Dr Nicholas Evans

Dr Nicholas Evans

Visiting fellow

Department of Anthropology

Key Expertise
South Asia, India, Islam

About me

Nicholas has previously conducted ethnographic research in India, where his work has focused upon the contested boundaries of Islamic orthodoxy and the question of who can claim the right to be a Muslim. His forthcoming monograph, Far from the Caliph’s Gaze: Being Ahmadi Muslim in the Holy City of Qadian (Cornell, 2019), explores these questions from the point of view of one of modern South Asia’s most controversial Muslim revivals, the Ahmadiyya community. The book aims to be a major rethinking of anthropological approaches to doubt, arguing that it is necessary for us to embrace a new language for religious uncertainty if we are to understand the complexities of faith for people like the Ahmadis. Nicholas has also written about religious mass media, hierarchy and legitimation, and anthropological approaches to the study of theisms. Additionally, he has published on the ethical and theoretical challenges that anthropologists must face when writing about politically vulnerable religious minorities. With Jonathan Mair, he edited a special issue of Hau on Ethics Across Borders, which examined the complexity of human responses to the challenges of maintaining ethical conversations across different ethical and religious traditions. 

Between 2014 and 2017, Nicholas was also involved in archival work in India and the UK as a member of the ERC-funded project Visual Representations of the Third Plague Pandemic (based at CRASSH in Cambridge). Nicholas’ publications from this project reflected his comparative interest in the study of uncertainty and doubt, and with Christos Lynteris, he edited an interdisciplinary volume examining the complex politics and ritual practices that arise around burials at times of epidemic disease. 

In 2018, Nicholas began a new ethnographic project in the Southern Italian city of Taranto. This is a city that has long been poisoned by toxic emissions from one of Europe’s largest steel factories, which is also the major employer in the region. Nicholas is investigating the role of popular religion in people’s lives as they confront an impossible sacrifice: whether to give up their right to labour or health. The eventual goal of this product is to rethink ideas and discourses of fatalism and destiny in Catholic Southern Italy.

Expertise Details

South Asia; India; Islam; leadership and hierarchy; ethics; doubt and uncertainty; anthropologies of epidemics and contagion; zoonosis; historical anthropology

Selected publications


Forthcoming in 2019. Far from the Caliph’s Gaze: Being Ahmadi Muslim in the Holy City of Qadian. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.


2018. The disease map and the city: desire and imitation in the Bombay Plague, 1896-1914. In Plague and the city (eds) L. Engelmann, J. Henderson & C. Lynteris. 

2018. Blaming the rat? Accounting for plague in colonial Indian medicineMedicine, Anthropology, Theory 5(3): 15-42. 

2018. Introduction: the challenge of the epidemic corpse (with Christos Lynteris). In Histories of post-mortem contagion: infectious corpses and contested burials

2017. Beyond cultural intimacy: the tensions that make truth for India’s Ahmadi MuslimsAmerican Ethnologist 44(3): 490-502. 

2016. Witnessing a potent truth: rethinking responsibility in the anthropology of theismsJournal of the Royal Anthropological Institute 22(2): 356-372. 

2015. Ethics across borders: incommensurability and affinity (with Jonathan Mair). HAU: Journal of Ethnographic Theory 5(2): 201-225.

Edited Collections

2018. Histories of post-mortem contagion: infectious corpses and contested burials (with Christos Lynteris). New York: Palgrave Macmillan. 

2015. Ethics across borders: questioning incommensurability and affinity (with Jonathan Mair). HAU: Journal of Ethnographic Theory 5(2). Special section.  

Reviews and other articles

2018. What Islam is. Anthropology of this century

2018. Review of Zombies: An Anthropological Investigation of the Living Dead by Philippe Charlier. American Anthropologist 120, 613–614. 

2016. Fragments of plague (with Lukas Engelmann & Branwyn Poleykett). Limn 6.