Dr Sarah Stewart
I studied South Asian history at the Australian National University, Canberra, my Diploma of Higher Education at the Institute of Higher Education, University of London and my MA and PhD at SOAS.
I was a founding member of the London Middle East Institute at SOAS (LMEI), now the SOAS Middle East Institute (SMEI), where I became Deputy Director and served on the Editorial Board of the Middle East in London magazine.
In 2004 I began the series The Idea of Iran and co-edited the first 6 volumes of conference proceedings. I taught Zoroastrianism in the Department of Religions and introduced a course on Islam in Britain, as well as an online MA programme Muslim Minorities in a Global Context.
In 2012, I moved to the Department of Religions and Philosophies where I became the first Shapoorji Pallonji Lecturer in Zoroastrianism. In 2018, I began a Summer School on Zoroastrianism in Contemporary Iran, now held annually at the Norwegian Institute in Rome in collaboration with the University of Bergen. I also created an online short course (MOOC) as an introduction to the subject of Zoroastrianism. I was lead curator of the exhibition The Everlasting Flame: Zoroastrianism in History and Imagination (Brunei Gallery SOAS, 2013; National Museum Delhi, 2016).
My interest in Orality: oral history, oral literature and oral texts and testimony began with work for my thesis, a religious poem in Parsi Gujarati, The Song of the Fire (Atash nu Geet) that had started in oral transmission. This combined with an interest in the living communities in India and Iran led to my focus on modern Zoroastrianism.
With a grant from the British Academy, I began a project to map the Zoroastrian communities in Iran through the collection of over 350 interviews. The majority of these are in Zoroastrian dari, now an endangered language and are preserved in perpetuity in the Endangered Languages Archive now housed in Berlin.
My two books, Voices from Zoroastrian Iran, Volume 1 and Volume 2 situate a collection of the interviews within the Iranian context and their respective urban and rural locations. A short video captures the content of some of the interviews.
I was the PI for a project to gather information on the global Zoroastrian community. Gen Z and Beyond: A Survey for Every Generation, which ran for 22 months and captured responses of approximately 6% of the worlds Zoroastrian population. The outcome is a report available online. The raw data is stored in perpetuity in the UK Data Archive.
I take an interdisciplinary approach to my teaching and research. Zoroastrianism as a religious tradition can be constructed within different areas of expertise. The living tradition lends itself to multiple disciplines that include history, archaeology, language, literature, and ethnography.