Academic Profile

Academic Profile

Dr Faizah Binte Zakaria

Assistant Professor, School of Humanities

Dr Faizah Binte Zakaria

Faizah Zakaria specializes in modern Southeast Asian history and global environmental history. Prior to doctoral studies, she was a Public Service Commission (PSC) Local Merit Scholar and subsequently taught Mathematics and Project Work at a junior college. Since then, she has ventured away from science to explore areas closer to her heart: environmental, social and subaltern histories in the linguistically and racially diverse Southeast Asian region she calls home. To this end, she obtained an M.A in Southeast Asian Studies from NUS, winning the Benjamin Batson Gold Medal in 2011.

Her doctoral dissertation won the Arthur and Mary Wright Prize for outstanding work on non-Western history at Yale. It was also shortlisted for the ICAS Book Prize in 2019, awarded by the International Convention for Asian Studies for the best dissertation in the humanities.

Her research has received support from the Henry Luce MacMillan Center International Dissertation Research Grant, the Tan Ean Kiam Scholarship for the Humanities, the Bernadotte E. Schmitt Grant and the Charles Kao Fund Research Grant. Her work "Genealogy as Historical Right in the Bataklands and its Malayan Diaspora" won the best conference student paper prize awarded by the Association of Asian Studies Indonesian and Timor Leste Study Committee in March 2017. Outside the academy, she also engages in public history and creative writing and has won a few minor prizes, most recently in the Golden Point Award (2017) by the Singapore National Arts Council.

For the academic year 2018-19, she is a research fellow at the International Institute for Asian Studies at Leiden University.
Research Interests
I am currently working on a book manuscript based on my PhD dissertation titled, "Spiritual Anthropocene: Ecology of Conversion in Maritime Southeast Asian Uplands." The book is under contract with University of Washington Press (anticipated publication, 2021).

My project uses the North Sumatran highlands as a case study to examine how mass religious conversion from animism to monotheism was catalyzed by the transformation of the environment as well as large- scale migration working as a holistic system embedded in global networks. As a postdoctoral research fellow, I will be building on this research to develop a monograph that demonstrates how religious beliefs about the natural world have a dialectical impact on environmental management due to this interconnected global network. Of central interest are the following questions: how do religious beliefs shape a maritime Southeast Asian environmentalism? Conversely, how do changes to our local environments impact religious thought? The project will also further interrogate the idea of the Anthropocene to examine how the concept goes beyond geology and material landscapes as well as time by factoring in how sacred landscapes overlay natural ones.

More broadly, my research interests sits at the nexus of history and anthropology, including: world and imperial history, indigenous peoples and religions, environmental justice and sustainability, mass violence, human rights and the Anthropocene.
Selected Publications
  • Zakaria, Faizah. (2019). Religion, Mass Violence and Illiberal Regimes: Recent Research on the Rohingya in Myanmar. Journal of Current Southeast Asian Affairs, 38(1), 1-14.
  • Faizah Zakaria. (2018). Qingzhen from the Perspective of the Other: Consumption and Muslim Boundary-Making in Republican China, 1920-1949. Journal of Islamic and Muslim Studies, 3(2), 3-22.
  • Faizah Zakaria. (2018). Indonesia's Mass Killing of 1965-66: Retrospective and Requiem. Critical Asian Studies, 50(4), 664-669.
  • Zakaria, F. and Zainal H. (2017). Traditional Malay Medicine in Singapore: A Gramscian Perspective. Indonesia and the Malay World, 45(131), 127-144.
  • Zakaria F.(2013). An Empire State of the Mind: Imaginings of 'Rum' and the Early Modern Ottoman Empire. Between the Mountain and the Sea: Positioning Indonesia(1-32). Indonesia: Gadjah Mada University Press.

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