zhirji


Zulfikar Hirji

Photo of Zulfikar Hirji

Department of Anthropology

Associate Professor

Office: Vari Hall, 2040
Phone: (416) 736-2100 Ext: 77783
Email: zhirji@yorku.ca

Media Requests Welcome
Accepting New Graduate Students


As an anthropologist and social historian I am interested in how human societies articulate, represent and perform understandings of self, community and other. My research focuses on Muslim societies in a range of historical and contemporary contexts. I am particularly concerned with the diverse ways in which Muslims express and articulate issues of deep human concern as well as matters of daily life. I also interrogate knowledge produced about Muslims, by academics and others. My research interests have lead me to study a range of issues including the production and performance of identity, the role of cultural workers and social movements, the dynamics of family networks and inter-generational migration, the socio-legal formation of communal identity in colonial contexts, and form and context of urban violence in religiously plural societies. I have conducted archival research and multi-sited ethnographic fieldwork in various parts of the world including East Africa, South Asia, the Arabian Peninsula, Europe and North America.

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Degrees

DPhil, University of Oxford, Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology, 2002
MPhil, University of Cambridge, Faculty of Oriental Studies, Department of Islamic Studies, 1997
MA, Institute of Ismaili Studies, Graduate Programme in Islamic Studies and the Humanities, Department of Academic Research and Publications, 1996
BA (Joint Honours), McGill University, Faculty of Arts, Departments of Religious Studies and Anthropology, 1989

Appointments

Faculty of Graduate Studies

Professional Leadership

ACADEMIC APPOINTMENTS: 2015-2016 York Fellow, Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies, University of Toronto, (Toronto, Canada) 2014- 2016 Graduate Program Director, Graduate Program in Social Anthropology, Faculty of Graduate Studies, York University 2010-PRESENT Associate Professor, Graduate Program in Social Anthropology, Faculty of Graduate Studies, York University. CURRENT GRADUATE SUPERVISIONS (PhD): Elham Shahsaver, Nursel Ozturk, Jillian Fulton.

Community Contributions

2017 Curator, Memories of Stone: Landscapes of Prayer, Death and Commemoration in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Site-specific exhibition of texts, textile art and photographs. (Ismaili Centre Toronto, February 10-April 23).
2016 Curator, Sensational Words: Power, Beauty and Ephemeral Nature of Words in the Digital Age. Three site-specific art installations and two public lectures. Major Institutions Project, Nuit Blanche Festival (Ismaili Centre Toronto, Aga Khan Park & Aga Khan Museum, Toronto, October 1).
2016 Co-Curator (with Faisal Anwar). CharBagh: A Sensory Garden. Site-specific art installation. Independent Project, Nuit Blanche Festival (Aga Khan Park & Aga Khan Museum, Toronto, October 1).
2016 Curator, Transformations: Enlightenment in a Digital Age. Four site-specific art installations featuring the work of Faisal Anwar, Fareena Chanda, Jamelie Hassan and Ali Kazimi. (Ismaili Centre Toronto, September 1-December 31).
2016 Curator, Our Stories, Our Images, Our Futures: Photographs made by Youth from Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Hyderabad and Toronto. Site-specific photographic exhibition. Independent Project, CONTACT Photography Festival (Ismaili Centre Toronto, April 30-July 31).

Research Interests

Anthropology , History, Islam and Muslim Societies, Visual Anthropology, Anthropology of the Senses
Books

Publication
Year

Approaches to the Qur'an in Sub-Saharan Africa. Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780198840770. Covering a period from the eighteenth century to the early twenty-first century, this multidisciplinary volume examines Muslim engagements with the Qur'an in a variety of geographical locations in sub-Saharan Africa including Burkina Faso, Kenya, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, and Tanzania. The volume's twelve case studies use different frameworks and methodological approaches from the academic disciplines of philology, historiography, anthropology, and art history. These studies explore a variety of media and modalities that Muslims in sub-Saharan Africa, as elsewhere, use in their engagements with the Qur'an. These include: manuscripts; commentaries; translations; recitations and invocations; music and poetry; magical squares and symbolic repertoire; medicinal and curative acts; textiles, ink, paper, and wooden boards; spaces of education, healing and prayer, as well as spaces of dreams and spirit worlds. As such, the case studies move well beyond the materiality of the Qur'an as a physical book to explore the ways in which the Qur'an is understood, felt and imagined, as well as the contestations and debates that arise from these diverse engagements.

