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Department of Politics and International Studies

Dr Matthew J Nelson

BA (Bowdoin), PhD (Columbia)


Matthew Nelson
Department of Politics and International Studies

MSc Comparative Political Thought - Programme Convenor and Admissions Tutor

SOAS South Asia Institute

Academic Staff, SOAS South Asia Institute

London Middle East Institute (LMEI)


Centre for the International Politics of Conflict, Rights and Justice (CCRJ)

Founding Member

Centre for the Study of Pakistan

Academic Staff, Centre for the Study of Pakistan

Dr Matthew J Nelson
Email address:
020 7898 4742
SOAS, University of London
Thornhaugh Street, Russell Square, London WC1H 0XG
Russell Square: College Buildings
Office No:
Office Hours:
Thurs. 3.30-5.30


Matthew Nelson is a Reader in Politics at SOAS. His research focuses on the comparative and international politics of South Asia, with a special emphasis on comparative political thought, the politics of Islamic institutions, and democracy. Before coming to SOAS Dr Nelson taught at UC Santa Cruz, Bates College, and Yale University.

Dr Nelson has spent several years conducting archival, ethnographic, and survey-based research in Pakistan, Bangladesh, and India. His first book was titled In the Shadow of Shari‘ah: Islam, Islamic Law, and Democracy in Pakistan (Columbia, 2011); his current research concerns the politics of sectarian and doctrinal diversity in the context of Islamic law and education.

Dr Nelson is a founding member of the Centre for Comparative Political Thought, the Centre for Pakistan Studies, and the Centre for the International Politics of Conflict, Rights, and Justice at SOAS. In 2009-2010 Dr Nelson was the Wolfensohn Family Member at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton; in 2011 he was a Fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C. Dr Nelson received his PhD in Political Science from Columbia University.


Programmes Convened
Courses Taught
PhD Students supervised
  • Ini Dele-Adedeji , The re-construction of Islamic identities within the mobilisation of the Boko Haram sect in Kano & Borno
  • Johann Chacko, Redefining Pakistan: Mapping Deobandi institutional responses to nationalism and the nation-state from Zia to Musharraf.
  • Sameen Ali, Politicisation of the Bureaucracy and Political Access in Pakistan (working title)
  • Sasan Aghlani , ‘National Interest’ as a Catalyst for Change in Islamic Laws of War - A Genealogy of the Islamic Republic of Iran’s Policies towards Nuclear Weapons
  • Taha Kazi, Pious Entertainment - Changing Forms and Notions of Piety in Pakistan (Provisional).


South Asia (Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and India); Islam; Islamic law; Islamic institutions (courts, schools, etc.); institutional change; democratic theory; democratic practice


For help in contacting SOAS academics and advice on services to business and the community, please contact SOAS Enterprise on +44(0)20 7898 4837 or email enterprise@soas.ac.uk.
For all press and media enquiries please call +44 (0)20 7898 4135 or email comms@soas.ac.uk

Available for
  • Special Study Programmes
  • Briefings
  • Short Term Consultancy
Regional Expertise
  • South Asia
Country Expertise
  • Pakistan
  • Urdu


Authored Books

Nelson, Matthew J. (2011) In the Shadow of Shari‘ah:  Islam, Islamic Law, and Democracy in Pakistan. New York: Columbia University Press; London: Hurst and Co.

Book Chapters

Nelson, Matthew J. (2011) 'Inheritance Unbound: The Politics of Personal Law Reform in Pakistan and India.' In: Khilnani, S. and Raghavan, V. and Thiravengadam, A., (eds.), Comparative Constitutional Traditions in South Asia. Delhi: Oxford University Press. (Forthcoming)

Nelson, Matthew J. (2010) 'Dealing with Difference: Religious Education and the Challenge of Democracy in Pakistan.' In: Merry, M.S. and Milligan, J.A., (eds.), Citizenship, Education, and Identity in Muslim Communities. London: Palgrave, pp. 103-123.

