Associate Professor Malini Sur

Profile photo of Dr Malini SurAssociate Professor Malini Sur is socio-cultural anthropologist with research interests in India, Bangladesh and Australia. 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. Her writings centre around mobility – of people, goods, territory, and transport – driven by history, militarisation, globalisation, and environmental change. She critically interrogates the history and socio-politics of borders, infrastructures, transnational flows, and identities. She explores mobility in the context of natural disasters, shifting ecologies, urban air pollution, and climate change. She studies these themes with keen attention to visual representation. 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 was a Chevening scholar and a visiting fellow at the Humanities Research Centre, Australian National University in 2022. At Western Sydney University, she divides her time between the School of Social Sciences, where she is an Associate Professor of Anthropology and the Institute for Culture and Society, where she serves as the Deputy Director of Engagement and International.

A/Prof Sur has lectured and held postdoctoral fellowships at the University of Amsterdam, the University of Toronto and the National University of Singapore and worked for Social Science Research Council (New York). 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, she was elected to Ordinary Director of the Australian Anthropological Society and has served on the Executive Committee of the South Asian Studies Association of Australia.

Her book Jungle Passports: Fences, Mobility, and Citizenship at the Northeast India-Bangladesh Border (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2021) has been reviewed in journals such as Feminist AnthropologyAntipode, Contemporary South Asia, International Migration ReviewJournal of Borderland Studies and Singapore Journal of Tropical Geography. It has featured in book forums Borderlines-Comparative Studies in South Asia, Middle East and Africa and Contributions to Indian Sociology. She has also published on borderlands  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. Photographs from her fieldwork on South Asia's borderlands have been exhibited in Amsterdam, Berlin, Bonn, Chiang Mai, Gottingen, Heidelberg, Kathmandu and Munich.

Her current book project is concerned with the political terrains that degraded air generates in India. Drawing on insights from three years of ethnographic fieldwork in the city of Kolkata, she explores how cargo cyclists and environmental activists in large postcolonial cities experience, navigate and mobilize air in everyday life and the economies, including repair economies that coalesce around urban cycling. 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 the Perth, Sydney, Canberra, Baltimore, Santiago, Singapore, Kolkata and New York.

A/Prof 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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