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Dr. Nasima Selim

Nasima Selim

Universität Bayreuth

Assoziiertes Mitglied der Arbeitsstelle Medical Anthropology I Global Health

Wissenschaftliche Mitarbeiterin am Lehrstuhl für Ethnologie, Universität Bayreuth

Research and Teaching Interests

  • Medical Anthropology and Global Health
  • Anthropology of Islam and Sufism
  • Public and Applied Anthropology
  • Politics and Poetics of Breathing
  • Postsecular and Postcolonial Theory
  • Ethnographic Methods and Creative Writing

Regional Focus

  • South Asia (India and Bangladesh)
  • Western Europe (Germany and the Netherlands)


  • Bengali (native speaker); English (proficient); German (C2); Hindi (conversation skill)

Academic Qualifications


Dr. Phil. in Social and Cultural Anthropology, Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology (ISKA), Freie Universität (FU) Berlin


MSc in Medical Anthropology, University of Amsterdam (UvA), the Netherlands


Certificate of Research Training Program in Social Sciences (RTP), Center for Studies in Social Sciences, Calcutta (CSSSCAL), India


Master of Public Health (MPH), James P Grant School of Public Health, BRAC University, Bangladesh


Certificate of Residency Training in Psychiatry, BSMMU, Dhaka, Bangladesh


Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery (MBBS), Sir Salimullah Medical College, Dhaka, Bangladesh

Professional Qualifications

May 2019 - September 2021

Postdoctoral Research Associate (Wissenschaftliche Mitarbeiterin) with Teaching Duties at the Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology, FU Berlin

October 2017- July 2018

Research Associate (Wissenschaftliche Mitarbeiterin) with Teaching Duties at the Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology, FU Berlin

Summer 2017, Summer 2018, Winter 2018/19 

Contract Lecturer (Lehrbeauftragte), MA Visual and Media Anthropology at the Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology, FU Berlin

Summer 2016, Winter 2016/17

Contract Lecturer (Lehrbeauftragte) at the Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology, FU Berlin

September 2011- May 2012

Senior Lecturer James P Grant School of Public Health, BRAC University, Bangladesh. 

April-August 2010

Lecturer II. James P Grant School of Public Health, BRAC University, Bangladesh

August 2008-March 2010

Lecturer I. James P Grant School of Public Health, BRAC University

April-July 2007

Research Associate. James P Grant School of Public Health, BRAC University

January-December 2005

Senior Medical Officer. Monon Psychiatric Hospital, Dhaka, Bangladesh

January-December 2004

Assistant Registrar. Mental Hospital, Pabna, Bangladesh 

Awards and Scholarship

  • October 2012-September 2016 German Education Exchange Service (DAAD), scholarship for doctoral research project, Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology, FU Berlin

  • 2010-2011 Netherlands Fellowship Program (NFP), scholarship for master’s degree program, the University of Amsterdam, the Netherlands

  • 2008 Jayoti Gupta memorial prize at the Center for Studies in Social Sciences, Calcutta (CSSSCAL), India

  • 2007-2008 South-South Exchange Program for Research on the History of Development (SEPHIS), scholarship for Research Training Program (RTP) at CSSSCAL, India

  • 2007- Allan Rosenfield award, Master of Public Health Program, BRAC University (BRACU), Bangladesh


  • 2019- Founding Member and Co-Spokesperson, Working Group Public Anthropology, DGSKA/GAA - German Anthropological Association

  • 2017- Member, German Anthropological Association (DGSKA e.V.)

  • 2014- Member, Working Group Medical Anthropology, German Anthropological Association (DGSKA e.V.)

  • 2011- Member, European Association of Social Anthropologists (EASA)

  • 2010- Life Member, Public Health Association of Bangladesh

Teaching experience 

  • Summer 2021 BA Seminar "Anthropology, ‘Race,’ and Racism Globally"

  • Summer 2021 MA Seminar "Global Health and Pandemic Lifeworlds"

  • Winter 2020/21 BA Seminar "Themen und Theorien der Sozial- und Kulturanthropologie"

  • Winter 2020/21 BA Seminar "Global Health and Pandemic Ecologies"

  • Summer 2020 BA Seminar "Healing across Religion and Medicine"

  • Summer 2020 MA Seminar "The Politics of Urban Breathing: Encountering COVID-19"

  • Winter 2019/20 BA Seminar "Anthropology of Global Health"

  • Winter 2019/20 BA Seminar "South Asian Ethnographies"

  • Summer 2019 BA Seminar "Methoden der Sozial- und Kulturanthropologie" 

