Prof. Dr. Shahzad Bashir
History, theory and philosophy of history, religious studies, Iran, Central Asia, South Asia
I specialize in Islamic Studies with interest in the intellectual and social histories of the societies of Iran and Central and South Asia circa fourteenth century CE to the present. My published work is concerned with the study of history and temporality, Sufism and Shi’ism, messianic movements originating in Islamic contexts, representation of corporeality in hagiographic texts and Persian miniature paintings, literary and religious development during the Timurid and Safavid periods, and modern transformations of Islamic societies.
My work during the fellowship is part of an enhanced digital monograph entitled Islamic Pasts and Futures: Horizons of Time (under contract with MIT Press). This is an innovative, born digital, publication whose interface has been engineered to suit the topic. It consists of seven media-rich interpretive essays that suggest ways of rethinking the conjunction between Islam and temporality through attention to case studies spanning the centuries and regions where Islam has been a significant presence. Looking beyond the commonplace view of Islamic history as a one-way stream that begins in sixth-century Arabian peninsula, the project sees ‘Islamic time’ as a vast matrix of horizons generated from ‘present’ moments that fold pasts and futures into themselves.
During the fellowship period, I will complete sections of the book relevant for the reception of antiquity in Islamic contexts. The birth of Islam is a late antique phenomenon, whose significance is manifest in all Islamic historiographical tradition. 'Islamic' universal history begins not with Muhammad but with foundational figures such as Adam (regarded as the first prophet) and the Persian mythical figure Kayumars. Additionally, grand scale Islamic histories almost always contain sections that enumerate the great Greek philosophers such as Plato and Aristotle, whose theories about time, moreover, had great influence on Islamic thought.
Over the centuries, antiquity has also been a resource for creative imagination for Muslims. For example, I highlight the city of Kudus, on the island of Java in Indonesia. This is an Islamic 'new Jerusalem' founded in the mid-sixteenth century where Muslims have continually appreciated and reinterpreted the Middle Eastern holy city for centuries. I excavate the various 'time signatures' embedded in monuments and stories associated with this city to show the working of history as a web of nodes rather than a straightforward timeline in Islamic contexts.
1998: PhD Yale University
1991: BA summa cum laude, Amherst College
2017- : Aga Khan Professor of Islamic Humanities, Professor of Religious Studies and Professor of History, Brown University
2011-2017: Lysbeth Warren Anderson Professor in Islamic Studies, Stanford University
2020- : Associate Editor, History and Theory: Studies in the Philosophy of History
Editor for book series: Islamicate Intellectual History (Brill) and Islamic Humanities (University of California Press)
Awards and Fellowships:
2020: Brown University Presidential Faculty Award
2016: Visiting Fellow, Max-Weber-Kolleg, University of Erfurt
2015-2016: Andrew F. Carnegie Fellowship, Carnegie Corporation of New York
2011-2012: John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Fellowship
2011-2012: Stanford Humanities Center Fellowship
2004-2006: Charles A. Ryskamp Research Fellowship, American Council of Learned Societies
2004-2005: National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship for Faculty
1998: Best Dissertation in Iranian Studies, Foundation for Iranian Studies