchsstimmen in der Asienforschung. ASIEN: The German Journal on Contemporary Asia, 138, 5-8.
Susewind, R. (2010). How "integrated" is the Indian Foreign Service? The example of Farakka, 1982-1997. Journal of International Relations, 8(2), 18-38. Abstract

Related Conference papers

Susewind, R. (2017). Rifah-e-Aam Club, Lucknow: Public sphere and public space in urban India. In: British Association for South Asian Studies, April 19-21. Nottingham. Abstract
Susewind, R. (2014). Zustand und Zukunft der Südasienforschung in Deutschland: eine Umfrage unter NachwuchswissenschaftlerInnen. In: Zukunftsperspektiven der Südasienforschung im deutschsprachigen Raum, February 21. Berlin. Abstract
Susewind, R. (2012). Field research in volatile contexts. In: School of Politics and International Relations, Qaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad (invited talk).
Susewind, R. (2011). Indian intervention in Afghanistan and the tradition of pacifying colonial frontiers. In: Third Global International Studies Conference, August 17-20. Porto. Abstract
Susewind, R. (2011). How "integrated" is the Indian Foreign Service? The example of the Farakka negotiations. In: Asien in Bewegung: Politischer, kultureller und gesellschaftlicher Wandel einer Weltregion (Nachwuchsgruppe, DGA), April 29 - May 1. Arnoldshain. Abstract
Susewind, R. (2011). Indian intervention in Afghanistan and the tradition of pacifying colonial frontiers. In: International Convention of Asia Scholars, March 31 - April 3. Honolulu. Abstract