2019

Islam: An Illustrated Journey. Farhad Daftary and Zulfikar Hirji. 2018. Azimuth Editions in Association with the Institute of Ismaili Studies. ISBN: 1898592357. Beginning in the world of late antiquity and the pre-Islamic period, the book takes the reader through Islam’s formative era and early development in the Arabian Peninsula, the rise and decline of major Muslim dynasties and finally into its place in the modern world.

Lavishly illustrated and written in an accessible style, Islam: An Illustrated Journey tells the story of Islam, a faith that is today practised by more than a billion people and is the fastest growing religion in the world.

The book contains a multitude of images, graphics, maps and charts, features many of the masterpieces of art, architecture and literature produced by Muslims along with an easy-to-use glossary and a detailed bibliography that will appeal to both general audiences and enthusiasts of Islamic societies and cultures and world civilizations.

2018

Between Empires: Sheikh-Sir Mbarak al-Hinawy (1896-1959). Azimuth Editions. 2012. ISBN: 1898592099. An illustrated biography of one of the most famous governors of the East African coast. This scholarly publication uses numerous photographs and is based on newly discovered family archives and other primary sources. It also explores the growth and development of Mombasa from the 19th century up to the 1950s, its Arab and Swahili communities, and its unique cosmopolitain culture.

2012

Diversity and Pluralism in Islam and Muslim Contexts: Historical and Contemporary Discourses amongst Muslims I.B.Tauris & Co Ltd, 2010 ISBN: 9781848853027 For more than fourteen hundred years Muslims have held multiple and diverging views about their religious tradition. This divergence encompasses such matters as authority; ritual practice; political power; law and governance; civic life; and the form and content of individual and communal expressions of their faith. Over the centuries Muslims have regularly debated these issues amongst themselves. However, despite the remarkable diversity of the Islamic tradition, and the plurality of understandings about Islam, Muslims are regularly and erroneously portrayed as internally homogeneous and dogmatic. This important book challenges such propositions by examining the ways in which matters of common concern to Muslims have been discussed by them and examined. The volume explores the processes by which Muslims construct notions of the self, the other and community, and addresses the socio-cultural tools that they employ in so doing. Offering contributions by world-class scholars, "Diversity and Pluralism in Islam" applies insights from a range of disciplines, including anthropology, history, literature, political theory, comparative literature and Islamic studies.

2010

The Ismailis: An Illustrated History. Azimuth Editions in Association with Institute of Ismaili Studies. 2008. ISBN-10: 1898592268. Farhad Daftary and Zulfikar Hirji. This book contains some 400 images of manuscripts, artifacts and monuments, community documents as well as important historical and contemporary photographs. Based on modern scholarship in the fields of Ismaili and Islamic Studies, the book offers a comprehensive and accessible account of Ismaili history and intellectual achievements, set in the wider contexts of Islamic and world history.

2008

Creative Works

Publication
Year

Exhibition: Memories of Stone: Landscapes of Prayer, Death and Commemoration in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Site-specific exhibition of texts, textile art and photographs. (Ismaili Centre Toronto, February 10-April 23).

2017

Exhibition: Our Stories, Our Images, Our Futures: Photographs made by Youth from Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Hyderabad and Toronto. Site-specific photographic exhibition. Independent Project, CONTACT Photography Festival (Ismaili Centre Toronto, April 30-July 31).

2016

Exhibition: Sensational Words: Power, Beauty and Ephemeral Nature of Words in the Digital Age. Three site-specific art installations and two public lectures. Major Institutions Project, Nuit Blanche Festival (Ismaili Centre Toronto, Aga Khan Park & Aga Khan Museum, Toronto, October 1).

2016

Exhibition: Transformations: Enlightenment in a Digital Age. Four site-specific art installations (Ismaili Centre Toronto, September 1-December 31).

2016

Exhibition: Cities of the Dead: The Ancestral Cemeteries of Kyrgyzstan, Photographs by Margaret Morton. Site-specific photographic exhibition (Ismaili Centre Toronto, May 9-July 30).

2015

Exhibition: Connect, Create, Cairo: Build a City with History & Technology. Site-specific community engagement exhibition & Workshops (Ismaili Centre Toronto, November 15- February 28).

