Awardees

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


YearAwardeeDissertation

2018

The award ceremony will take place on Friday, April 26, 2019 from 4-6 pm. Please join us if you can. Further details here.

Prize Announcement

SALMAN HUSSAIN PH.D

City University of New York, 2018

Dissertation Title: Together Without Consensus: Class, Emotions and the Politics of the Rule of Law in the Lawyers’ Movement (2007-09) in Pakistan

Advisor: Prof. Avram Bornstein

Dissertation AbstractTogether Without Consensus is an ethnographic examination of how political emotions, historical memory and notion(s) of the rule of law are mobilized in postcolonial Pakistan. It suggests that liberal legality (the rule of law, judiciary and courts) and discourses of rights have become popular hegemonic languages for mobilizing political protests and legal claims in South Asia. Based on 20 months of fieldwork in Pakistan, the dissertation studies a protest movement, the Lawyers’ Movement for the Restoration of Judiciary and Democracy (2007-09), that was led by lawyers and their allies in the educated and professional middle-classes. It investigates how the lawyers successfully galvanized Pakistanis against military rule and led efforts to restore the higher judiciary. The dissertation addresses how the political agency of individuals and groups, advocating disparate religious, ‘secular’ and liberal ideals, is formed collectively, and how they engage in political action without necessarily generating a consensus before hand. This dissertation further points to how liberal legality and rights discourses have become hegemonic, in the process enabling new sites of popular protest and agitation in postcolonial South Asia.

2017

The award ceremony took place on Thursday, April 26, 2018. Please see here for a videorecording of the proceedings.

Prize Announcement

WILLIAM E. B. SHERMAN, Ph.D

Stanford University, 2017

Dissertation Title: “Mountains and Messiahs: The Roshaniyya, Revelation, and Afghan Becoming”

Advisor: Prof. Shahzad Bashir

Dissertation AbstractMountains and Messiahs analyzes a sixteenth-century Sufi messianic movement known as the Roshaniyya (“the illuminated ones”) popular among the Afghan communities of the northwestern regions of the Mughal Empire in present-day Pakistan and Afghanistan. While the Roshaniyya under the leadership of Bayazid Ansari and his family clashed with Mughal armies, there was a more profound contest over the nature of language and divine revelation. How does a “vernacular” language become the language of God? By telling a history of the “practice of revelation” amid the highlands between Peshawar, Kaniguram, and Kabul, this project rejects the over-reliance upon tribe and ethnicity as explanatory categories that isolate the Roshaniyya movement. Rather, through an immanent reading of Roshani texts and the text of their critics, this project traces rival ideologies of language and temporality, demonstrating the significance of these contests in the emergence of new imaginings of Afghan identity and the role of Pashto. While the focus of this dissertation rests with communities inhabiting regions of present-day Pakistan and Afghanistan, the analysis of the Roshaniyya evokes larger patterns of the inherent diversity in pre-modern Muslim engagements with the Qur’an, revelation, sainthood, and conditions of belonging.

2016Not Awarded
2015

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

SIMON WOLFGANG FUCHS Ph. D

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.

HONORABLE MENTION 

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.

2014

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

AMBER HEATHER ABBAS, Ph.D.

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.