The Pirzada Prize   |  How to Apply  |  The Pirzada Lecture & Awardees

2017Not Awarded

The award ceremony took place on Saturday, April 9, 2016. Please see here for a videorecording of the proceedings.


Princeton University, 2015

Dissertation Title: “Relocating the Centers of Shīʿī Islam: Religious Authority, Sectarianism, and the Limits of the Transnational in Colonial India and Pakistan”

Adviser: Muhammad Qasim Zaman

Dissertation Abstract: This dissertation rethinks the common center-periphery perspective which frames the Middle East as the seat of authoritative religious reasoning vis-à-vis a marginal South Asian Islam. Drawing on 15 months of archival research and interviews conducted in Pakistan, India, Iran, Iraq, and the United Kingdom, I demonstrate how Shīʿī and Sunnī religious scholars (ʿulamāʾ) in colonial India and Pakistan negotiate a complex web of closeness and distance that connects them to eminent Muslim jurists residing in the Arab lands and Iran. The project attempts to move beyond scholarly paradigms that investigate the transnational travel of ideas in terms of either resistance and rejection or wholesale adoption. Rather, I show how local South Asian scholars occupy a creative and at times disruptive role as brokers, translators, and self-confident pioneers of modern and contemporary Islamic thought. Read the complete abstract HERE.


Layli Uddin's dissertation, "In The Land of Eternal Eid: Maulana Bhashani and the Political Mobilisation of Peasants and Lower-Class Urban Workers in East Pakistan, c. 1930s-1971" is the recipient of Honorable Mention for the Pirzada Dissertation Prize.



The award ceremony took place on Saturday, April 25, 2015. Click HERE to view a videorecording of the proceedings.


The University of Texas at Austin, 2012

Dissertation Title: Narratives of Belonging: Aligarh Muslim University and the Partitioning of South Asia

Supervisor: Gail Minault

Dissertation Abstract: The partition of India that accompanied its independence from Great Britain in 1947 also created the additional state of Pakistan; by 1971, this Pakistan had fractured into the two independent states of Pakistan and Bangladesh. This dissertation seeks to expand our temporal and spatial understanding of the sub-continent’s partitioning by examining the experiences of a group of South Asian Muslims across time and space. As this dissertation will show, South Asia’s partitioning includes more than the official history of boundary creation and division of assets, and more than the people’s history of unbridled border violence. I have oriented my investigation around a single institution, the Aligarh Muslim University, and spoken to former students of the 1940s and 1950s, whose young lives were shaped by the independence and partition of India. The memories of these former students of Aligarh University offer a lens for examining the “multiple realities” of partition and the decolonized experiences of South Asian Muslims. 

The educational institution at Aligarh, founded in 1875, had long been concerned with cultivating a sporting, activist, masculine identity among its students; Muslim League leaders further empowered that identity as they recruited students for election work in support of Pakistan. The students embraced the values of the demand for Pakistan that appeared to be consistent with the values engendered at Aligarh. This dissertation uncovers the history of these students throughout the 1947 partitioning and beyond. It explores unexpected histories of trauma among communities who “chose to stay” but later experienced a powerful sense of discontinuity in independent India. It exposes contradictions evident in remembered histories from Pakistanis who express both triumph and grief at the prospect of Pakistani independence. Finally, this dissertation assesses the position of Muslims after partition and how the “disturbances” that began in the late 1940s continue to affect them today in both lived and remembered experience.

As a site for examining the disturbances of partition, Aligarh University proves to be a hub of a community that was and remains deeply transformed by the changes partition wrought.