Dr Malini Sur

Profile photo of Dr Malini SurMalini Sur is a Senior Research Fellow at the Institute for Culture and Society and teaches anthropology at Western Sydney University. She holds a PhD from the University of Amsterdam (2012). Her research addresses three lines of inquiry – agrarian borders, urban space and environment. The first examines fences, transnational flows, and citizenship. A second line of inquiry explores the relationship that mobility has to urban space, and specifically, with regard to bicycling and construction sites across Asian cities. Finally, she examines the afterlives of natural disasters, air pollution, and climate change. As an anthropologist, she researches these themes historically and with keen attention to visual representation. She has conducted fieldwork in Bangladesh and India, and with South Asian asylum seekers in Belgium.

Malini's publications have appeared in academic journals like Comparative Studies in Society and History, HAU, Mobilities, and The Economic and Political Weekly. She has co-edited a collection of essays entitled Transnational Flows and Permissive Polities: Ethnographies of Human Mobility in Asia (Amsterdam University Press, 2012). Her public writing has appeared in Himal, The Telegraph and Scroll.

Photographs from Malini's fieldwork on South Asia's borders have been exhibited in Amsterdam, Berlin, Bonn, Chiang Mai, Gottingen, Heidelberg, Kathmandu and Munich. Her first documentary film Life Cycle, about the politics of cycling in the city of Kolkata, has been screened at the City-Mojo Film Festival (Perth 2017); the Australian Anthropological Society (Sydney 2016); The 4th Peoples Film Festival (Kolkata 2016), the Centre for Studies in the Social Sciences Calcutta (Kolkata 2016) and The Substation (Singapore 2016). This documentary is based on nine months of fieldwork with cyclists, vendors and environmentalists and has been gleaned from over 100 hours of footage. It is a product of her ongoing dialogues with urban cyclists, NGOs, environmental activists, citizen's associations, and market committees in India.

Malini regularly walks along the Parramatta River. Aspiring graduate students in anthropology and sociology who would like to join for a river walk talk may write to her at m.sur@westernsydney.edu.au.


PhD, 2012, University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Selected Publications


Kalir, B & Sur, M (eds) 2012, Transnational flows and permissive polities: Ethnographies of human mobility in Asia, Amsterdam University Press, Amsterdam.

Guha-Thakurta, M, Hossain, H & Sur, M 2010, Freedom from fear? Freedom from want? Rethinking security in Bangladesh, Rupa, New Delhi.

Book Chapters

Sur, M 2018, 'Asia’s gendered borderlands', in A Horstman, M Saxer & A Rippa (eds), Routledge handbook of Asian borderlands (opens in a new window), Routledge, New York.

Sur, M & van Meetren, M 2018, 'Borders of integration - paperwork between Bangladesh and Belgium', in R Jones & A Ferdous (eds), Borders and mobility in South Asia and beyond, Amsterdam University Press, Amsterdam.

Sur, M 2015, 'Indelible lines: revisiting partitions and borders in modern South Asia', in K Shelton, G Mom, D Zunino Singh & C Katz (eds), Mobility in history yearbook 6, Berghan Books, New York, pp. 70–78.

Kalir, B, Sur, M & van Schendel, W 2012, 'Introduction: mobile practices and regimes of permissiveness', in B Kalir & M Sur (eds), Transnational flows and permissive polities: ethnographies of human mobility in Asia, University of Amsterdam Press, Amsterdam, pp. 11–26.

Sur, M 2012, 'Bamboo baskets and barricades: gendered landscapes at the India–Bangladesh borderlands', in B Kalir & M Sur, Transnational flows and permissive polities: ethnographies of human mobility in Asia, University of Amsterdam Press, Amsterdam, pp. 127-150.

Refereed Journal Articles

Sur, M 2019, 'Danger and difference: teatime at the northeast India-Bangladesh border' (opens in a new window), Modern Asia Studies, vol. 53, no. 3, pp. 846-873.

