Department of Politics and International Studies

Professor Matthew J Nelson

Key information

Department of Politics and International Studies Professor of Politics Centre on Conflict, Rights and Justice Founding Member Academic Staff Centre for the Study of Pakistan Academic Staff Member
Department of Politics and International Studies
BA (Bowdoin), PhD (Columbia)
Russell Square: College Buildings
Email address


Matthew Nelson (PhD Columbia) is a Professor of Politics at SOAS. His research focuses on the comparative and international politics of South Asia, with an emphasis on non-elite politics, 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 focuses on comparative constitutional politics and the politics of sectarian and doctrinal diversity in Islamic law and education.

Dr Nelson is a founding member of the Centre for Comparative Political Thought 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 (IAS) in Princeton; in 2011 he was a Fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars (WWICS) in Washington, D.C.; in 2014-15 he was a Fellow at the Zentrum für Interdisziplinäre Forschung (ZiF) in Bielefeld (Germany).

Dr Nelson has also served as an elected board member for the American Institute of Pakistan Studies (AIPS), the South Asia Council of the Association for Asian Studies (AAS), and the Religion and Politics Section of the American Political Science Association (APSA).

Dr Nelson has completed several consultancies for The Brookings Institution, the National Bureau of Asian Research (NBR), The Asia Foundation, the Asian Development Bank (ADB), the British Foreign Office (FCO), the British Department for International Development (DFID), and others.

Research interests

South Asia (Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and India); Islamic institutions (law, education); comparative political thought; comparative constitutionalism; politics and religion (Political Islam), non-elite politics; democracy.

PhD Supervision

Name Title
Salman Rafi Intra-Ethnic Fragmentation and the Politics of De-centralising Constitutional Change in Pakistan: A Comparative Study


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