Prof. (Dr.) Syed Mohammed Faisal

Assistant Professor

B.A. (St. Philomena’s College, Mysore);
M.A. (Jamia Millia Islamia, Delhi); 
M. Phil. (University of Delhi); 
Ph.D. (University of Sussex)

I am trained in anthropology. I have worked with Centre for Study of Science and Technology Policy, Bangalore and have been a Postdoctoral Fellow at International Institute of Information Technology, Bangalore.

Research Statement

The primary question that animates my teaching and research is – how are humans constituted through exchange? My inquiry is constituted in two vectors; First, in my doctoral thesis in anthropology unpacks the processes and significance of trust building mechanisms that communities of traders, religious solidarities and kinship groups practice in South India. I am furthering this inquiry to investigate the role of theology in the formation of colonial and postcolonial forms of governance like the state, the market, their technologies of exchange like welfare, census, digital ID systems, corporations and accounting practices to understand how they redefine collectives and their relationship to commercial relations. The second vector of my inquiry explores the significance of mystical and aesthetic traditions, their role in cognitive and political resistance to theological and colonial practices as a potential alternative in the making of human cultures. In ethnographic-anthropological methods I use comparative techniques to understand how various historical and contemporary cultures imagine and negotiate the relationship between communities, economy, governance and violence. I teach courses on the comparative anthropology of risk, commensuration and economies.


Areas of Interest

Anthropology, Colonialism, Gift, Commodity, Market and Religious Puritanism, Technologies of Capitalism, Joint Stock Company, Double Entry Book Keeping, Ledgers, Entity Shielding, Critical Accounting Studies, Risk and Morality, Credit and Finance, Insurance, Money, Taxation, Welfare, Corporations, Charity and Philanthropy, Islamic Finance, Mutuality, Kinship and Exchange, Communities, Cooperatives and Collectives, Matriliny and Trade, Maritime Cultures, Islam, Islamic Legal and Textual Traditions, Adab in the Indo-Persian Tradition, Debt, Law, Secularisation and Economy, Family Firms, Modern Narrative Genres of Scientific Writing, Ethnography and Historiography.


Forthcoming Publications

  • Faisal, Syed Mohammed ‘Shaheen Bagh and the Politics of Muslim Identity in South Asia’ HAU Journal of Anthropology (Solicited)
  • Faisal, Syed Mohammed ‘Embracing Risk: Islamic Credit and the Bazaar’, Economic and Political Weekly (Under Review).
  • Faisal, Syed Mohammed and Chaudhuri, Bidisha ‘Credit, Community Intermediaries and the Promise of Digital Identification Systems in India’.
  • Kaur, Raminder and Faisal, Syed Mohammed ‘Dwelling and crossing, the socio-cultural dynamics of religious spaces in Mumbai’, in City of Dreams: Situating Religion in Contemporary Mumbai. ed: Michael Stausber. Oxford University Press, India.


Book Review

  • Faisal, Syed Mohammed (2013) [Review] Laurent Gayer and Christophe Jaffrelot (editors) (2012) Muslims in Indian cities, trajectories of marginalisation. Contemporary South Asia, 21 (4). pp. 466-467.




  • Vasco Da Gama’s Gifts: Anthropology of a Colonial Moment presented at ‘Technologies of Trust: Law, Custom and Procedure in Historical and Comparative Perspective’ organised by: Indo-European Advanced Research Network in collaboration with Godrej Archives.  8-10 January 2020, Godrej Archives, Mumbai
  • Vasco Da Gama’s Gifts: Anthropology of a Colonial Moment presented at ‘Exploring Sovereignty and Charisma: Engagements, Contestations and Fabulations from the Global South’ organised by Connaught Fund: Global Challenge Initiative, 15-17 December 2019
    Centre for Development Studies, Trivandrum
  • Unmaking and Remaking of Muslim Business Families’ in South India presented at ‘Customizing Shariah: Islamic Law and Matriliny in the Indian Ocean Littoral’, 27th-29th August 2019
    Ashoka University, Sonipat, Haryana
  • ‘Communities and the Digital Identity Systems’ presented at the ID4D conference, 20th March 2019
    Jesus College, University of Cambridge, United Kingdom
  • Banking the Un-bankables: Religion as a source of financialisation in Udupi, 20th June 2016 presented at the Department of Philosophy And Religious Studies, Norwegian University of Science And Technology, Trondhiem, Norway
  • Islam and Economy: Theory and Praxis of Islamic Credit in Udupi, 22th November 2015 presented at the South Asian Anthropology Group Conference at the University Of Cambridge
  • Fish, Coconut and Community: Materials and Relations on the Coast of Karnataka, 20th September 2015 hosted by South Asia Conference at the University Of Wisconsin, Madison
  • Weaving Relations: Kinship, religion and trade among the Nawayats in Coastal Karnataka, 21th August 2015 presented at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai
  • Credit and Islamic Banking Techniques, 22th May 2015 presented at the Cadbury Conference Programme On ‘Money Judgments’ Convened By Jayne Guyer At University of Birmingham
  • Business and Kinship: Materials and Social Forms, 17th May 2015 presented at SASNET and Lund University At Falstbro, Sweden
  • Fish Processing: Environment and Moral Anxieties Among Businessmen, 13th May 2015 presented at Asia and Environment Conference Organized By Centre For World Environmental History and Sussex Asia Centre, University Of Sussex.
  • Imagining Property through Inheritance Practices, 21-23th November
    2013 presented at the French Institute of Pondicherry, Pondicherry, India
  • Shah Waliullah’s Community of Islam, 28th July 2012 presented at  the Conference Titled ‘Approaching Religion And Caste Before Colonialism: Case Studies And Beyond’ At The Nehru Memorial Museum And Library, New Delhi, India
  • Shah Waliullah: Thought and Influence, 27th November 2011, presented at Anveshi, Research Centre for Women’s Studies, Hyderabad, india
  • The Dialectic of Private and Public: A Case Study of Deoband Madrasa, 11-12th November 2010, presented at National seminar organized by Institute of Parliamentary Affairs, Thiruvananthapuram on the theme ‘Secularism: Challenges of Religious Fundamentalism in India’

Risk: Cultural and Historical Perspectives

This introductory course addresses risk, risk-bearing, risk-taking and risk-aversion techniques that humans have produced and practised in different historical and cultural contexts. Students learn and critically evaluate the context and reasons behind the techniques of accounting and finance in modern economic systems. The course introduces historical contemporary cultures of accountability and compares them to the historical roots of modern accounting techniques in the double-entry bookkeeping cultures of early modern Mediterranean and the levant area that were formative of the contemporary forms of capitalist accounting systems from ledgers to blockchain. The conceptual emphasis is on the nature of risk, geographical, political and social, that these systems emanate from and how modern accountability practices are distinct in their approach to risk and what kind of relations do they produce given the kind of practices they are.