Nelson, Matthew J. (2010) 'Muslims, Markets, and the Meaning of "A Good Education" in Pakistan.' In: Abbas, Tahir, (ed.), Islam and Education. Vol. 2. London: Routledge.

Nelson, Matthew J. 'Pakistan.' In: Countries at the Crossroads. New York: Freedom House. (Forthcoming)


Nelson, Matthew J. (2011) '“Faith” and “Development” in Secular and Religious Schools.' Comparative Education Review, 55 (1). 115-117, 129-131.

Nelson, Matthew J. (2011) 'Embracing the Ummah: Student Politics beyond State Power in Pakistan.' Modern Asian Studies, 45 (3). pp. 565-596.

Nelson, Matthew J. (2010) 'Pakistan in 2009: Tackling the Taliban?' Asian Survey, 50 (1). pp. 112-126.

Nelson, Matthew J. (2010) 'Persistent Legal Pluralism and the Challenge of Universal Human Rights.' Oxford Journal of Human Rights Practice, 2 (3). pp. 401-407.

Nelson, Matthew J. (2009) 'Pakistan in 2008: Moving Beyond Musharraf.' Asian Survey, 49 (1). pp. 16-27.

Nelson, Matthew J. (2009) 'Dealing with Difference: Religious Education and the Challenge of Democracy in Pakistan.' Modern Asian Studies, 43 (2). pp. 591-618.

Nelson, Matthew J. (2008) 'Religious Education in Non-Religious Schools: A Comparative Study of Pakistan and Bangladesh.' Journal of Commonwealth and Comparative Politics, 46 (3). pp. 271-295.

Nelson, Matthew (2007) 'Who Speaks for Islam?: 'Authenticity' and the Interpretation of Islamic Law in America's War on Terror.' Australian Journal Of International Affairs, 61 (2). pp. 247-66.

Nelson, Matthew (2006) 'Muslims, Markets, and the Meaning of 'A Good Education' in Pakistan.' Asian Survey, 46 (5). pp. 699-720.

Nelson, Matthew J. (2006) 'Madrasas and the Modern State:  Religious Education and Religious Extremism in Pakistan.' RUSI Newsbrief, 26 (7). pp. 74-76.


Nelson, Matthew J. (2009) Campus Conflict, Party Politics, and the Secular State in Bangladesh. Foreign and Commonwealth Office, British High Commission (Dhaka). (Submitted)

Nelson, Matthew J. (2009) Religion, Politics, and the Modern University in Pakistan and Bangladesh. Seattle: National Bureau of Asian Research.

Book Reviews

Nelson, Matthew J. (2011) 'Review of Irfan Ahmad, 'Islam and Democracy in India: The Transformation of Jamaat-e-Islami'.' American Ethnologist, 38 (2).

Nelson, Matthew J. (2009) 'Review of David Loyn, 'Butcher and Bolt: two hundred years of foreign engagement in Afghanistan'.' The Middle East in London, 6 (1).

Nelson, Matthew J. (2008) 'Review of Vazira Fazila-Yaqoobali Zamindar, 'The Long Partition and the Making of Modern South Asia: Refugees, Boundaries, Histories'.' Asian Affairs, 39 (2).

Nelson, Matthew J. (2008) 'Review of Srirupa Roy, 'Beyond Belief: India and the Politics of Postcolonial Nationalism'.' Asian Affairs, 39 (2).

Nelson, Matthew J. (2007) 'Review of Tariq Rahman, 'Denizens of Alien Worlds: A Study of Education, Inequality, and Polarization in Pakistan'.' South Asia Research, 27 (1).

Nelson, Matthew J. (2006) 'Review of Jan-Peter Hartung and Helmut Reifeld, 'Islamic Education, Diversity, and National Identity: Dini Madaris in India Post-9/11'.' South Asia Research, 26 (3).

Nelson, Matthew 'Review of Sir Hilary Synnott, 'Transforming Pakistan: Ways out of Instability'.' South Asia Research . (Forthcoming)

This list was generated on Tue Dec 1 00:35:07 2015 GMT.