2014


Current Courses

Term Course Number Section Title Type
Fall 2018 GS/ANTH5155 3.0 A Anthro, Art, Aesthetics & Mater SEMR
Fall/Winter 2018 AP/ANTH2130 6.0 C Anthropology Through The Visual BLEN


Upcoming Courses

Term Course Number Section Title Type
Winter 2019 AP/ANTH4350 3.0 M Perspectives in Visual Anthropology SEMR
Fall/Winter 2018 AP/ANTH2130 6.0 C Anthropology Through The Visual BLEN


As an anthropologist and social historian I am interested in how human societies articulate, represent and perform understandings of self, community and other. My research focuses on Muslim societies in a range of historical and contemporary contexts. I am particularly concerned with the diverse ways in which Muslims express and articulate issues of deep human concern as well as matters of daily life. I also interrogate knowledge produced about Muslims, by academics and others. My research interests have lead me to study a range of issues including the production and performance of identity, the role of cultural workers and social movements, the dynamics of family networks and inter-generational migration, the socio-legal formation of communal identity in colonial contexts, and form and context of urban violence in religiously plural societies. I have conducted archival research and multi-sited ethnographic fieldwork in various parts of the world including East Africa, South Asia, the Arabian Peninsula, Europe and North America.

Degrees

DPhil, University of Oxford, Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology, 2002
MPhil, University of Cambridge, Faculty of Oriental Studies, Department of Islamic Studies, 1997
MA, Institute of Ismaili Studies, Graduate Programme in Islamic Studies and the Humanities, Department of Academic Research and Publications, 1996
BA (Joint Honours), McGill University, Faculty of Arts, Departments of Religious Studies and Anthropology, 1989

Appointments

Faculty of Graduate Studies

Professional Leadership

ACADEMIC APPOINTMENTS: 2015-2016 York Fellow, Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies, University of Toronto, (Toronto, Canada) 2014- 2016 Graduate Program Director, Graduate Program in Social Anthropology, Faculty of Graduate Studies, York University 2010-PRESENT Associate Professor, Graduate Program in Social Anthropology, Faculty of Graduate Studies, York University. CURRENT GRADUATE SUPERVISIONS (PhD): Elham Shahsaver, Nursel Ozturk, Jillian Fulton.

Community Contributions

2017 Curator, Memories of Stone: Landscapes of Prayer, Death and Commemoration in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Site-specific exhibition of texts, textile art and photographs. (Ismaili Centre Toronto, February 10-April 23).
2016 Curator, Sensational Words: Power, Beauty and Ephemeral Nature of Words in the Digital Age. Three site-specific art installations and two public lectures. Major Institutions Project, Nuit Blanche Festival (Ismaili Centre Toronto, Aga Khan Park & Aga Khan Museum, Toronto, October 1).
2016 Co-Curator (with Faisal Anwar). CharBagh: A Sensory Garden. Site-specific art installation. Independent Project, Nuit Blanche Festival (Aga Khan Park & Aga Khan Museum, Toronto, October 1).
2016 Curator, Transformations: Enlightenment in a Digital Age. Four site-specific art installations featuring the work of Faisal Anwar, Fareena Chanda, Jamelie Hassan and Ali Kazimi. (Ismaili Centre Toronto, September 1-December 31).
2016 Curator, Our Stories, Our Images, Our Futures: Photographs made by Youth from Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Hyderabad and Toronto. Site-specific photographic exhibition. Independent Project, CONTACT Photography Festival (Ismaili Centre Toronto, April 30-July 31).

Research Interests

Anthropology , History, Islam and Muslim Societies, Visual Anthropology, Anthropology of the Senses

All Publications


Books

Publication
Year

Approaches to the Qur'an in Sub-Saharan Africa. Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780198840770. Covering a period from the eighteenth century to the early twenty-first century, this multidisciplinary volume examines Muslim engagements with the Qur'an in a variety of geographical locations in sub-Saharan Africa including Burkina Faso, Kenya, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, and Tanzania. The volume's twelve case studies use different frameworks and methodological approaches from the academic disciplines of philology, historiography, anthropology, and art history. These studies explore a variety of media and modalities that Muslims in sub-Saharan Africa, as elsewhere, use in their engagements with the Qur'an. These include: manuscripts; commentaries; translations; recitations and invocations; music and poetry; magical squares and symbolic repertoire; medicinal and curative acts; textiles, ink, paper, and wooden boards; spaces of education, healing and prayer, as well as spaces of dreams and spirit worlds. As such, the case studies move well beyond the materiality of the Qur'an as a physical book to explore the ways in which the Qur'an is understood, felt and imagined, as well as the contestations and debates that arise from these diverse engagements.

2019

Islam: An Illustrated Journey. Farhad Daftary and Zulfikar Hirji. 2018. Azimuth Editions in Association with the Institute of Ismaili Studies. ISBN: 1898592357. Beginning in the world of late antiquity and the pre-Islamic period, the book takes the reader through Islam’s formative era and early development in the Arabian Peninsula, the rise and decline of major Muslim dynasties and finally into its place in the modern world.

