Ahmed, Manan

Associate Professor

Consultation/Advisory Hours
Office Hours Mondays 10-12pm: signup required here


Ph.D. (SALC)– University of Chicago, 2008
B.A. (History)– Miami University, Ohio 1997
B.A. (Math & Physics)– University of the Punjab, 1991

Interests and Research

Manan Ahmed, Associate Professor, is a historian of South Asia and the littoral western Indian Ocean world from 1000-1800 CE. His areas of specialization include intellectual history in South and Southeast Asia; critical philosophy of history, colonial and anti-colonial thought. He is interested in how modern and pre-modern historical narratives create understandings of places, communities, and intellectual genealogies for their readers. His full CV is available here.

He is a member of Columbia's Center for Study of Ethnicity and RaceCenter for the Study of Muslim Societies, and Committee on Global Thought. He is an Executive Editor for Journal of the History of Ideas, and a Senior Editor at Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East. He is the Chair of the South Asia Council at Association for Asian Studies, and on the Editorial Board for the journals Philological Encounters and Al-'Usur Al-Wusta: The Journal of Middle East Medievalist.  

His first monograph, A Book of Conquest: Chachnama and Muslim Origins in South Asia (Harvard University Press, 2016), is on the intellectual life of an early thirteenth-century history Chachnama. You can listen to two podcasts on the book--New Books and Ottoman History. There is also a book talk in Urdu.

His second monograph, The Loss of Hindustan: The Invention of India (Harvard University Press, 2020; pbk 2023) is a concept-history of “Hindustan,”  focusing specifically on the work of the seventeenth century Deccan historian Firishta (fl. 1570-1620).  The Loss of Hindustan was shortlisted for the Cundill History Prize 2021. An Arabic translation by Ayman Shehata Assal, Diyā Hindstan, came out in July 2022 from Al-Maktab Al-Arabe Lil-Maaref Egypt. You can listen to a podcast about the book with HistoryExtra.

His third monograph, Disrupted City: Walking the Pathways of Memory and History in Lahore (The New Press, 2024) is a history of Pakistan’s cultural and intellectual capital, Lahore, and a meditation on textual and material histories of the place. It combines ethnography, oral histories and deep archival work, covering over a thousand years of this pivotal city.

His current book project is on the history of Area Studies, Data Sciences and A.I. as knowledge system projects (embedded in the Univeristy) in the history of colonization and decolonization.

He has extensive background in digital history, in the history of archives in the global south and the problems of access and control to digitized materials. He founded Chapati Mystery--a cultural and intellectual history blog--in 2004. His recent projects include: Torn Apart/Separados which focused on the humanitarian crisis on the southwestern border in Summer 2018) and Targeted Harassment of Academics by Hindutva: A Twitter Analysis of the India-US Connection--a study focused on right-wing social media. He is currently working on community based archival project in Harlem.

He is one of the lead faculty in two major international research projects: "Decolonization, the Disciplines and the University" (2019-2025) funded by the Mellon Foundation and "Muslims in India" (2020-2023) funded by the Luce Foundation. He directs the "Qalam Pakistan Initiative" at the History Department at Columbia.


Manan Ahmed teaches “History of South Asia I” — a survey from medieval to the early modern period — in the Fall semester. His other regular courses are “Worlds of Mughal India,” “Borderlands: Towards the Spatial History of Empire,” “Walking & Colonialsm.” He incorporates a Digital History Lab with most of his courses. The syllabi for the various courses are available here.


His articles and book chapters (and reviews) can be accessed via Columbia Academic Commons.


Journal Special Issues

  • Editor. "Circuits of Culture in Early Modern South Asia," Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East vol 42, No. 2 (2022)
  • Editor. "Sindh: Towards the Philology of a Place," Philological Encounters vol 7, issues 1-2 (2022)
  • Co-Editor. “Enchanted Politics: Humans and other Animals across South Asia and the Middle East,”  Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East, 35: 2 (2015).
  • Co-Editor. “Fractured Genres: The After-Lives of Medieval Indo-Persian Histories,”  Indian Economic and Social History Review, 49:4 (December 2012).

Peer Reviewed Articles

  • "Reading Across Firishta and Chimalpahin" in History and Theory 60, no. 3 (September 2021): 541-547
  • "The Newness in New Area Studies" in International Quarterly for Asian Studies, vol 51, no 3-4 (2020) 
  • “Technologies of Power: From Area Studies to Data Sciences,” in Spheres: Journal for Digital Culture (December 2019).
  • “Quarantined Histories: Sindh and the question of historiography in Colonial India– Part I,” History Compass, 15, no. 8 (August 2017). 
  • “Quarantined Histories: Sindh and the question of historiography in Colonial India– Part II,” History Compass, 15, issue 8 (August 2017) 
  • “Idols in the Archive,” Journal of Asian Studies, 73, no. 1 (February, 2014): 1-8.
  • “A Demon with Ruby Eyes,” The Medieval History Journal, 16, no. 2 (October 2013): 335-369. 
  • “The Long Thirteenth Century of the Chachnama,” Indian Economic and Social History Review, 49, no. 4 (December 2012): 459-491.
  • “Adam’s Mirror: The Frontier in the Imperial Imagination,” Economic & Political Weekly, 46, no. 13 (March-April 2011): 60-65. 

Chapters in Peer Reviewed Volumes

  • "The Virulence of Hindutva" in The Pandemic: Perspectives on Asia (Columbia University Press, 2020)
  • “Narratives of Earliest Hindu-Muslim Encounters,” in Oxford Handbook of the Mughal World (Oxford University Press, 2020)
  • “The Advent and Spread of Muslim Rule in South Asia,” in History of Pakistan, edited by Roger D. Long (Lahore: Oxford University Press, 2015), 135-167.
  • “Future’s Past” in South Asia 2060: Envisioning Regional Futures, edited by Adil Najam and Moeed Yusuf (London: Anthem Press, 2013), 46-52.