SOAS University of London

Department of Politics and International Studies

Professor Matthew J Nelson

BA (Bowdoin), PhD (Columbia)
  • Teaching
  • Research
  • Expertise
  • Publications


Matthew Nelson
Department of Politics and International Studies

Professor of Politics

Centre on Conflict, Rights and Justice

Founding Member

SOAS South Asia Institute

Academic Staff

Centre for the Study of Pakistan

Academic Staff

SOAS Middle East Institute (SMEI)



Vice Chair

Professor Matthew J Nelson
SOAS University of London
Thornhaugh Street, Russell Square, London WC1H 0XG
Russell Square: College Buildings
Office No:
On Sabbatical:


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.


Modules Taught
PhD Students supervised
  • Guy Robert Eyre, Walking the Boundaries: Paths to Islamic Politics in Morocco
  • Mehdi Beyad, A Claim to Space: The Discourse of Arab-Iranian Rivalry as Geopolitical Imaginary in Ba’thist Iraq and Pahlavi Iran
  • Salman Rafi, Intra-Ethnic Fragmentation and the Politics of De-centralising Constitutional Change in Pakistan: A Comparative Study
Other students supervised:
  • Tobias Berger 'Global Norms and Local Courts: Translating the Rule of Law in Rural Bangladesh' (Professor Thomas Risse, Free University, Berlin) 2014
  • Tahrat Shahid (Professor Elizabeth Frazer, Oxford) 2015
  • Maha Aziz (Professor John Sidel, LSE) 2012
  • Mahvish Shami (Dr. Jean-Paul Faguet, LSE) 2011


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.


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


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