Lavishly illustrated and written in an accessible style, Islam: An Illustrated Journey tells the story of Islam, a faith that is today practised by more than a billion people and is the fastest growing religion in the world.

The book contains a multitude of images, graphics, maps and charts, features many of the masterpieces of art, architecture and literature produced by Muslims along with an easy-to-use glossary and a detailed bibliography that will appeal to both general audiences and enthusiasts of Islamic societies and cultures and world civilizations.

2018

Between Empires: Sheikh-Sir Mbarak al-Hinawy (1896-1959). Azimuth Editions. 2012. ISBN: 1898592099. An illustrated biography of one of the most famous governors of the East African coast. This scholarly publication uses numerous photographs and is based on newly discovered family archives and other primary sources. It also explores the growth and development of Mombasa from the 19th century up to the 1950s, its Arab and Swahili communities, and its unique cosmopolitain culture.

2012

Diversity and Pluralism in Islam and Muslim Contexts: Historical and Contemporary Discourses amongst Muslims I.B.Tauris & Co Ltd, 2010 ISBN: 9781848853027 For more than fourteen hundred years Muslims have held multiple and diverging views about their religious tradition. This divergence encompasses such matters as authority; ritual practice; political power; law and governance; civic life; and the form and content of individual and communal expressions of their faith. Over the centuries Muslims have regularly debated these issues amongst themselves. However, despite the remarkable diversity of the Islamic tradition, and the plurality of understandings about Islam, Muslims are regularly and erroneously portrayed as internally homogeneous and dogmatic. This important book challenges such propositions by examining the ways in which matters of common concern to Muslims have been discussed by them and examined. The volume explores the processes by which Muslims construct notions of the self, the other and community, and addresses the socio-cultural tools that they employ in so doing. Offering contributions by world-class scholars, "Diversity and Pluralism in Islam" applies insights from a range of disciplines, including anthropology, history, literature, political theory, comparative literature and Islamic studies.

2010

The Ismailis: An Illustrated History. Azimuth Editions in Association with Institute of Ismaili Studies. 2008. ISBN-10: 1898592268. Farhad Daftary and Zulfikar Hirji. This book contains some 400 images of manuscripts, artifacts and monuments, community documents as well as important historical and contemporary photographs. Based on modern scholarship in the fields of Ismaili and Islamic Studies, the book offers a comprehensive and accessible account of Ismaili history and intellectual achievements, set in the wider contexts of Islamic and world history.

2008

Creative Works

Publication
Year

Exhibition: Memories of Stone: Landscapes of Prayer, Death and Commemoration in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Site-specific exhibition of texts, textile art and photographs. (Ismaili Centre Toronto, February 10-April 23).

2017

Exhibition: Our Stories, Our Images, Our Futures: Photographs made by Youth from Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Hyderabad and Toronto. Site-specific photographic exhibition. Independent Project, CONTACT Photography Festival (Ismaili Centre Toronto, April 30-July 31).

2016

Exhibition: Sensational Words: Power, Beauty and Ephemeral Nature of Words in the Digital Age. Three site-specific art installations and two public lectures. Major Institutions Project, Nuit Blanche Festival (Ismaili Centre Toronto, Aga Khan Park & Aga Khan Museum, Toronto, October 1).

2016

Exhibition: Transformations: Enlightenment in a Digital Age. Four site-specific art installations (Ismaili Centre Toronto, September 1-December 31).

2016

Exhibition: Cities of the Dead: The Ancestral Cemeteries of Kyrgyzstan, Photographs by Margaret Morton. Site-specific photographic exhibition (Ismaili Centre Toronto, May 9-July 30).

2015

Exhibition: Connect, Create, Cairo: Build a City with History & Technology. Site-specific community engagement exhibition & Workshops (Ismaili Centre Toronto, November 15- February 28).

2014


Current Courses

Term Course Number Section Title Type
Fall 2018 GS/ANTH5155 3.0 A Anthro, Art, Aesthetics & Mater SEMR
Fall/Winter 2018 AP/ANTH2130 6.0 C Anthropology Through The Visual BLEN


Upcoming Courses

Term Course Number Section Title Type
Winter 2019 AP/ANTH4350 3.0 M Perspectives in Visual Anthropology SEMR
Fall/Winter 2018 AP/ANTH2130 6.0 C Anthropology Through The Visual BLEN