Zain Shirazi

5th-year Ph.D. student
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Office Location: 
Jones Hall

I am a doctoral student in the Department of Near Eastern Studies. My research interests lie in the social and intellectual history of Islam in South Asia in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. I am particularly keen on researching the cosmopolitan and polyglot public sphere of the princely state of Hyderabad c. 1880–1920 in which North Indian modernists, ‘ulama belonging to the Ahl-i Hadith and the venerable Firangi Mahall, Sufi traditionalists, judges in the modernizing Hyderabadi judiciary, traditional physicians, Yemeni emigres, Iranian litterateurs, Hijazi booksellers and even Hindu notables steeped in Indo-Persian learning and European Orientalists all participated. Through a careful reading of the available Arabic, Persian and Urdu sources, I hope to be able to shed some light on the kinds of debates that were engendered in these remarkable conditions and the shared professional and associational ties (in addition to those of patronage) which brought these figures together.

My other research interests have included the history of South Asia and historiographical methods, the use of prosopographical (tadhkira) works in tracing the scholarly networks of the nineteenth and twentieth-century North Indian ʿulama and the social and intellectual history of the Hindu revivalist movement, the Arya Samaj. I was introduced to the above themes first as an undergraduate at the University of British Columbia where I read History and then as an MPhil. student in the then Faculty of Oriental Studies at the University of Cambridge where in addition to studying Urdu, Hindi and some Persian, I wrote a dissertation on print culture and religion in colonial North India. I have subsequently lived for a number of years in the Gulf which has afforded me an opportunity to develop some familiarity with Arabic and I am now eager to further hone my skills in the language in order to employ it in my study of South Asian Islam.