PhD thesis: Shiite Muslim Sub-Sects in South Asia

Mukherjee, Soumen, Community Consciousness, Development, Leadership: The Experience of two Muslim Groups in Nineteenth and Twentieth Century South Asia, Ph. D, South Asia Institute (SAI), University of Heidelberg, 2010. Supervisor: Prof. Dr. Gita Dharampal-Frick.

“My Doctoral research makes an intervention in a relatively underworked sub-field of scholarship on Islam in South Asia, viz. the history of (sub-)sectarian traditions. My work studies the political, and social life of the Shiite Muslim sub-sects of (mainly Daudi) Bohras and the Nizari Khojas. It juxtaposes smaller sub-sectarian history and culture with broader social and political questions and deconstructs the role of leadership and the different facets of their public career. From a historical perspective my dissertation explicates the entanglement of community consciousness, political and social identity, of contesting versions of social reformism and their eventual development into religiously underpinned welfarist ventures under politico-religious leaderships. The role of politico-religious leaderships in the process of identification of these splinter sub-sectarian traditions with the broader Muslim community along political lines — a process hinging upon a rhetoric of universal Islamic values and social commitment — even as retaining certain (sub-)sectarian specificities documents this nuanced trajectory of shifting community consciousness (exemplified best by the case of Aga Khan III, the 48th Khoja Imam). This was a complex process in which political and socio-religious boundaries of the smaller sub-sectarian traditions were being continually redrawn, the position of spiritual heads reappraised and the idioms of political and socio-religious negotiations reframed. My dissertation analyses this complex process. In doing so, it: (i) sheds light on the role of politico-religious leaderships in evolving certain religiously informed political culture and consensus, as well as social policies catering to community interests; and (ii) contributes to scientific enquiries into the interconnected themes of religion, various ramifications of socio-religious reformism amounting to welfarist concerns, development (understandably, encapsulating much more than mere economic concerns), the role of religious inspiration in such endeavours, religious revivalism, political mobilisation, and above all visions and functional modalities of politico-religious leadership(s).”


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