Helena Zeweri

Areas of Interest: 
Anthropology of: humanitarianism, development, and human rights; biopolitical and rehumanization projects; ethico-poliltical imaginaries; self-cultivation; migration policies and processes; transnational feminisms; Afghanistan, Australia, the US

I am a PhD student in the Department of Anthropology at Rice University. Prior to joining the department, I received an MA in Anthropology from The New School for Social Research and an MA in Near Eastern Studies from New York University. I received my BA in Middle Eastern and Asian Languages and Cultures from Columbia University. My research examines how empowerment is emerging as a set of practices, discourses, technologies, and techniques of care, ethics, and politics in refugee resettlement programs, with a focus on recent refugees from Afghanistan who have settled in Australia and the United States. My broader interests include the slippages between humanitarianism and empowerment that occur in zones of transition and liminality, particularly in refugee and asylum contexts.

In a side project, I have been examining how discourses and narratives of precarity animate metrics of progress and freedom within literacy and scholarship programs for Afghan women studying in the United States.

I have been involved in multiple academic, artistic, and literary collectives that explore the new political and social formations that have animated life in the Afghan diaspora in a post-9/11 context.

Since 2009, I have helped to direct a research initiative called Femin Ijtihad, which links academic work on gender politics in the Middle East and South Asia with legal, activist, and student work on such issues.

As an Afghan American, I find anthropology a productive way to help make sense of the categories and histories that were attached to the Afghan diaspora in the wake of September 11th, and the broader imaginative geographies of Afghanistan that emerged alongside.

Published Work, Blog Entries:

Zeweri, Helena and Nishma Jethwa. 2015. “Development Work, Imperialism, and Depoliticization.” 15 January 2015. Femin Ijtihad Working Group Discussion.

Zeweri, Helena. 2011. “Afghan Americans.” In Encyclopedia of Asian American Folklore and Folklife. Lee, Jonathan H.X., and Kathleen M. Nadeau, eds. Pp. 105-126. Santa Barbara (CA): ABC-CLIO.

Zeweri, Helena. 2010. “Religious Language and Afghan Women’s Rights.” Sightings: A Journal of the University of Chicago Divinity School.
Helena Zeweri
Graduate Student