English and the transnational Ismaili Muslim community: identity, the Aga Khan, and infrastructure

Brook Bolander

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)


The adoption of English as the official language of the transnational Ismaili Muslim community has its roots in the British Raj, which provides the backdrop for recent Ismaili history. Yet it is the Aga Khan IV, spiritual leader of the community since 1957, who has most avidly pushed English as part of a 'language policy'. Drawing on Ismaili discourse published online, historical sources, secondary literature, and data collected during ethnographic fieldwork in Northern Pakistan and Eastern Tajikistan, this article addresses how English emerged as the community's official language, how and why it was made integral to the community's transnational infrastructure, and what English means to Ismailis living in a village in Hunza, Northern Pakistan and the city of Khorog, Eastern Tajikistan. It thereby underscores that identity and infrastructure emerge as entangled, and it reflects upon the implications of this relationship for research on English and Islam, and language and transnationalism. (Transnationalism, English, Ismaili, Pakistan, Tajikistan, identity, infrastructure, Islam)

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)583-604
Number of pages22
JournalLanguage in Society
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2016
Externally publishedYes

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