​Research Themes and Projects


Professor Stephen Lyon and Dr Jeff Tan​ with their research partners at Karakorum International University, Gilgit, Pakistan, 2020​.

​​​AKU-ISMC is an academic research institute ​with faculty engaging in both social science and humanist research within a variety of subjects such as history, archaeology, anthropology, comparative law, literature, religious studies, economy, political science and development studies.  ​

​Here at AKU-ISMC, we carry out excellent research on contemporary and historical aspects of Muslim societies. Every member of our teaching team is research active and brings that research into their interactions with their teaching. 

​​​​​AKU-ISMC has several projects currently running in the areas of digital humanities, water management, archaeology, governance and popular culture and Islam.                                 


​​We investigate who has a voice in decision making, the process by which decisions are made, and who is ultimately accountable for the consequences of those decisions and their implementation. These questions are critical for accurately representing the historical and contemporary world around us, and inform potential interventions to affect positive change in the material conditions of vulnerable populations. We draw on the interdisciplinary strengths of faculty to examine governance issues in law, sociology, political science, religious studies, economics, and anthropology.​

​​​​​​​​Research Projects

Governance for the Public Interest in Muslim Contexts​​. Dr Gianluca Parolin and Dr Sanaa Alimia

​Scaling Up and Transferring Community-Managed Rural Water Systems to Urban Settings​​. Dr Jeff Tan​

AKU-ISMC Academics ​

Dr Sanaa Alimia​

Dr Gianluca Parolin

Dr Jeff Tan​​

​​Digital Humanities​

​​We partner historical and literacy expertise with computer science as we aim to build the largest online, open access and machine readable corpus of Arabic and Persian texts; develop methods and tolls to study them, create data analytics and visualisations, and build an online application that fosters public research and debate. Research questions currently relate to the history of the Arabic book, including meanings of authorship, the recycling of older tests into new forms, and how narratives were adapted to new circumstances. ​

​​​​​​Research Projects

​​Aga Khan Library Digital Collections​. Dr Walid Ghali​​

KITAB Project​​​​. Professor Sarah Bowen Savant​​

Muslim Civilisations Abstracts​

​AKU-ISMC Academics

Muslim Cultures in the Indian Ocean​

For us, the Indian Ocean is a centre, not a periphery, for the understanding of Muslim Cultures since the sea was a link historically between cities, ports, and peoples in the Middle-East, Africa and Asia. We support the protection, conservation and heritage management of Indian Ocean cultures, and focus in our research on texts, objects, cities and monuments. Current topics involve many international partnerships and include Muslims and the sea, trading networks, Sufism, and Islamisation. ​

Research Projects

Muslim Cultures in the Indian Ocean​​​​. Professor Stephane Pradines

​AKU-ISMC Academics ​

Professor Stephane Pradines​​

​Dr Farouk Topan

​Arts and Popular Culture

​We explore the possibilities and limits of human imagination, whether in high or mass-mediated popular culture. Context matters. Creativity can, and needs to, be understood in relation to wider social, economic, or consumer culture contexts. Any creative work is an act of communication. It  involves a multitude of people, calls up genres and heritage, and complies with, or perhaps rebels against, conventions. Current research projects focus on the Swahili novel; Islamic pop music, law in popular culture, Muslim creative artists in Europe, and historical material culture from an archaeological perspective. 

​Research Projects

Peshwar, Feeling the City. Dr Sanaa Alimia​​​​​​

AKU-ISMC Academics ​​

We are interested in history writing and other ways of recording and remembering the past.  We ask how urban and rural people, workers and peasants; Christians, Jews and Muslims; the religiously educated and the technocratic elite; developed different ways of writing, remembering, or commemorating particular events in local, national, or Muslim history. We investigate how accounts of the past are not simply records of fact, but also interventions, as we ask how educational institutions, museums, media organisations and proponents of heritage use history today to shape loyalties and senses of belonging, and whose interests these identities serve. Current research investigates especially cultural memory in and of the 5th – 15th centuries.    ​​

AKU-ISMC Academics​

Professor Sarah Bowen Savant​

​Professor Philip Wood