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Leilah Vevaina received her PhD in Social Anthropology from the New School for Social Research in 2015. She has an MA in Anthropology from The New School (2007) as well as an MA in Social Thought from New York University (2005). Her research lies in the intersection of urban property and religious life within the legal regimes of contemporary India. She has conducted fieldwork in Mumbai, India and Hong Kong, with specific focus on the Indian Zoroastrian, or Parsi, community, with generous support from the Wenner-Gren Foundation as well as the American Institute of Indian Studies. Her book manuscript entitled, Trust Matters: Religious Endowments, Parsis & Property in Mumbai focuses on religious endowments and the trust as a mechanism of property management in the city, and is forthcoming with Duke University Press.

In addition to her focus on Zoroastrian global philanthropic networks, Leilah is researching Zoroastrian death rituals and their legal and funerary infrastructures. Two articles have been published in early 2018 in Modern Asian Studies and in Political and Legal Anthropology Review. Each piece further develops the ways in which the public charitable trust structures debates over urban religious practices: the relationship of a community to its poorer members, and the rights of women who transgress religious custom, respectively.

Research Areas/ Geographical Areas/ Current Research

Research Areas

The relationship between religion and economic life. Religious endowment forms and finance. Urban spaces and property. Death rituals and religious infrastructure. Postcolonial law and society. Charity and Philanthropy. Transnational Giving. Anthropology of South Asia.

Geographical Areas

India, Indian diaspora, Hong Kong SAR

Current Research

Competing religious and secular infrastructures in the construction of Mumbai’s Metro; Shifting death rituals in the Zoroastrian diaspora; the philanthropy of the Hong Kong Jockey Club



Trust Matters: Religious Endowments, Parsis & Property in Mumbai. Forthcoming with Duke University Press

Refereed Articles

“She’s Come Undone: Becoming Parsi under the Law”, Political and Legal Anthropology Review 41, no. 1 (2018): 44-59.

“Good Deeds: Parsi Trusts from the Womb to the Tomb”, Modern Asian Studies 52, no. 1 (2018): 238-265. Special Issue, ‘Charity in India’, eds. F. Ossella and S. Ramaswamy.

Book Chapters

“Farhad: Sue-maker”, in Bombay Brokers: Anthropological Theory from the Ethnographic Edge, edited by Lisa Björkman, forthcoming with Duke University Press.

“Adjudicating the Sacred: the Fates of ‘Native’ Religious Endowments in India and Hong Kong”, eds. Peter van der Veer and Kenneth Dean, The Secular in South, East, and Southeast Asia, Palgrave, 2019.

“Good Thoughts, Good Words and Good (Trust) Deeds: Parsis, Risk and Real Estate in Mumbai” in Peter van der Veer (Ed). Religion in World Cities: Asia. University of California Press, Berkeley: 2015.

“Excarnation and the City: The Tower of Silence Debates in Mumbai” in I. Becci, M. Burchardt and J. Casanova. Eds. Topographies of Faith: Religion in Urban Spaces. Brill, Leiden: 2013.

Articles in Progress

“Dying and Diaspora: the Role of Transnational Giving in Shifting Funerary Rituals,” in submission to Body and Society

“Three Fire Temples and a Metro: Contesting Infrastructures in Mumbai,” as part of special issue “Rite and Stone” in submission to Space and Culture.

“Of Faith and Fortune: Perpetual Trusts and the Muktad Ceremonies” in submission to Material Religion.

Blog Posts

“Giving, Time, and a Wish,” in Exchange, Gospels of Giving, The Immanent Frame. 2019.

Grants and Projects

2011 Dissertation Fieldwork Grant – The Wenner-Gren Foundation

2010-11 Junior Fellowship – American Institute of Indian Studies

Courses taught

ANTH 1020 Anthropology: The Study of Culture

ANTH 5010 Anthropological Theory

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