Syed Mohammed Faisal received his PhD in Anthropology from University of Sussex (2018). He has held postdoctoral fellowship at International Institute of Information Technology, Bangalore where he investigated the impact of biometric identification systems on community intermediaries in financial sector. His areas of research expertise is anthropology of exchange and ethics as well as intellectual history of Islamic traditions in India. He has designed the social science curriculum at JSBF and teaches courses on risk, social theory, money & finance and sociology of law and technology.
The primary question that animates my research is – how are humans constituted through exchange? My inquiry is constituted in two vectors; First, the significance of trust building mechanisms that communities of traders, religious solidarities and kinship groups practice and its relation to the extractive governance systems. The second vector of my inquiry explores the significance of mystical and aesthetic traditions, their role in resistance to governance practices as a potential alternative in the making of human cultures. I primarily employ comparative methodology to draw from various historical and diversity in contemporary cultures.
Areas of Interest
Anthropology, Colonialism, Gift and Market, Intellectual History of Islam in South Asia, Secularisation and Economy, Modern Narrative Genres of Scientific Writing.
Centre for Development Studies, Trivandrum
Ashoka University, Sonipat, Haryana
Jesus College, University of Cambridge, United Kingdom
2013 presented at the French Institute of Pondicherry, Pondicherry, India
Risk: Historical and Cultural Perspectives (Elective, Spring Semester)
This course addresses risk, risk-bearing, risk-taking and risk-aversion techniques that humans have produced and practice in different historical and cultural contexts. Students will learn and critically evaluate the context and reasons behind the particular techniques of risk, accounting and shared economic systems in modern times. A comparative approach with various historical cultures of accountability by contextualizing them in social and political contexts is aimed to appreciate the distinctions and bases of modern accountability systems. The course will broadly introduce historical and culture specific cases from India, Papua New Guinea, Morocco and compare 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 will be on the nature of risk, geographical, political and social, that these practices were in response to and how modern accountability practices are distinct in their approach to risk given their globalizing context and the kind of relations do they produce today.
Culture Power and History: Key Texts in Sociology and Anthropology (Elective, Spring Semester)
Human beings are assumed to be social creatures. They live in composite shades of cooperation and conflict. Various knowledge corpuses are available to study this human, social condition. Sociology and social anthropology base their very disciplinary identity in explicating the nature and consequences of human social condition. This course takes the student through excerpts of some of the seminal texts in the disciplines of sociology and anthropology, to uncover some important disciplinary lenses. These texts, written across the last two centuries, helped building the basic structure of these disciplines, and helped provide insights into the nature of human interaction to the European and North American cultures. We will read a set of texts that forms a rubric of sociological thought by seminal thinkers and later contrast them with anthropological vantage point and assess their difference in the conceptualisation of human beings. We try to grasp what it means when we use the category of society and social in sociological and anthropological literature.
Money in the Making of the Modern World (Elective, Fall Semester)
This course introduces students to the role of money and finance in the making of modern world society. It will chart out the importance of money and its associated social forms the state, capitalistic infrastructure and increasing social and technological connectivity since the advent of colonialism. We will pay close attention to the role of commercialisation in human exchange practices and how it has been aided by legal and political institutions across the world. We will also dwell into the ramifications of the post-commercial societal changes in everyday exchange practices especially in relation to the new technologies of finance from mobile money, credit cards to blockchain. The course has short but intensive readings, the sessions and assessments are designed for students to critically engage and write about the topics discusses in the course.
Technology and Law (co-taught with Shohini Sengupta) (JSBF Core, Fall Semester)
The Law and Technology course equips students with tools to understand the social nature and implications of legal and technological developments in finance. Its co-taught by me and a Shohini Sengupta which helps students to grasp both the conceptual as well as application aspects of law and technology and their role in financial innovation. I teach core readings sociological imagination and history of modern law and technology in relation to economic transactions.