  • Summer 2019 MA Seminar "Global Connections in Medicine, Health, and Healing"

  • Summer 2019 MA Seminar "Mind | Nature | Marketplace", Institut für Ethnologie, Westfällische Wilhelms-Universität Münster 

  • Winter 2018/19 MA Seminar "Theory and History of Social and Cultural Anthropology", Visual and Media Anthropology

  • Summer 2018 MA Seminar "Writing the Body and the Senses: Perspectives from Medical Anthropology"

  • Summer 2018 MA Seminar "Theory and History of Social and Cultural Anthropology", Visual and Media Anthropology

  • Summer 2017 MA Seminar "Theory and History of Social and Cultural Anthropology", Visual and Media Anthropology

  • Winter 2017/18 MA Seminar, "Anthropology of Islam (focus on Sufism)"

  • Winter 2016/17 MA Seminar, "Introduction to the Anthropology of Islam"

  • Summer 2016 Two BA Seminars, "Introduction to Medical Anthropology" 

  • Spring 2009-2010, Spring 2012-2015 Master of Public Health (MPH) modules, "Anthropological Approaches to Public Health" and "Qualitative Research Methods", James P Grant School of Public Health (JPGSPH), Brac University (BRACU), Bangladesh

  • September 2012, September 2013 Tutor, Short course, Mixed Methods in International Health Research. Short course, Heidelberg Institute für Global Health, Universität Heidelberg

Pedagogic training

2019 Completed basic pedagogic training for teaching in Universities (Hochschuldidaktisches Grundlagenmodul) at Freie Universität Berlin

Supervision and examination

2019-2021 18 BA and MA theses (10 completed; First supervision: 7; Second supervision: 10; External Review: 1) 

Postdoctoral project (in preparation)

"Who has the right to breathe? Politics of respiration and pandemic lifeworlds in South Asia"

I use digital and on-site ethnographic methods to explore the politics of vernacular sciences and metaphors of breathing relating them to the urban atmosphere and pandemic memories in South Asia in order to facilitate a nuanced understanding of South Asian epidemics and ecologies.

Caption: Pre-COVID-19 Kolkata. A flower seller at the street corner of Beckbagan Row covers her face to protect herself against air pollution. 15th March 2020. Copyright: Nasima Selim. 

Doctoral dissertation (completed)

"Learning the ways of the heart in Berlin: Sufism, anthropology, and the post-secular condition" (May 2019)

Caption: Sufi Healing Ritual Objects. 30th May 2014. Copyright: Nasima Selim.


What is Sufism? How is Sufism practiced and experienced in Berlin and connected sites? Bringing together two traditions of inquiry – Sufism (taṣawwuf) and Anthropology – I make sense of a set of contemporary enactments of Sufism in practice and experience. The “post-secular” is a provisional diagnosis of the contemporary condition, an organizing principle for the empirical reality and an analytical stance to hold together the multiple entanglements of Sufism: in invoking other kinds of past and ‘minority history’ exceeding the majority history narrative of the secularized German society; in imagining and opening up subtle bodies and metaphysical hearts towards transforming the self and social relations trespassing the limits of a materialist, secular body; in healing the problems of living and chronic health conditions beyond the confines of evidence-based biomedicine; in the seeking of an elusive ‘something else’ than secularist subjectivity; and, in the efforts to engage in affirmative action that do not necessarily fit certain secularized notions of politics. This dissertation is an effort to articulate Sufi practice and experience in the German capital, at the heart of one of the richest nation-states with its hidden structures of inequality as well as the conditions of possibilities it affords.  Although Sufism makes a different set of demands than academic anthropology, both disciplines enable us to talk back to a growing fear of Islam, the ever-shrinking space for alternatives and the trivialization of the post-secular imagination in Berlin.

Supervisors: Prof. Dr. Hansjörg Dilger (First) and Prof. Dr. Birgitt Röttger-Rössler (Second)

Funding: German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD)

Research Skills and Experience

2013-2015, 2020-2021

Ethnographic fieldwork about Sufi healing practices in Germany (Berlin) (Dr.Phil. Thesis in Social and Cultural Anthropology)


Qualitative research in public health within multi-country research projects about violence against marginalized women and health professional education in rural and urban Bangladesh


Ethnographic fieldwork about everyday Vipassana meditation practices in Amsterdam, the Netherlands (MSc Thesis in Medical Anthropology)


Qualitative research in public health within a multi-country research project about urban youth and food culture in Dhaka, Bangladesh


Cultural studies research in India about suicide narratives from rural Bangladesh 


Qualitative research in public health about the cultural dimensions of depressive episodes in rural Bangladesh (MPH, Master’s Thesis in Public Health)

Bücher und Herausgeberschaften

2010 [2008] (with S. Van der Geest and S. Zaman) Daily health concerns in Kakabo: Anthropological explorations in a Bangladeshi village. Dhaka: James P Grant School of Public Health, BRAC University.


