Nazmul S. Sultan

Assistant Professor of Political Theory 

Department of Political Science, University of British Columbia

I am a political theorist with particular interests in the history of political thought, empire and anticolonial political thought, popular sovereignty, and ideas of the global.

My first book, Waiting for the People: The Idea of Democracy in Indian Anticolonial Thought (Cambridge, MA: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2024), examines how a foundational set of disputes over the terms of modern peoplehood underwrote the formation of the democratic project in colonial India. Situating the question of popular sovereignty at the center of the monumental clash between the British Empire and Indian anticolonial movement, the book reconstructs a competing set of Indian attempts to redefine the meaning of the people, ranging from a skeptical approach to the criterion of popular authorization to a persistent questioning of the idea of popular unity. In so doing, the book offers a new interpretation of the rise of democracy on a global scale and invites a reconsideration of anticolonialism as a theoretical and historical problem.

My next book-length project turns to what I call the global condition of modern political thought. Through a reconsideration of the global histories of a key set of political ideas (equality, patriotism, colonialism), the book will explore the formation of the modern account of the globe: one, interdependent, dynamically integrated, and yet stubbornly hierarchical. Neither entirely a matter of transnational connections nor of scales, the global condition, I argue, generated a new set of moral and historical expectations in political life. Recovering a protracted history of contestations over the terms of the global condition, the book project ultimately aims to contribute toward the broader project of rendering the global thinkable as a political problem. Articles related to the project have appeared in the American Political Science Review and Review of Politics.

I am also working on editing a selection of Rabindranath Tagore’s political writings. This editorial project, which is under contract with Cambridge Texts in the History of Political Thought, will be bringing together Tagore’s representative political writings in one single volume.  The volume will feature new translations of Tagore’s key political writings in Bengali, along with a curated selection of his political essays and lectures in English.

Before joining UBC, I was the George Kingsley Roth Research Fellow at Christ’s College, University of Cambridge. I received my Ph.D. in Political Science from the University of Chicago and my BA in Philosophy and Politics from the City University of New York. Prior to that, I also studied briefly at the University of Dhaka in Bangladesh.

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