Areas of Expertise

Islam, Hinduism, Gender, Sufism, Civil Society, Activism

Kelly Pemberton is Associate Professor of Religion and Women’s Studies at The George Washington University. From 2004-2012(?) she served as co-director, then director, of the MA Consortium program in Hinduism and Islam.

Pemberton’s research has covered South Asia and the Middle East in four key areas: Sufism, questions of religious and spiritual authority, civil society, and Islamic activism, especially as these relate to gender. Her current research projects include three monographs: one on changing concepts of gender, public piety, and the sacred in Islam; one on Islamic Medicine in Pakistan, India, Turkey, and Egypt; and a global comparative study of Islamic gender activism.

Her first monograph, Women Mystics and Sufi Shrines in India (2010) analyzes women's participation in the culture of Sufi shrines in India and the manner in which this participation both complicates and sustains traditional conceptions of Islamic womanhood. I have co-edited a volume of essays with Professor Michael Nijhawan of the University of Toronto, titled Shared Idioms Sacred Symbols and the Articulation of Identities in South Asia (2009). The volume evaluates the ways in which text, performance, and rhetoric simultaneously reflect and challenge notions of distinct community and religious identities in the Subcontinent within larger frameworks of religious nationalism, literary productions, and communal conflicts.

She has also written articles for academic journals, edited volumes, and encyclopedias.

Pemberton has also worked with the Global Women’s Institute at The George Washington University and the Malala Foundation to develop a university-level curriculum based on Malala’s Yousafzai’s autobiography, I Am Malala: the Girl Who Stood Up for Education and was Shot by the Taliban.

Pemberton received an M.A. in international studies and comparative religion from the University of Washington, Seattle, and a Ph.D. in religion from Columbia University.

 Current research projects:


Islam and Gender Activism in Global Perspective: this multi-country study analyzes varieties and expressions of gender activism in Muslim-majority countries and Muslim communities in the MENA, Africa, North America, Europe, and Asia. It covers such diverse topics as women's rights activism, gender and environmentalism, and changing conceptions of Islamic masculinity.

Follow me on Twitter at @KellyPemberton1