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Dr. Nasima Selim


Institute for Social and Cultural Anthropology, Freie Universität Berlin

Medical Anthropology

PhD Candidate

Sufi Healing Practices in Berlin

Landoltweg 9-11
Room Raum 013

Academic Qualifications

  • 2012- Doctoral student. Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology (ISKA), Freie Universität (FU) Berlin
  • 2010-2011 MSc in Medical Anthropology. University of Amsterdam (UvA), the Netherlands
  • 2007-2008 Certificate of Research Training Program in Social Sciences (RTP), Centre for Studies in Social Sciences, Calcutta (CSSSCAL), India
  • 2006-2007 Master of Public Health (MPH). James P Grant School of Public Health, BRAC University, Bangladesh
  • 2003 Certificate of Residency Training in Psychiatry. BSMMU, Dhaka, Bangladesh
  • 2000 Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery (MBBS). Sir Salimullah Medical College, Dhaka, Bangladesh
  • 1990 Higher Secondary School Certificate Examination (HSC). Viqarun Nisa Noon High School, and College, Dhaka, Bangladesh
  • 1988 Secondary School Certificate Examination (SSC). Viqarun Nisa Noon High School Dhaka, Bangladesh


Professional Qualifications

  • September 2011- September 2016 Senior Lecturer. James P Grant School of Public Health, BRAC University, Bangladesh. On study leave from May 2012-September 2016.
  • April-August 2010 Lecturer II. James P Grant School of Public Health, BRAC University, Bangladesh
  • August 2008-March 2010 Lecturer I. James P Grant School of Public Health, BRAC University, Bangladesh
  • April-July 2007 Research Associate. James P Grant School of Public Health, BRAC University, Bangladesh

Awards and Scholarships

  • October 2012-September 2016 German Education Exchange Service (DAAD), Scholarship for doctoral research project, Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology, Freie Universität Berlin
  • 2010-2011 Netherlands Fellowship Program (NFP), Scholarship for master’s degree program, the University of Amsterdam, the Netherlands
  • 2008 Jayoti Gupta memorial prize by the Centre for Studies in Social Sciences, Calcutta (CSSSCAL), India
  • 2007-2008 South-South Exchange Program for Research on the History of Development (SEPHIS), Scholarship for Research Training Program (RTP) at CSSSCAL, India
  • 2007- Allan Rosenfield award, Master of Public Health Program, BRAC University (BRACU), Bangladesh



  • 2014-  Member, Working Group Anthropology of Religion, Institute of Social and CulturalAnthropology (ISKA), Freie Universität (FU) Berlin
  • 2014-  Member, Working Group Medical Anthropology, subsection of the GermanAnthropological Association (DGV e.V.)
  • 2013- Member, European Association of Social Anthropologists (EASA)
  • 2013- Founding Member, Bangladesh Mental Health Network
  • 2012- Member, Working Group Medical Anthropology, ISKA, FU Berlin

Teaaching experience

  • 2017 Contract lecturer, Theory and History of Social and Cultural Anthropology, MA Visual and Media Anthropology, Freie Universität Berlin.
  • 2016 Contract lecturer, Introduction to the Anthropology of Islam, MA Seminar
  • 2016 Contract Lecturer. Introduction to Medical Anthropology, BA Seminars (29643 a,b),
    Summer Semester, Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology, Freie Universität Berlin
  • 2012-2015 Senior Lecturer and Course Coordinator. Anthropological Approaches to Public Health and Qualitative Research Methods, 4 Week-long Master’s Modules, James P Grant School of Public Health (JPGSPH), BRAC University (BRACU), Bangladesh
  • 2012, 2013 Tutor. Mixed Method in International Health Research. Short course. Institute of Public Health, Heidelberg University


Research and Teaching Interests

  • Anthropology of Healing at the Intersections of Religion and Medicine
  • Anthropology of Religion (esp. Islam and Sufism)
  • Medical Anthropology
  • Mental Health, Religion and Culture
  • Anthropology and Public Health
  • Engaged Anthropology


