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Department of Anthropology and Sociology

Dr Reza Gholami

BA, MA, PhD (London)


Reza Gholami
Department of Anthropology and Sociology

Senior Teaching Fellow

Centre for Migration and Diaspora Studies


Dr Reza Gholami
Email address:


I am currently an AHRC-funded post-doctoral research fellow working on ideas of citizenship, heritage and identity within education and teaching in the UK. My research aims to offer education policy makers and teachers more nuanced ways of approaching and teaching 'citizenship' and 'heritage' within today's diverse society.

Prior to this, my PhD research explored a diasporic Muslim mode of the secular to which I refer as non-Islamiosity – an ‘eradicative’ discourse and mode of practice by means of which some Iranian Shi`a in London construct and live diasporic identity, community and consciousness in a way that marginalizes, excludes or effaces (only) Islam. My thesis contributed to two bodies of knowledge. Firstly, in an academic context which predominantly tries to gain insights into the lives of Muslim immigrants by studying their religiosities, mine was a unique study of a Shi'i diasporic secularism which showed how and why such a secularism informs the formation, experience and living of ‘diaspora’ and is in turn shaped by it. Here, I emphasized the need to pay greater attention to the concept of diaspora as an idealized field of freedom. Experientially and epistemologically, this was the ‘field’ in which my respondents overcame fears, confusions and anxieties that they believed had been inculcated in them by an Islamic upbringing. However, these diasporic freedom practices are not without significant implications. They also constitute a productive, secular mode of power which intermeshes with and affects devout Shi'i religious experience in interesting (though sometimes antagonistic) ways. Therefore, I also argued and demonstrated ethnographically that in this context diasporic Shi'i religious experiences cannot be conceived of as separate from non-Islamiosity. That is, they are constituted through a dialogic and micro-physical/political relationship of power-resistance with intra-diasporic modes of the secular.

Secondly, I made a contribution to studies of the secular. Whether in academia or in the projects of secularist politics, the secular is usually viewed as an end, a goal which is concomitant, or sometimes synonymous, with modernization and democratization. ‘Secular’ has therefore tended to signify something that (secular-inclined) individuals and societies – in a variety of ways, of course – either are or aim to become. However, through the concept of non-Islamiosity, I attempted to think about the secular as a mechanism. Specifically, I argued that the modern knowledges, sensibilities and discourses referred to as ‘secular’ can be drawn upon or utilised pragmatically as a mechanism for creating a space free from a particular religious tradition so that certain other notions of identity and community can be constructed and experienced, even if these are not necessarily ‘modern’ or ‘democratic’ and are fraught with characteristics from other religious traditions. Non-Islamiosity is the mechanism by which the subject’s ontological, epistemological, and experiential fields are ‘cleared’ only of the Islamic. It identifies no other objectives, leaving the subject ‘free’ to live as she pleases. More importantly, ‘non-Islamiosity’ offers a way to transcend an exhausted religious-secular dichotomy, an analytical paradigm which seems at times to have become a liability. Instead, non-Islamiosity draws the attention of research to people’s desires for and experiences of freedom in light of their understandings – as well as the historical, discursive and structural power – of ‘the religious’ and ‘the secular’.


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Persian language (including translating to and from).

Available for
  • TV
  • Radio
  • Press
  • Briefings
  • Special Study Programmes
  • Short Term Consultancy
  • Long Term Consultancy
  • Expert Immigration or Asylum Reports
Regional Expertise
  • Europe
  • Near and Middle East
Country Expertise
  • Iran
  • United Kingdom


Jump to: Articles


Gholami, Reza (2013) '‘Is This Islamic Enough?’ Intra-Diasporic Secularism and Religious Experience in the Shi'a Iranian Diaspora in London.' Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies .

This list was generated on Tue Sep 2 01:02:07 2014 BST.