♦ Social-cultural and Political Anthropology
♦ Islam, Politics, & Muslim Socio-cultural Formations: South Asia, Middle East and the West
♦ Social Theories, Cultural Criticism
♦ Identity, Alterity & Power
♦ Democracy, the Media and Violence
♦ Culture, Religion and Politics of Modern South Asia (especially, postcolonial India)
♦ Nationalism, Transnationalism and Globalization
♦ Religion, the Secular, & Secularization
♦ Intellectual History, Social Movements
♦ Literature, Culture and Society
For the next few years, Irfan’s research will focus on anthropological exploration of the premises and the working of liberalism, nationalism, theory and practices of democracy, the media, the subalternated collectivities and diverse forms of collective actions (social movements). In particular, Irfan is interested in the relationships between the media, violence, terrorism and democracy. Through an in-depth examination of Indian Muslims, he aims to develop a framework of understanding the religious and political life of Muslims in contemporary India. The significant debate on “India’s rise” –economic as well as political –is part of this larger research question.
A pivotal comparative question for Irfan is how the figure of minority is fashioned and how this figure negotiates its identity in liberal, secular democratic nation-states such as those in the West and in India. The broader objective of this research is to attempt to offer a fresh framework of unravelling the workings and premises of the conjunctions amongst democracy, the media, nation and liberalism. This research is tailored towards writing an anthropologically-grounded political history of Muslims in post-colonial India on a broader canvass encompassing regions, issues, institutions, personalities and organizations.
Irfan is currently working on book manuscript on the notions and practices of critique in contemporary Islamic traditions and the ways in which they (un)relate to the Western traditions. The key assumption of this work-in-progress manuscript is that to construe the Western notion of critique derived from Enlightenment’s conceptualization of reason as critique per se is limiting for there are non-Enlightenment modes of critique such as the Islamic one. Its aim is to historically explore the specificities of forms, modalities and functions of critique in Islamic traditions in contemporary south Asia, focussing on the debates within Jamaat-e-Islami as well as between Jamaat-e-Islami and other Muslim movements/groups.
Irfan Ahmad’s broad and diverse research interests are also evident in his supervision of various levels of theses at Monash University. The themes of theses he supervises range from the practices and popularity of yoga and Hinduism in Melbourne, religious pluralism in Turkey, religion and women’s novels in English, comparing the Indian and Chinese economic rise in the late twentieth century, contemporary intellectuals and their modes of engagement with religious knowledge in Indonesia, thoughts of Muhammad Iqbal and Said Nursi, globalization and fundamentalism, educational aspects of the Gulen Movement, religious pluralism in Islamic tradition, media, conflict and discourses on Islam, dynastic rule, women and charisma in South Asia, to the Great Power Game in the Middle East.