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Dr Taushif Kara

Postdoctoral Associate
Postdoctoral Research and Outreach Associate at the Centre of Islamic Studies, teaching in the Faculty of History, and affiliated researcher at the Centre of South Asian Studies
History
Muslim political thought

Taushif Kara is a Postdoctoral Research and Outreach Associate at the Centre of Islamic Studies and an historian of the Indian Ocean world. His research focuses on the history of Muslim political thought during and after the colonial period.

Academic interests

I study the intellectual history of the modern Indian Ocean world with a focus on Indian and Muslim political thinking in the moments just before and after decolonisation. I am also interested in global intellectual history more broadly, the history of knowledge, and the relationship of ideas to aesthetics in the post-colonial state, especially architecture.

My doctoral research, which I am currently revising into a monograph, traces the modern intellectual history of the Khoja diaspora, a trading community originally from western India. It followed the Khojas as well as the various ideas couched within and beyond their texts during the formative periods of colonialism, nationalism, and decolonisation around the Indian Ocean world, ca. 1866 – 1972. The Khojas were defined in the colonial imaginary as a permanent “minority” regardless of the vantage point: they were Muslim subjects in India, Indian subjects in Africa, and Shia subjects in the world of Islam. My work claims, however, that they consistently escaped or rejected this minority status, and with it the grasp of colonial power itself, through a shifting subjectivity rooted in their practice of taqiyya (concealment).

My current research similarly reframes conventional narratives about the global diffusion of ideas. An ongoing project titled The Venture of Islamic Studies traces the uneven and contested disciplinary transition from classical Orientalism to ‘Islamic Studies’ in the twentieth century. The research tracks the state-sponsored formation of this discipline out of a newly sovereign Pakistan alongside its development in North America and the United Kingdom.

Degrees obtained

  • PhD, Cantab.
  • MPhil, Cantab.
  • MA, Institute of Ismaili Studies.
  • BA, McGill University.

Awards and prizes

  • Robert L. Platzman Memorial Visiting Fellowship, University of Chicago (2019).
  • Perry Dutton Award, Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge (2019).
  • Top MPhil dissertation in World History, Faculty of History, Cambridge (2017).
  • Graduate Scholarship in Islamic Studies and Humanities (2017).

Biography

Taushif Kara completed his PhD, titled Abode of Peace: Islam, empire, and the Khoja diaspora (ca. 1866 – 1972) in the Faculty of History at the University of Cambridge in 2021, under the supervision of Professor Sujit Sivasundaram. He obtained his MPhil in World History, also at Cambridge, in 2017, graduating at the top of his cohort.

Before coming to Cambridge, Kara studied Islamic history and philosophy at the Institute of Ismaili Studies in London and served as a Teaching Fellow in the Department of Religions and Philosophies at SOAS. He is a former producer of the Interventions podcast and a previous convenor of the Cambridge World History Workshop.

Kara also has a strong interest in the global history of art and architecture, and in 2019 participated in Modern Art Histories across Africa, South and Southeast Asia, a multi-year project funded by the Getty Foundation in collaboration with the Dhaka Art Summit and the Institute for Comparative Modernities at Cornell University.

Kara currently hosts and produces Rethinking Islam Today, a podcast about Islam and ideas from the Centre of Islamic Studies at the University of Cambridge.

Other interests

Cooking, contemporary art and film. 

Department link

http://www.cis.cam.ac.uk

Publications, links and resources

Journal articles:

  • “Waiting for Revolution,” Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa, and the Middle East (forthcoming 2022)
  • “Provincializing Mecca? (1924 – 1969),” Global Intellectual History (2021)
  • “Pray to the archive: Abstracting history in Zanzibar,” International Journal of Islamic Architecture vol. 9:2 (2020): 265 – 285.

Special issues:

  • Refusing Minority, Recasting Islam. Edited with Amar Sohal for Global Intellectual History (2021).

Book reviews:

  • Wilson Chako Jacob, For God or Empire? Sayyid Fadl and the Indian Ocean world (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2019). Commissioned by H-Net. https://hdiplo.org/to/E222.  

Public writing:

Hear from students

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