I am Assistant Professor of Anthropology at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver. My research focuses on pharmaceutical capitalism, intellectual property, and law. Trained as an anthropologist and lawyer, I work at the intersection of medical anthropology and law.

My work is ultimately driven by the ubiquity of preventable death and suffering in the Global South. These stakes inform the arc of my career both in academia and legal advocacy, which includes representation of asylum applicants, advocating for improved healthcare for children in foster care, and highlighting the persecution of religious minorities in Pakistan under blasphemy laws.

I obtained my PhD in Anthropology from UC Berkeley in May 2022. Before starting my doctoral program, I practiced law in the San Francisco Bay Area for five years. I began legal practice at the National Center for Youth Law (NCYL) in Oakland, California, as an advocate for improved mental health access for children in foster care. This position was enabled by the Yale Law School Arthur Liman Public Interest Fellowship. I subsequently worked as an intellectual property litigator at Morrison & Foerster, an international law firm headquartered in San Francisco.

I obtained my first law degree, the BA in Jurisprudence, from Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar, followed by an LL.M. from Yale Law School. My undergraduate degree, the BSc (Hons) with a major in Computer Science and minor in Social Sciences, is from the Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS), Pakistan.

From 2024-26, I will be on leave from my faculty position at UBC, and will be in residence in Boston, Massachusetts, as a Harvard Academy Postdoctoral Fellow at the Harvard Academy for International and Area Studies.


Upcoming Talks

Regimes of Pain: Access to Morphine and the Geopolitics of Palliation in Pakistan

Speaker: Dr. Zahra Hayat (University of British Columbia, Anthropology)

Date & Time: Monday, November 27, 2023 | 12:30-2:00 PM (PT)

Location: UBC Asian Centre, Room 604, 1871 West Mall, Vancouver

This talk addresses how the pain of advanced cancer is sustained in Pakistan by militarized apparatuses of narcotics control in the War on Drugs, as well as by a national regime of rigid price ceilings. It draws on ethnographic research to show how these regimes of control—reimagined as ‘regimes of pain’—render morphine, a cheap, effective opioid pain reliever, scarce in hospitals. Ironically, heroin, morphine’s illegal derivative, proliferates in illicit circuits in Pakistan, which is a conduit in flows of heroin from Afghanistan to the West. Morphine scarcity propels desperate families, confronting loved ones in agonizing pain, into the illicit realm in search of heroin. The talk argues for extending the analytic gaze on pain and palliation beyond the body and the clinic, the sites at which they are usually studied. Instead, it implicates institutional apparatuses rooted in Western imperialism in the perpetuation of end-of-life pain. Foregrounding the geopolitics of palliation, it inscribes oppressive narcotics and price control regimes with their devastating effects: the ‘legal-bureaucratic sustenance’ of unpalliated cancer pain.

The UBC South Asia Research Colloquium offers a forum for specialists in South Asia to share their research in front of an interdisciplinary audience.

Please submit your RSVP to this event here!