English, motility and Ismaili transnationalism

Brook Bolander

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


The transnational Ismaili community is made up of local communities of Ismailis living in over 25 countries around the world. Despite diversity within and between these communities, the 2.5-12 million Ismailis worldwide share a common identity as Ismaili. Various structures and resources are used to construct and maintain the community. These include an official language - English. In this article, I aim to explore the role of English in connection with Ismaili transnationalism. Drawing on ethnographic data collected during fieldwork in Northern Pakistan and Eastern Tajikistan, and on data taken from digital spaces, I will focus on the movement of local Ismailis away from Northern Pakistan and Eastern Tajikistan, and on the movement of people and ideas to Northern Pakistan and Eastern Tajikistan. I will thereby argue for the importance of including non-mobile individuals in conceptualizations of Ismaili transnationalism. In doing so, I will apply the concept of "motility", which points to interconnections between social and spatial mobility, and highlights the potential for mobility; and I will underline the role local settings play for transnational processes. In the course of the article, I also demonstrate that Ismaili transnationalism is not homogeneous. Instead, certain people, places and spaces emerge as more relevant to its construction and maintenance. This becomes coupled with access to English and has implications for this issue's focus on the relationship between South and Central Asian spaces.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)71-88
Number of pages18
JournalInternational Journal of the Sociology of Language
Volume 247
Publication statusPublished - 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • English
  • Ismaili
  • local
  • motility
  • transnationalism

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