Regional Focus

South Asia (Bangladesh) and Western Europe (Germany and the Netherlands)

Doctoral thesis

Working title: Sufi Healing Practices in Berlin


Sufi healing, and other secularized techniques of family resemblance, for example, Yoga, Vipassana and Qi-Gong, have entered the everyday life of the contemporary “West”. In Germany, approximately 200,000 people are claimed to be practicing Sufism. The multi-cultural city of Berlin is home to about 20 Sufi groups. Sufi healing is rarely examined in societies where Muslims are minorities and Sufis even more so. My ethnographic study addresses this gap to explore the Sufi healing practices in Berlin with a set of queries: What are the techniques, body-mind concepts and epistemologies of Sufi healing circulating in the city neighborhoods? What makes Sufism a viable alternative in this global/local marketplace of spirituality and healing? How do Sufi healing practices affect individual lives? How do they connect to other practices of family resemblance in the post-unification city? How does a practice-oriented ethnography of Sufi healing add to our understanding of linkages between religion and medicine? Mobilizing Actor-Network-Theory, Cultural Phenomenology and Critical-Interpretive frameworks, I shall trace the actors and networks of Sufi healing to document/analyze their practices and discourses, the localized histories of Sufi groups and the healing narratives of individuals engaged in these practices. The findings hope to contribute to the medical anthropology literature on body, healing and well-being practices in contemporary globalized societies. 

PhD supervisor: Prof. Dr. Hansjörg Dilger; Funding: DAAD ; ;

Research Skills and Experience

  • 2013-2014 Ethnographic fieldwork with Sufi networks in Germany and Turkey for doctoral thesis
  • 2011-2012 Qualitative research in health for multi-country research projects on violence against marginalized women and health professional education
  • 2010-2011 Ethnographic fieldwork for master’s thesis on Vipassana meditation in the Netherlands
  • 2009-2010 Qualitative research in health for multi-country research projects on globalization as a social determinant of food consumption: Urban youth and food culture
  • 2007-2008 Cultural studies research on suicide narratives
  • 2006-2007 Qualitative research in mental health for master’s thesis in public health

Selected Publications

Chapters in edited volumes

  • 2015    Sufi body practices and therapeutic politics in Berlin. In: Klinkhammer, G.; Tolksdorf, E. (Hg.): Somatisierung des Religiösen. Empirische Studien zum rezenten religiösen Heilungs -und Therapiemarkt. Pp. 237-282. Bremen: Universität Bremen
  • 2014 What does sitting have to do with the self? Body techniques, personhood and well-being in Vipassana meditation. In: Van der Geest, S., Gerrits, T. and Challinor, J., eds. Medical anthropology: Essays and reflections from an Amsterdam Graduate Programme. Health, Culture and Society: Studies in Medical Anthropology and Sociology Series. Pp. 265-282. Diemen: AMB Publishers.
  • 2011 Friendship (and healing) in the ‘intersubjectivity of silence’: A case illustration. In: Tankink, M. and Vysma, M., eds. Roads and Boundaries: Travels in search of (re-) connection. Pp. 195-206. Diemen, the Netherlands: AMB Publishers.


