Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Ismailis in the News - Meet Dr. Zahra Jamal - Assistant Professor and Postdoctoral Fellow at James Madison College, Michigan State University.

Zee's Notes: Over the years on Morning Chai we've been introduced to some brilliant individuals from our Ismaili Community. Whether they excel in business, sports, academics, art etc. the theme is common - they give back to the community and Dr. Zahra Jamal is no different, This Harvard PHD has been involved as a volunteer going back 17 years since she was a Vice-Captain at her Binghampton, NY jamatkhana. Yes I was blown away at her achievements since then.

Dr. Zahra N. Jamal is an Assistant Professor and Postdoctoral Fellow at James Madison College, Michigan State University. She was previously on the faculty of Social Anthropology at Harvard and MIT, and was a research consultant for Harvard's Islam in the West Program. She has also lectured at Wells, Emory, and Bridgewater State.

Since 1999, Dr. Jamal has conducted fieldwork in the United States, Canada, Pakistan, India, Russia, and Tajikistan and she aims to build on these endeavors especially among Muslims from South and Central Asia, including those living in diaspora. She has published in the Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa, and the Middle East Journal; E-volunteerism; The Pluralism Project; The Encyclopedia of Islam in America; and other venues. Dr. Jamal is currently working on a book manuscript on the cultural phenomenon of voluntarism as a religious and civic practice among Shia Ismaili Muslims, followers of the Aga Khan, in the United States and South Asia. Her next project focuses on aging among poverty-stricken South Asians in Chicago.

She has been awarded the Javits, Mellon, Weatherhead, Hearst, Das, Menezes, and other fellowships, as well as numerous teaching awards and accolades at Harvard. Her research and teaching interests include (trans)nationalism and diaspora, citizenship and civic engagement, religion, gender, ethics, and ethnographic methods.

Dr. Jamal holds a deep passion for bridging academic research and nonprofit work. Outside the Ivory Tower, as an appointee of His Highness the Aga Khan to two national boards, she has done strategic planning and management on initiatives on mental health, special needs, inter-ethnic understanding, and social service acquisition in the US, Australia, and New Zealand. As an ethnographic consultant to the Swiss Development Cooperation, Aspen Institute, Aga Khan Development Network and others, Dr. Jamal has advised or led projects on conflict resolution, gender equity, refugees, and civic engagement in North America, Europe, and Central Asia. In academia, she has been a pedagogical consultant and a research consultant.� As a guest of Roland Arnall, the late U.S. Ambassador to the Kingdom of the Netherlands, in 2006, she engaged in dialogues with key American and European leaders on Muslim integration in Western countries through civic participation and voluntarism. In 2005, she designed a project on Muslim Philanthropy in post-9/11 America for the Aspen Institute's Nonprofit Sector and Philanthropy Program. This project has since become a major million dollar effort to educate Muslim Americans, civil society actors, and others on safeguarding charitable giving.

Dr. Jamal received her M.A. and Ph.D. in Social Anthropology and Middle Eastern Studies from Harvard, and she holds degrees in Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies and Slavic Studies from Rice. In her spare time she enjoys globe trotting, hiking, cultural tourism, music, and spending time with family and friends.

Read her complete CV here 

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