Matthew Nelson's research focuses on the comparative and international politics of South Asia (as well as Southeast Asia and the Middle East), with particular reference to Islam, law, and democracy.
Nelson has spent several years conducting archival, ethnographic, and survey-based research in Pakistan, Bangladesh, and India, with further work in Afghanistan. In 2009-10 he was the Wolfensohn Family Member at the Institute for Advanced Study (IAS) in Princeton; in 2011 he was a Fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars (WWICS) in Washington, D.C.; in 2014-15 he was a Fellow at the Zentrum für Interdisziplinäre Forschung (ZiF) in Bielefeld (Germany).
Nelson has served as an elected board member for the American Institute of Pakistan Studies (AIPS), the South Asia Council of the Association for Asian Studies (AAS), and the Religion and Politics Section of the American Political Science Association (APSA). He has also completed consultancies for the Brookings Institution, The Asia Foundation (TAF), the British Foreign Office, the National Bureau of Asian Research (US), the Asian Development Bank (ADB), and many others.