Elinoff, E, Sur, M & Yeoh, BSA 2017, 'Constructing Asia: an introduction' (opens in a new window), City, vol. 21, no. 5, pp. 580-586. DOI: 10.1080/13604813.2017.1374777.

Sur, M 2017, 'The blue urban: colouring and constructing Kolkata' (opens in a new window), City, Special Issue on Constructing Asia (opens in a new window), vol. 21, no. 5, pp. 597-606. DOI: 10.1080/13604813.2017.1374785.

Sur, M 2017, 'Life cycle' (opens in a new window), Transfers - Journal of Interdisciplinary Mobility Studies, vol. 7, no. 1, pp. 130-136.

Sur, M 2016, 'Battles for the golden grain: paddy soldiers and the making of the Northeast India–East Pakistan border, 1930-1970' (opens in a new window), Comparative Studies in Society and History, vol. 58, no. 3, pp. 804-832.

Sur, M 2014, 'Divided bodies: crossing the India–Bangladesh border' (opens in a new window), Economic and Political Weekly, vol. 46, no. 13, pp. 31–35.

Sur, M 2012, 'Through metal fences: material mobility and the politics of transnationality at borders' (opens in a new window), Mobilities, vol. 8, no. 1, pp. 70–89.

Mann, A, Mol, AM, Satalkar, P, Savirani, A, Selim, N, Sur, M & Yates-Doerr, E 2011, 'Mixing methods, tasting fingers: notes on an ethnographic experiment' (opens in a new window), HAU: Journal of Ethnographic Theory, vol. 1, no. 1, pp. 221–243.

Documentary Film and Photography

Life Cycle. 2016 - A documentary film - directed by Malini Sur. (42 minutes), HD/Blue Ray, Vimeo. [Screenings: May 2016 - The Substation Singapore; November 2016 - Centre for Studies in Social Sciences Kolkata; December 2016 - Australian Anthropological Society Congress; January 2017- 4th Kolkata People's Film Festival; March 2017 - Citi Mojo Film Festival and Perth Community Bike Club; October 2017 – Australian National University, Crawford School of Public Policy and South Asia Institute; October 2017- Victoria University Wellington, Cultural Anthropology, November 2017 -Universidad Diego Portales, Santiago, Chile]. Trailer (opens in a new window).

Life in South Asia's Borderlands Travelling photography exhibition (2009-2014): Kathmandu 2009; Chiang Mai 2010; DeBalie, Amsterdam and Gottingen 2011; Humboldt University; Bonn, Berlin, Munich, Hamburg and Heidelberg 2012-2014.

Public Anthropology

Sur, M & Kerr, E 2019, 'Breaking the ground' (opens in a new window), Society and Space.

Sur, M 2019, 'Spiral' (opens in a new window), Volumetric Sovereignty Series Part 3: Turbulence, Society and Space.

Sur, M 2019, 'Dreaming borders: on cats and trauma' (opens in a new window), Somatosphere.

Sur, M 2019, 'India is cherry-picking citizens' (opens in a new window), The Globe Post, New York.

Sur, M 2018, 'The story of Atabor the bandit, or how the NRC reinforces divisive narratives' (opens in a new window), The Wire.

Sur, M 2018, 'Slow cycling isn’t just for fun – it’s essential for many city workers' (opens in a new window), The Conversation.

Sur, M 2017, 'In Kolkata, citizens defy police attempts to squeeze bicycles off roads', Scroll.in (opens in a new window).

Sur, M 2015, 'Border night', Bangladesh Paradox, HIMAL Southasian, vol. 28, no. 3.

Sur, M 2015, 'Spectacles of militarization', Focus-International Institute for Asian Studies Newsletter, no. 71, pp. 28-29.

Sur, M 2012, 'Registers of imprecision' (opens in a new window), The Telegraph, Kolkata, 12 August.

Sur, M 2010, 'People without papers' (opens in a new window), The Telegraph, Kolkata, 9 November.

Sur, M 2006, 'Crossing boundaries – Bangladeshi sex workers in Calcutta', International Institute for Asian Studies Newsletter, no. 42, pp. 16.


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