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Department of Social Anthropology



I am an anthropologist of marriage specializing in the Malay world and Muslim Southeast Asia. My work explores the intersection of intimacy, Islam, and the state in contemporary Malaysia based on long-term, multi-sited ethnographic fieldwork conducted at the Malaysian-Thai border.

The primary strand of my research seeks to understand how the bureaucratisation of Islam in Malaysia (and Southeast Asia more broadly) contributes to a more widespread state-led policing of pre- and extra-marital intimacy. This surveillance of sexuality creates room for alternative conjugal unions such as polygyny and cross-border marriage to emerge as an important means for securing access to “halal” (lawful) intimacy condoned by Islam, Malaysian Shari’ah law, and Malay culture (adat). Secondly, my research examines the legal-bureaucratic, demographic, and socio-cultural factors that allow polygyny to gain traction among Malays today, including among highly educated and professional women seeking halal intimacy, companionship, and access to motherhood.  

I completed my PhD in 2018 under the supervision of Dr. Perveez Mody at this Department, where I am also an Evans Fellow on Southeast Asia (2019-2021). I am currently based in Paris as a Postdoctoral Researcher at Centre Asie du Sud-Est (Southeast Asia Centre, CASE), École des hautes études en sciences sociales (School of Advanced Studies in Social Sciences, EHESS, 2020-2021). Prior to this, I was appointed Visiting Fellow in the Program on Law and Society in the Muslim World, Harvard Law School (2019-2020). My past postdoctoral engagements include fellowships in Leiden and Paris at the Royal Netherlands Institute of Southeast Asian and Caribbean Studies (KITLV, 2018), the International Institute for Asian Studies (IIAS, 2018-2019), and Collège d’études mondiales – Fondation maison des sciences de l’homme (CEM-FMSH, 2019).

For a comprehensive list of my talks and publications, please see here.



Halal Intimacy: Love, Marriage, and Polygyny in Contemporary Malaysia, Berghahn Books.
[Under contract; manuscript in preparation]

Forthcoming: “Nikah Express: Malay Polygyny & Marriage-Making at the Malaysian-Thai Border”, Asian Studies Review.

2020: “Intimacy Under Surveillance: Illicit Sexuality, Moral Policing, and the State in Contemporary Malaysia”Hawwa: Journal of Women of the Middle East & the Islamic World, Special Issue on Gender & Judging, edited by Monika Lindbekk & Susanne Dahlgren, vol. 18, no. 2, pp. 325-356. 

2018: “The Unhappy Polygamist: Desire & (Dis)satisfaction in Malay Polygamy”, in Friendship & Happiness: A Global Perspective, eds. T. Delaney & T. Madigan, Vernon Press, Wilmington, pp. 163-169.




Evans Fellow
Postdoctoral Researcher at Centre Asie du Sud-Est, CASE
Dr Nurul Huda  Mohd Razif

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