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Dr. Annika Schmeding


Annika Schmeding is a cultural anthropologist and Senior Researcher within the Afghanistan programme. Her research, most recently as a fellow at the Harvard Society of Fellows, focuses on belonging and community building in (post)conflict situations, religious civil society and notions of representation and leadership among minority groups. 

For the past decade, Schmeding has worked, travelled and conducted research in Afghanistan and the wider region (including Pakistan, Iran, Turkey and Syria). Apart from longstanding academic research, her professional experience ranges from research for private companies, NGOs and national governments to expert testimony in international court cases. 

She received her PhD in Anthropology from Boston University in 2020. She holds an MA in Middle Eastern Area Studies from Leiden University in the Netherlands (2014) and a BA in Social and Cultural Anthropology, Political Science and Comparative Literature from Freie Universität Berlin/Germany (2011). She also previously studied at the National Institute of Pakistan Studies at Quaid-I-Azam University Islamabad/Pakistan (2009/2010) and was a fellow at the IIAS/International Institute for Asian Studies (2015).  

For her doctoral thesis and forthcoming book (“Sufi Civilities: Religious Authority and Political Change in Afghanistan”), Schmeding investigated the dynamics of death, renewal and community by focusing on changes in religious civil society on the example of Sufi communities. She spent twenty-five months (between 2016 and 2022) in Kabul and Herat conducting ethnographic field research and interviews in five urban Sufi communities. Here, she examined how the need to adapt to the conditions of an environment of war and ideological animosity changed the context in which religious authority was legitimised.

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