Associate Professor Malini Sur

Profile photo of Dr Malini SurMalini Sur is an Associate Professor in Anthropology at Western Sydney University and currently serves as the President of Australian Anthropological Society. She is internationally recognised for her contributions to the study of borders, mobility, and gender. Her book Jungle Passports: Fences, Mobility, and Citizenship at the Northeast India-Bangladesh Border (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2021) was awarded the President’s Book Prize from the South Asian Studies Association of Australia, Bernard S. Cohen Prize (honourable mention) and Choice Outstanding Academic Title (2022). Her research has been funded by the Australian Research Council (ARC), Dutch Research Council (NWO), Ministry of Education Singapore and awards from the Tata Trusts. She has published in Cultural AnthropologyComparative Studies in Society and History and Modern Asian Studies. Her work also features in Public Books New YorkNew Books NetworkConversations in Anthropology and The Polis Project. In 2023-2024, A/P Sur is directing a documentary film on the Parramatta River, Australia. Funded by the Australian Research Council and in collaboration with colleagues at the Institute of Culture and Society and the Powerhouse Museum, this documentary explores the social life of a rapidly changing urban river.

A/Prof Sur has taught and held fellowships at the University of Amsterdam, University of Toronto and the National University of Singapore and worked for Social Science Research Council (New York). She was a Chevening scholar and a visiting fellow at the Humanities Research Centre, Australian National University in 2022. She is an Associate Editor of South Asia – Journal of South Asian Studies and serves on the editorial boards of the Australian Journal of Anthropology, Commoning Ethnography and Humanities Research. In 2021-2022, she served as Deputy Director of Engagement at the Institute for Culture and Society, was elected to Ordinary Director of the Australian Anthropological Society and on the Executive Committee of the South Asian Studies Association of Australia. Photographs from her fieldwork on South Asia's borderlands have been exhibited in Amsterdam, Berlin, Bonn, Chiang Mai, Gottingen, Heidelberg, Kathmandu, and Munich. She has co-edited two Special Issues in CITY and Economic and Political Weekly on urban anthropology. Her first documentary film Life Cycle about air pollution and urban cycling in India has been screened at Perth, Sydney, Canberra, Baltimore, Santiago, Singapore, Kolkata, and New York.

A/P Sur’s interests in the environment, and especially in climatic events, air pollution and dust, and urban mobility includes new research on Australia. She has published collaborative research on construction sites, on ground-breaking and the redistribution of earth’s particles and on dust and bushfire haze. She has also written about slow cycling and urban mobility in Australia and commented widely in the media including the ABC on the global impacts of dust and pollution. Her public writing has appeared in the Conversation, Himal, The Telegraph, Wire and Scroll.


  • PhD, 2012, University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Research Focus

  • Environment
  • Borderlands
  • Citizenship
  • Cities
  • Mobility
  • Climate

Selected Publications

Sur, M. 2021. “Jungle Passports: Fences, Mobility, and Citizenship at the Northeast India-Bangladesh Border” (University of Pennsylvania Press).

Sur, M. 2020. “Time at its Margins: Cattle Smuggling at the India-Bangladesh Border,” Cultural Anthropology,Volume 35, No 4, pp 546–574.

Sur, M. 2020. “Cultures of Repair: Cargo-Cycles and Kinship in Kolkata,” The Economic and Political Weekly, Review of Urban Affairs Volume LV, No 51, pp 34-39.

Sur, M. 2020. “Sounds of Trauma,” Commoning Ethnography, Vol 3, No 1, pp144 -151.

Sur, M. 2019. “Danger and Difference: Tea-time at the Northeast India-Bangladesh border,” Modern Asian Studies, Vol 53, No 3, pp 846-873.

Sur, M. 2019. “Spiral,” Volumetric Sovereignty Series Part 3: Turbulence, Society and Space.

Sur, M 2019. “Dreaming borders: on cats and trauma,” Somatosphere.

Sur, M. 2017. “The Blue Urban: Coloring and Constructing KolkataCity Vol 21, No 5, pp 597- 606.

Sur, M. 2016. “Battles for the Golden Grain: Paddy Soldiers and the Making of the Northeast India–East Pakistan Border.Comparative Studies in Society and History Vol 58, No 3, pp 804-832.

2012. “Through Metal Fences: Material Mobility and the Politics of Transnationality at Borders.” Mobilities Vol 8, No 1, pp 7089.

Access All Publications

Selected Awards and Recognitions

  • Australian Research Council Linkage Grant “The Collaborative Museum: Embedding Cultural Infrastructure in the City” (led by Prof. Ien Ang).
  • Western Sydney University’s Researcher Development Award.
  • Singapore Ministry of Education (Tier 1) and National University of Singapore joint grants.
  • International Institute for Asian Studies (IIAS) Fellowship.
  • Dissertation fellowship from Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research
  • Chevening Scholar, University of Essex.
  • J.N. Tata Trust Award.
  • Prof. Aisha Harris Memorial Shield and Award for Best Student, Tata Institute of Social Sciences.
  • Prof. Grace Mathew Award for the Best Student in Fieldwork, Tata Institute of Social Sciences.
  • J.R.D. Tata Trust Award.



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