Articles in peer-reviewed journals

  • 2014 with Hasan, T., Muhaddes, T., Camellia, S., and Rashid, S.F. Prevalence and experiences of intimate partner violence against women with disabilities in Bangladesh: Results of an explanatory sequential mixed method study. Journal of Interpersonal Violence 29 (17): 3105–3126.
  • 2013 with Zaman, S. and Joarder, T. Mcdonaldization without a McDonald’s: Globalization and food culture as social determinants of health in urban Bangladesh. Food, Culture and Society: An international journal of multidisciplinary research 16 (4): 551-568.
  • 2010a An extraordinary truth?The Adam suicide notes from Bangladesh. Mental Health, Religion & Culture 13(3), 223-244.
  • 2010b Cultural dimensions of depressive episode: A qualitative study in two villages of Matlab. Journal of Population, Health & Nutrition 28(1), 95-106.
  • Academic blog article2015 Healing the City: Sufi Prayers in Berlin's Towers. In: Medizinethnologie. Körper, Gesundheit und Heilung in einer globalisierten Welt. May edition.
  • Edited Volume2010 [2008] with Van der Geest, S. and Zaman, S. Daily health concerns in Kakabo: Anthropological explorations in a Bangladeshi village. Dhaka: James P Grant School of Public Health, BRAC University.
  • Book Review2014 Patients and Agents: Mental Illness, Modernity and Islam in Sylhet, Bangladesh by Alyson Callan. New York and Oxford: Berghahn Books, 2012. In: Medicine Anthropology Theory 1 (1): 213 - 214.
  • Case Report 2002 The man who would marry God: A case of schizophrenia with bizarre delusion. Bangladesh Journal of Psychiatry 16 (1), 48-54.

§  2011 with Mann, A. M., Mol, A., Satalkar, P., Savirani, A., Sur, M., and Yates-Doerr, E. Mixing methods, tasting fingers: Notes on an ethnographic experiment. HAU Journal of Ethnographic Theory 1(1): 221-243.



  • Audiovisual Productions 2016. Co-Director. An anthropological becoming. 04:50 © Lotte Knote and Nasima Selim; 2007. Researcher, Scriptwriter and Assistant Director. Mother Courageous: Maternal Deaths and Discontents in Uttar Pradesh.28:55. Director: Debalina Majumder © PSBT India.


Selected Papers and Presentations in Academic Conferences/Workshops/Meetings

  • December 2015 Affective Scholarship and the Power of Being Affected: Notes on Doing Anthropology with Engaged Emotions. Paper presented at the Researchers’ Affect Workshop, FU Berlin
  • August 2015a Ontologies in Sufi Healing: Beyond Religion and Medicine. Presented a paper at the the XXI Quinquennial World Congress of the International Association for the History of Religions (IAHR) at Erfurt University, Erfurt
  • November 2014 Sufi-Berlin: Towards an anthropology of post-secular healing. Presentation at the workshop of the Working Group Medical Anthropology of the German Anthropological Association (DGV e.V.) titled “What to do with/in Global Health?” ISKA, FU Berlin
  • November 2013“Healing the city”: Sufi healing at Berlin’s Fernsehturm. Original paper presented at the Workshop titled, “Prayer, Architecture, History” at the Zentrum Moderner Orient (ZMO), Berlin, Germany.
  • October 2013 Jenseits von Dhikr und Drehtanz: Innovative Körperpraktiken in Sufi-Gruppen in Berlin. Presented a poster at the Conference, Somatisierung des Religiösen, at Hannover im Schloss Herrenhausen. Organised by Religious Studies, Bremen University, Germany
    • July 2009 Ekattorer Debdas (Debdas of 1971): The ‘unusual’ protest and plight of a ‘living martyr’ of the Liberation War. Paper presented in the 2nd International Conference on Genocide, Truth & Justice. Organised by the Liberation War Museum (LWM), Bangladesh
    • June 2009 Delusion, heresy or resistance? Mass suicide and a ‘minority’ faith in Bangladesh. Paper presented at the workshop-cum-seminar on “Minority Cultures”, organised by the Centre for Studies in Social Sciences, Calcutta (CSSSCAL), India
    • April 2009 Love in the time of globalization: Narrating/examining a trans-national queer experience in Kolkata. Queer Thoughts Conference in Jadavpur University, Kolkata. Organised by Sappho for Equality, Activist Forum for Sexuality Rights, India
    • July 2008 An extraordinary truth? The Adam suicide notes from Bangladesh. Ethnographies of Suicide Conference. Organised by the department of Anthropology, Brunel University, UK