The Project on Shi'ism and Global Affairs at Harvard University's Weatherhead Center for International Affairs presents

A Symposium on Diversity and Unity in Transnational Shi’ism

Monday, April 5th to Thursday, April 8th, 2021 | 20+ Speakers, 4 Panels


A historic symposium bringing together diverse voices from leading scholars of Shi’a thought and communities across Zaydi, Ismaili, Alevi, Alawite, Bektashi, & Twelver Ja'fari Muslim denominations and beyond at Harvard University.


Monday, April 5th

Welcome & Opening Remarks
10:45AM – 11:00AM EDT | 7:45AM - 8:00AM PDT 


Keynote Address
11:00AM – 12:15PM EDT | 8:00AM - 9:15AM PDT


Panel 1 | Approaching Intra-Shi’a Dialogue
12:45PM – 2:15PM EDT | 9:45AM - 11:15AM PDT



  • Zahra Jamal (Rice University) - Leading the Knowledge Society Once More: Prospects for Intrafaith Collaboration 

  • Sayed Ali Abbas Razawi (Scottish Ahlul Bayt Society) - Pragmatic Lessons in a Dynamic World: A Twelver Ja'fari Perspective on Intra-Shi'a Dialogue 

  • Scott Lucas (University of Arizona) - Four Classical Arabic Books for a Zaydi-Imami Conversation

  • Eliton Pasaj & Huseyin Abiva (Bektashi Community of America) - The Bektashi Tekke in America and the Place of Bektashism on the Sunni-Shi'a Spectrum



Tuesday, April 6th


Panel 2 | Shi'ism and Sufism: Islamic Traditions of Esotericism
1:30PM – 2:45PM EDT | 10:30AM - 11:45AM PDT



  • Shafique N. Virani (University of Toronto) - Much Ado About Nothing: Coming to “Terms” with Sufism and Ismailism

  • Ayfer Karakaya-Stump (William & Mary) - Sufism, Shi’ism and Confessional Ambiguity among Qizilbash/Alevis

  • Nicholas Boylston (Harvard University) - Twelver Shi'ism and Sufism: Their Relationships in History and Today



Wednesday, April 7th


Panel 3 | Shi'ism and Minority Communal Dynamics in South Asia
2:00PM–3:15PM EDT | 11:00AM - 12:15PM PDT



  • Juan Cole (University of Michigan) - The Shi'ite Heritage in South Asia

  • Rameez Abbas (NESA) - The Dawoodi Bohras: Cohesion and Integration Strategies in India and Pakistan

  • Karen Ruffle (University of Toronto) - Two Perspectives on the Everyday in South Asia: The Question of Gender and Theorizing Agency in Material Practice

  • Simon Wolfgang Fuchs (University of Freiburg) - Reclaiming the Citizen: How Pakistan's Shi'is Have Engaged with the State




Thursday, April 8th


Panel 4 | Shi'a Confessional Identities and Politics in the Middle East
12:30PM–2:00PM EDT | 9:30AM - 11:00AM PDT



  • Riza Yildirim (Emory University) - Remarks on Historical and Religious Foundations of the Alevi-Sunni Conflict in Contemporary Turkey

  • Rose Wellman (University of Michigan-Dearborn) - Shi’i Families in Provincial Iran: Everyday Piety in and Beyond State Power

  • Alexander Weissenburger (OAW, Vienna) - The Importance of the Concept of the Zaydi Imamate in the Context of the Current War in Yemen

  • Joshua Landis (University of Oklahoma) - The Alawites of Syria: Diversity and Unity in Transnational Shi'ism



Closing Remarks
2:00PM EDT |  11:00AM PDT