2021 (with S. Willen, E. Mendenhall, S. Akter Chowdhury, M. Magaña Lopez, and H. Dilger) “Flourishing: Migration and Health in Social Context.” In: BMJ Global Health 6: e005108.

2020a “Letter from the (Un)seen Virus: (Post)Humanist Perspectives in Corona Times.” In: Social Anthropology/Anthropologie sociale 28 (2): 353–355.

2020b “Learning the Elsewhere of “Inner Space”: The Affective Pedagogy of Post/Secular Sufi Healing in Germany.” In: Religion and Society: Advances in Research 11: 105–119.

2020c (with O. Kasmani, H. Dilger, and D. Mattes) “Introduction | Elsewhere Affects and the Politics of Engagement across Religious Life-Worlds.” In: Religion and Society: Advances in Research 11: 92-104.

2018a (with M. Abdalla, L. Alloulou, M. Alaedden Halli, S. M. Holmes, M. Ibiß, G. Jaschke, and J. Gonçalves Martín) “Coming Together in the so-called “Refugee Crisis:” A Collaboration among Refugee Newcomers, Migrants, Activists, and Anthropologists in Berlin.” In: Anthropology in Action 25 (3): 34-44.

2018b (with T. Stodulka and D. Mattes) “Affective Scholarship: Doing Anthropology with Epistemic Emotions.” In: Ethos: Journal of the Society for Psychological Anthropology 46 (4): 519–536.

2014 (with T. Hasan, T. Muhaddes, S. Camellia and S. Faiz Rashid) "Prevalence and experiences of intimate partner violence against women with disabilities in Bangladesh: Results of an explanatory sequential mixed-method study." In: Journal of Interpersonal Violence 29 (17): 3105–3126.

2013 (with S. Zaman and T. Joarder) "Mcdonaldization without a McDonald’s: Globalization and food culture as social determinants of health in urban Bangladesh." In: Food, Culture and Society: An international journal of multidisciplinary research 16 (4): 551-568.

2011a (with A. Mann, A. Mol, P. Satalkar, A. Savirani, M. Sur, and E. Yates-Doerr) "Mixing methods, tasting fingers: Notes on an ethnographic experiment." In: HAU Journal of Ethnographic Theory 1(1): 221-243.

2011b (with S. M. Goudet, P. L. Griffiths and B. A. Bogin) “Impact of Flooding on Feeding Practices of Infants and Young children in Dhaka, Bangladesh Slums: What are the Coping Strategies?” In: Maternal & Child Nutrition 7 (2): 198-214.

2010 "Cultural dimensions of depressive episode: A qualitative study in two villages of Matlab." In: Journal of Population, Health & Nutrition 28 (1): 95-106.

2008 (with P. Satalkar) "Perceptions of mental illness in a Bangladeshi village." In: Brac University Journal 5 (1): 47-57.

2006 (with S.R. Choudhury, M.S.i. Mullick, S. Rahman, N. Huq) "Psychiatric Morbidity in the Cardiac Emergency Set-Up." In: Sir Salimullah Medical College Journal 14 (2): 86-91.


2015a "Sufi body practices and therapeutic politics in Berlin." In: Gritt Klinkhammer and Eva Tolksdorf (eds.) Somatisierung des Religiösen. Empirische Studien zum rezenten religiösen Heilungs -und Therapiemarkt. Bremen: Universität Bremen, 237-282.

2015b "Mental Health Care." In: Syed M. Ahmed et al. Bangladesh Health System Review. Asia Pacific Observatory on Health Systems and Policies 5 (3): 120-122.

2014  "What does sitting have to do with the self? Body techniques, personhood and well-being in Vipassana meditation." In: Sjaak van der Geest, Trudie Gerrits, and Julia Challinor (eds.) Medical anthropology: Essays and reflections from an Amsterdam Graduate Programme. Health, Culture and Society: Studies in Medical Anthropology and Sociology Series. Diemen: AMB Publisher, 265-282.

2011  "Friendship (and healing) in the ‘intersubjectivity of silence’: A case illustration." In: Marian Tankink and Marianne Vysma (eds.) Roads and Boundaries: Travels in search of (re-) connection. Diemen, the Netherlands: AMB Publishers, , 195-206.


