Preface and acknowledgements
This book has its origins in a number of research visits to the libraries, religious institutions and older neighbourhoods of the city and Shi‘a spiritual centre of Lucknow, undertaken over the course of the greater part of the last decade. Shi‘ism in north India has long been misunderstood, portrayed as the relatively homogenous religious confession of a small Muslim minority, or associated with the high cultures and graces of Nawabi Lucknow. By examining the workings of Shi‘ism in one regional context from the inside, exploring the shifts and nuances within the alleged Shi‘a community, this book seeks to bring to life a living, reflective and changing Shi‘ism, one scarcely bound by memories of its past. If this book can give a sense of the vigorous debates, differentiations and indeed internal contestations developing under the aegis of a united Shi‘a revival, it will have served its purpose.
Over the obdurately long time that it has taken to bring this study to completion, I have accumulated many debts, and it gives me pleasure to acknowledge many of them here. First mention is due to the Arts and Humanities Research Council, which funded the original incarnation of this work as a doctoral thesis, as well as to the Society of South Asian Studies for additional research support. Latterly, I was fortunate enough to take up the Smuts Research Fellowship in the Centre of South Asian Studies, Cambridge, which gave me the opportunity to rework this research project into a book. Tremendous thanks are due to Kevin Greenbank, Barbara Roe, Rachel Rowe, Jan Thulborn and Anna Maria Motrescu-Mayes for making my years at the Centre of South Asian Studies so enjoyable, and for keeping me going on such an alarming quantity of caffeine. I was attached to Pembroke College, Cambridge, throughout this time as a doctoral student and postdoctoral researcher alike, and I am immensely grateful to all staff and Fellows for their support. I also owe much to my friends and contemporaries in the field with whom I shared many of the joys and otherwise of the academic experience whilst working on this project, among them Rachel Berger, Kaveri Gill, Ben Hopkins, Humeira Iqtidar, Magnus Marsden, Eleanor Newbigin and Sarah Wilkerson.