Sabera BhayatIMG_2099

I am a doctoral researcher in the History Department at the University of Warwick, researching social and legal reforms for Muslim women in late colonial India. My research interests include the history of modern South Asia, gender, sexuality and feminisms, nationalism, and the history of Islam in South Asia.

Research Overview

My project is provisionally titled: ‘The Problem of Polygamy in Modern India, 1880s-1940s’,

shah nawaz

Jahanara Shah Nawaz took the first public outspoken stand against polygamy in 1918

and explores the interlinking legal and cultural history of polygamy in modern South Asia. Building on my Master’s research, which explored social reforms for Indian women in late colonial India, this project highlights a problematic area of reform for Indian Muslim women. My research analyses the perceived ‘problem of polygamy’ alongside the discursive construction of the ‘polygamous Muslim male’, which saw the discursive inventions of ‘excessive husbands’ and ‘invisible wives’.

The issue of polygamy became something of a phenomenon in Muslim reform conversations, the women’s movement, and nationalist debates throughout the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. This research explores the many different versions of the kind of problem polygamy came to be for different groups in India.

Polygamy has remained a controversial issue in India, and the ‘problem of polygamy’ still holds contemporary relevance, as Muslim personal law has remained largely unchanged since its legislative enactment by the colonial government in the 1930s, raising questions of gender inequalities under personal laws, and contributing to ongoing discourses on the relevance of a uniform civil code for all cultural groups in India.

Through an examination of native texts and periodicals, missionary sources and government records, this research will demonstrate how individual bodily practices were seen as a linchpin for effecting greater social changes. Western notions of modernity, and normative sexual practices influenced Indian reformers to transform such bodily practices in the interests of what they hoped to achieve, not only in their objectives of a progression towards modernity, but in the context of nationalism and the diverse notions of national identity within it.

prominent figures involved in social and legal reforms for Muslims in late colonial India

Academic Profile

PhD History, University of Warwick, 2016-2020


MA History, University of Warwick, 2014-2016 – Dissertation entitled: ‘Education and Evangelisation: The Missionary Affect in Indian Women’s Social Reform, 1800-1940’.

BA(hons) History (First Class), The Open University, 2010-2014

Scholarships and Awards

2016 – Departmental Doctoral Scholarship

2014 – Warwick Taught Masters Scholarship

2010 – The Open University Fee and Maintenance Grant

Conference Papers and Workshops

January 2020 – ‘The Role of Urdu Periodicals in the Indian Muslim Women’s Movement, 1898-1961’, Print Unbound: The Making/Unmaking of Newspapers and Periodicals in Asia, Royal Asiatic Society, London.

March 2019 – ‘Christianisation and Civilisation: Colonialist and Missionary Constructions of Indian Muslim Sexuality, 1860-1910’, The British Empire: Networks, Mobilities, Culture (Doctoral Workshop), University of Warwick.

July 2018 – ‘Wives Talk Back: Muslim Women’s Discourses on Polygamy and Marriage Reform in Early Twentieth Century India’, 25th European Conference on South Asian Studies (ECSAS), Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales, Paris.

July 2017 – ‘The Problem of Polygamy among Women’s Groups and Muslim Male Reformers in Late Colonial North India, 1900-1940’,  Sex, Gender, and Sexuality: Postgraduate Perspectives, University of Leicester.

June 2017 – Changing Landscapes of Gender In/equality: Theories, Policies and Mobilisations, Global Research Priorities, International Development Postgraduate Conference 2017, University of Warwick.

May 2017 – ‘Muslim Women and Legal Reform: Polygamy and ‘Gendered’ Rights under Personal Laws in Twentieth Century South Asia’, White Rose South Asia Network Inaugural Graduate Workshop, University of Leeds.

April 2017 – ‘Polygamy and Muslim Personal Law: The Legal Reform of Muslim Women’s Rights in Twentieth Century South Asia’, British Association of South Asian Studies Annual Conference 2017, University of Nottingham.

May 2016 – ‘Child Marriage and Female Education: Hindu and Muslim Women’s Social Reform in Late Colonial India, between the years 1885-1940’, University of Warwick History Postgraduate Conference 2016.


Skills in South Asian Languages

Hindi, Urdu, and Gujarati (reading and speaking).

Memberships and Academic Affiliations


HI153: Making of the Modern World, University of Warwick, 2020.

Additional Responsibilities and Experience

Organising committee member for the Centre for the Study of Women and Gender Seminar Series, University of Warwick, 2020-1.

Exam invigilation, University of Warwick, 2017

Student Staff Liason Committee Member, Student Representative, 2015-2016

History live guide (volunteer) at the Herbert Art Gallery and Museum, Coventry, 2012-2013










4 thoughts on “About

  1. Hi, I am also a doctoral researcher in history department at gujarat university. my title is “Rise and Growth of muslim education in gujarat”. Ur article really helps me. Thank you

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, I’m glad you found it useful. The focus of my Master’s research was on reforms in female education for Muslim women in late colonial India, however, my regional focus was on North India. Nevertheless, the whole movement for education amongst the Muslim communities of India is something of a fascinating topic to me, as it was something that was so integral to, and closely related to, other aspects of reform for the wider Muslim population. Do send me an email, I would love to hear more about your project, particularly as I know little of the trajectory of Muslim education in the Gujarat.


  2. mam can you send me complete reference “Islamic Reform and Female Education: Social Reforms for Muslim Women in Late Colonial India” this topic.


    • Hi Fatima

      If you could send me an email outlining your own research interests, I would be more than happy to provide references more relevant to your own project.

      As it is, this topic on its own is very broad, but I can also provide a very general list of references if you would just prefer to explore this topic further.
      If you have any problems contacting me via email please do try again via WP or FB, and I will attempt to answer your query to the best of my limited knowledge.

      Thank you for your interest


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s