2021  "Pandemic Affects, Planetary Specters, and the Precarious Everyday: Encountering COVID-19 as a Nomad with (Half)Grown Roots." Blog Medizinethnologie. Körper, Gesundheit und Heilung in einer globalisierten Welt, 11 February.

2020  (with J. Albrecht on behalf of AG Public Anthropology) “In Solidarity with #BlackLivesMatter and Call for Dismantling Structural Racism in Germany. Public Statement Issued by the Working Group Public Anthropology, German Anthropological Association.” Public Anthropologist Blog, 21 June.

2017  (with K. Dohrn, B. Rutert, J. Schühle, and M. von Vacano) "Weaving the World in Conversation with Paul Stoller: From Sensuous Scholarship to Public Anthropology." Blog Medizinethnologie. Körper, Gesundheit und Heilung in einer globalisierten Welt, 24 April.

2015  "Healing the City: Sufi Prayers in Berlin's Towers." Blog Medizinethnologie. Körper, Gesundheit und Heilung in einer globalisierten Welt, 26 May.


2021 Creative Advisor, Citizen Nagar, Documentary film about anti-Muslim racism in India, in progress (Director: Debalina Majumder).

2020-2021 with Judith Albrecht, #LifeBeyondCorona Talks. Podcast of AG Public Anthropology, DGSKA.

2020 (with J. Trestikova and N. Muhamad) "Mehr als Deutsch/More than German." In: Encounter/Begegnung N° 2: 6-8. Berlin: Medienwerkstatt Encounters.

2019 Spirit and Mind: Mental Health at the intersection of Religion and Psychiatry. In: Medicine Anthropology Theory 6 (2): 138-141.

2018 Transfiguring Psychoanalysis and Culture: Review of “Psychoanalysis from the Indian Terroir: Emerging Themes in Culture, Family, and Childhood” (Edited by Manasi Kumar, Anup Dhar, and Anurag Mishra; Foreword by Erica Burman). Blog Medizinethnologie. Körper, Gesundheit und Heilung in einer globalisierten Welt, 13 August.

2016 Writer and Co-Director, An Anthropological Becoming. 04:50 © Lotte Knote and Nasima Selim. Language: English and Bengali (with English subtitles).

2014 Patients and Agents: Mental Illness, Modernity and Islam in Sylhet, Bangladesh. In: Medicine Anthropology Theory 1 (1): 213 - 214.

2009 Two poems. In: Damazine (Summer issue)edited by Serene Taleb-Agha.

2008 একটি গল্প বা স্মৃতিকথানূহের নৌকায় শহীদুল জহির (১১ সেপ্টেম্বর, ১৯৫৩ – ২৩ মার্চ, ২০০৮). In: arts.bdnews.2429 March.(in Bengali).

2008 Assistant Director, Katha Monologues. 9 min. Director: Debalina Majumder, Languge: Bengali.

2007 Researcher, Scriptwriter, and Assistant Director, Mother Courageous: Maternal Deaths and Discontents in Uttar Pradesh. 28:55. Director: Debalina Majumder © PSBT India. Language: Hindi with English subtitles.

2007 আরেকটি মৃত্যুর আগে. Collection of Short Stories. Dhaka: Shamabesh Publishers. (in Bengali)

2005 Reflection. A Parable of Food and Hunger. In: Star Weekend Magazine 4 (57)5 August.

2002 "The man who would marry God: A case of schizophrenia with bizarre delusion." In: Bangladesh Journal of Psychiatry 16 (1): 48-54.


October 2021 (scheduled) Breathing Troubles in Covid-19: Im/Mobile Bodies, Nomadic Imagination, and Planetary Health. 4S (Society for Social Studies of Science) Annual Meeting, 4-8 October, Toronto and worldwide

September 2021 (scheduled) Decolonize Collective Breathing: Intersectional Public Anthropology in the Racial Capitalocene.AG Public Anthropology Workshop (co-organizer), Conference of the German Anthropological Association (DGSKA), 27-30 September, Universität Bremen and worldwide.

June 2021 (scheduled) Why Public Anthropology Matters in Planetary Health? Playing the Fields of Radical Inquiry and Pedagogic Engagement in a (Post/) Pandemic, More-than-Human World. “Radical Health. Doing Medicine, Health Care, and Anthropology of the Good” (co-organizer and presenter) Conference of the Working Group Medical Anthropology of DGSKA and AGEM (Arbeitsgemeinschaft Ethnologie und Medizin), 24-27 June, Freie Universität Berlin and worldwide.

