Syed Akbar Hyder

Associate Director

Syed Akbar Hyder is HUF’s Associate Director and Associate Professor of Asian Studies and Islamic Studies at the University of Texas at Austin. He earned his Ph.D. in Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations from Harvard University and holds a B.A. in Political Science from Texas A&M University. His primary research interests lie in South Asian aesthetics, particularly those related to Urdu literature and mystical Muslim traditions. His first book, Reliving Karbala: Martyrdom in South Asian Memory, underscores the complexity that religious symbols carry in varying contexts. Hyder reveals multiple and often conflicting interpretations of the Karbala story, and investigates the varying ways in which the story is used for personal and communal identity in South Asia. His second book, A’iye Urdu Parhen: Let’s Study Urdu, was co-authored with Ali Asani, Professor of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations at Harvard. This textbook for beginning Urdu students has received significant acclaim as an effective and authoritative tool for teaching Urdu. Professor Hyder is also leading a team of language instructors in setting up ILR-based assessment tools for Urdu. In his spare time, Professor Hyder provides expert testimony and consultation on a pro-bono basis to individuals and families seeking asylum in the United States. He also works closely with K-12 educators working on incorporating the studies of the humanities into the curriculum of their schools.

Professor Hyder is presently working on monograph, tentatively titled, Lives of Passion and Paradox: Josh Malihabadi and His Peers. A significant part of this study is dedicated to the literary and cultural debates about what constitutes beauty in the overlapping autobiographical and lyrical traditions of Persian and Urdu. Even though this study centers on the life and legacy of Josh Malihabadi, often hailed in South Asia as the “poet of revolution and youth,” it takes into account the lives and works of Yaganah Changezi, Abulkalam Azad, Faiz Ahmed Faiz, Sadat Hasan Manto, and Qurratulain Hyder.

Professor Hyder teaches in Austin, as well as in the university’s overseas program in India (Delhi, Lucknow, Jaipur, and Hyderabad). His literature courses are oriented around particular themes: “Female Voices in Urdu Literature,” “Progressive Urdu Literature,” “The Age of Ghalib,” “Mir’s Aesthetics,” “Philosophy and Poetry of Iqbal,” “Anis, Dabir, and the Urdu Marsiya,” “Manto Beyond Partition,” “Wit and Humor,” and “Faiz and the Literary Traditions of Pakistan.” He also teaches courses cross-listed in History, Comparative Literature, Middle Eastern Studies, and Religious Studies:  ”Introduction to Islam,” “Sufism and Islamic Mystical Traditions,” and “Islam in South Asia.”