PhD '22 (South Asian history), University of Chicago
Nineteenth- and twentieth-century South Asian history; gender, law, and empire; comparative and transnational histories of gender and sexuality; colonialism, decolonization, and violence; everyday history and history from below; digital and public history.
The Scatter of Empire: Prostitution, Law, and Trouble in Colonial India
Zoya is a historian of gender, law, and empire in modern South Asia. Her current book project Troublemaking in Empire: Prostitution and Women’s Resilience in Colonial India is an expansion of her doctoral dissertation and examines how Indian and European women understood, confronted, and challenged laws relating to sexual commerce in India from the late nineteenth to the mid-twentieth century. Her work draws on research from governmental and institutional archives across Pakistan and India as well as London and Geneva to argue that legal regimes of policing prostitution were definitively mediated through women’s acts of troublemaking such as confronting law enforcement, hiding from patrols, changing jurisdiction, and crossing borders. By focusing on women’s creativity and chicanery in the face of varying degrees of criminality, her project pivots away from casting them as subject to empire’s legal mandate to exploring what they did to persevere against that mandate.
Sameen’s research interests also include the afterlives of empire, gender history at the intersection of law, technology, and environment, and digitally mapping women’s mobility across borders and regions. In the current academic year, she will be teaching in the Department of Race, Diaspora, and Indigeneity and the Center for the Study of Gender and Sexuality. She completed her PhD in History at the University of Chicago in 2022. She also holds an MA in Social Sciences from the University of Chicago and a BA in History from SOAS, University of London.