July 2020 with Hansjörg Dilger and Dominik Mattes Witnessing Corona: Doing Public Medical Anthropology in Pandemic Times. Meeting of Medical Anthropology Europe (MAE), European Association of Social Anthropologists (EASA)

October 2019with Debaline Majumder Can the Tamarind Tree Speak? Affective Ecology and More-than-Human Well-Being in South Kolkata. DGSKA Conference, Universität Konstanz

August 2019 with Jana Trestikova, and Nazli Muhamad MAD (Mehr als Deutsch) Stories. Public Anthropology workshop, Medienwerkstatt Encounters.

June 2019 with Ian Marius Ibiß and Soyong Ki Eco-Social Self and Multispecies Ethnography: Art, Anthropology, and Well-being in a More-than-Human World. Public Anthropology workshop, Werkstatt Ethnologie, Berlin

May 2019 On Being Queer and South Asian. Public talk and screening of the fiction film If You Dare Desire (Debalina Majumder), “Noon Festival - Queer History Month x Ramadan,” Be'kech, Berlin

January 2019 Queer Ecology and Urban Well-being. Workshop at Sappho for Equality, Kolkata, India.

November 2018 (Queer) Longing for/against Marriage: Affective Politics of Desires and Decisions. Paper presentation and screening of a documentary film Gay Indian Matrimony (Debalina Majumder), Institut für Ethnologie, Westfällische Wilhelms-University of Münster.

October 2018 Participatory Brainstorming: Creative/Participatory Methods, Modes and Politics of Representation. Co-panelist, Medical Anthropology Young Scholars’ (MAYS) Meeting, FU Berlin.

September 2018 Affective Arrangements and the Future of Carescapes. Participant in a wrap-up discussion at the Conference “Affective Arrangements in Mental Health Care Settings” organized by the CRC Affective Societies Project A02: Affective Efforts of Migration, FU Berlin.

June 2018 Bridging the Gap between Medicine and Anthropology. Keynote Lecture at the COSIMENA (Clusters of Scientific Innovation in the Middle East and North Africa) Workshop on Medical Anthropology, Cairo, DAAD Egypt.

October 2017with Judith Albrecht Muslimischer Lebenswelten. Grundlagenwissen zum Verständnis religiöse Traditionen muslimischer Flüchtlinge in Brandenburg. Public anthropology seminar for social workers organized by the InSchwung project of Paritätisches Bildungswerk, Potsdam.

October 2017 with Lotte Knote What does Fieldwork do to You? (paper) An Anthropological Becoming: Methodological Fears and Hopes(short film). DGSKA Conference, FU Berlin

February 2017 Learning How to Whirl: Subtle and Material Bodies in “Dervish Dance.” Paper and body performance, Oxford School of Anthropology, organized by Prof. Elisabeth Hsu and Dr. Paola Esposito, Argo-EMR (Anthropology Research Group at Oxford on Eastern Medicines and Religions), University of Oxford.

August 2015 Ontologies in Sufi Healing: Beyond Religion and Medicine. XXI Quinquennial World Congress of the International Association for the History of Religions (IAHR), Universität Erfurt.

December 2015 Stories of Fear and Hope.Public storytelling at the Lichtburg Forum/Klingendes Museum Berlin, organized by members of the Engaged Anthropology Collective, IfSKA, FU Berlin.

June 2015 Provincializing Berlin: Genealogy of Sufismus/Sufitum and a Minority History of Sufi Berlin. Institut für Ethnologie, Westfällische Wilhelms-Universität Münster

November 2013 “Healing the City”: Sufi Healing at Berlin’s Fernsehturm. “Prayer, Architecture, History” workshop at the Zentrum Moderner Orient (ZMO), Berlin

October 2013 Jenseits von Dhikr und Drehtanz: Innovative Körperpraktiken in Sufi-Gruppen in Berlin.Poster presented at the Conference “Somatisierung des Religiösen” at Hannover im Schloss Herrenhausen, organized by Religious Studies, Universität Bremen

July 2009 Ekattorer Debdas (Debdas of 1971): The ‘Unusual’ Protest and Plight of a ‘Living Martyr’ of the Liberation WarSecond International Conference on Genocide, Truth & Justice, Liberation War Museum (LWM), Dhaka, Bangladesh

June 2009 Delusion, Heresy, or Resistance? Mass Suicide and a ‘Minority’ Faith in Bangladesh. Workshop-cum-seminar “Minority Cultures,” Center for Studies in Social Sciences, Calcutta (CSSSCAL), India

July 2008 An Extraordinary TruthThe Adam Suicide Notes from Bangladesh. Ethnographies of Suicide Conference, Department of Anthropology, Brunel University, UK.

SFB 1171 Affective Societies
Berlin Southern Theory Lecture