Amna Qayyum is a historian of modern South Asia, with intersecting research and teaching interests in histories of global development, science and technology, and Islamic thought. She is also interested in connected and comparative approaches towards studying decolonization and the global Cold War.
Her project, The Demographic State: Population, Citizens, and the Family in Pakistan, c. 1947-71, traces histories of population management to analyze state-making and unmaking in East and West Pakistan. It argues that Pakistan was not simply a Cold War laboratory, but rather a critical geography in the production of global demographic knowledge. While rooted in South Asia, the project charts the global circulation of ideas, interests, and practices of population control. It draws on materials from social scientists, medical professionals, women’s welfare activists, bureaucrats, and Islamic modernists, to demonstrate how family planning became an intimate site through which Pakistani citizens experienced the state. This was not solely driven by imperatives of economic growth, but also reshaped concepts of public health, technology, gender, and religious authority. These transnational projects of population control also stimulated debate over state power, modernization, and foreign aid in Pakistan — ultimately shaping protests against Ayub Khan’s authoritarian regime. Based on multi-sited archives and interviews, this dissertation then examines how the encounter between postcolonial sovereignty and global development unfolded in everyday Pakistan.
Amna's research for this project has been supported externally by the Society of Historians of American Foreign Relations (SHAFR), the Joint Center for Economics and History at Harvard University, the American Institute of Pakistan Studies (AIPS), and the Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Foundation.
At Princeton, Amna is currently assisting in the development of an online Urdu language ephemera collection through Firestone Library. She is also part of a Digital Humanities Working Group at Princeton, supporting projects and programming on digital humanities approaches towards scholarship on South Asia.
For the 2019-20 academic year, Amna was Graduate Fellow at the Princeton Institute for International and Regional Studies (PIIRS). This year, she is writing her dissertation on a Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowship (2020-21).