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Iqbal Basit, Assistant Professor

photo of Basit Iqbal

Basit Iqbal

Assistant Professor

Department of Anthropology

Area(s) of Interest:


Research Interests

I grew up in Pakistan and then Canada, and studied for a year in Syria before completing a BA in interdisciplinary critical theory (University of Alberta) and a MA in religious studies (University of Toronto). I then freelanced as an academic editor for a few years before beginning a PhD in anthropology (UC Berkeley). My work explores the ethical formations, aesthetic sensibilities, and political theologies of contemporary Islam, with an ethnographic focus on forced migration and hospitality. Transnational fieldwork in northern Jordan and western Canada anchors this research, as does my training in social-critical theory and in the Islamic scholastic tradition.

My book manuscript traces how aid workers and refugees in both Jordan and Canada relate to each other and to the ongoing catastrophe in Syria through inhabiting the tradition of Islam. It elaborates how Muslim humanitarian practices have become the sites of serious theological debates (engaged by religious authorities and laypeople alike) over the limits of community, the possibilities of secular translation, overlapping regimes of sovereignty, and the politics (and lacunas) of bearing witness. The book thus provides an ethnographic account of contemporary Islamic ethical life amid conditions of massive dispossession and geopolitical displacement. What is the divine decree (qadr) in a site of exile (ghurba)? How does one discern it? And how might one respond?

Among other projects, I am part of the inaugural cohorts of the Emerging Scholars in Political Theology program (2020-2022) and the Being Human Summer Institute for early career scholars (2021-2023), and a co-leader of the "Ethnographic Methods" hub of the Reading Muslims Project (2020-2022) at the University of Toronto.


Arabic and Islamic studies, Damascus

BA, Interdisciplinary Studies/Philosophy, University of Alberta, 2010

MA, Religious Studies, University of Toronto, 2012

Professional editing and indexing courses, George Brown College/Ryerson University, 2013

MA, Anthropology, University of California, Berkeley, 2015

PhD, Anthropology with Designated Emphasis in Critical Theory, University of California, Berkeley, 2019

SSHRC Postdoctoral Fellow, University of Alberta, 2019-2021 (terminated early)



In preparation. Tribulation and Repair: Islamic Humanitarianism after the Syrian War.


Journal Articles

In preparation. "Genres of Ordeal: Historicism and Tradition in the Anthropology of Islam."

In preparation. "Theorizing Humanitarianism for an Islamic Counterpublic." For a special issue of the journal Muslim World.

In preparation. "Ambivalence and Askēsis in Zaatari Camp." For a special issue of the journal Political Theology.

Forthcoming. "The Messiah and the Jurisconsult: Agamben on the Problem of Law in Sunni Islam." The Journal of Religion (July 2021 issue).

2020. "Asad and Benjamin: Chronopolitics of Tragedy in the Anthropology of Secularism." Anthropological Theory 20, no. 1: 77-96.

2019. "Disfiguring Christianity." Method and Theory in the Study of Religion 31, no. 3: 261-280. Special issue edited by Francis Landy.


Other Publications

2019. "Theorizing Humanitarianism for an Islamic Counterpublic." Allegra Laboratory, MuHum: Muslim Humanitarianism Roundtable.

2019. Review of Yassir Morsi's Radical Skin, Moderate Masks: De-radicalising the Muslim and Racism in Post-Racial Societies. In American Journal of Islamic Social Sciences 36, no. 1 (Winter): 79–85.

2018. "Listening to the Torment of Existence." Review of Stefania Pandolfo's Knot of the Soul: Madness, Psychoanalysis, Islam. At The Immanent Frame, Social Sciences Research Council.

2018. Review of Irfan Ahmad's Religion as Critique: Islamic Critical Thinking from Mecca to the Marketplace. In American Journal of Islamic Social Sciences 35, no. 3 (Summer): 93–98.

2018. Contribution to "Saba Mahmood: A Tribute." Anthro{dendum}, April 19.

2017. "Releasing the Umma from Geopolitics." Review of Cemil Aydin's The Idea of the Muslim World. At The Immanent Frame, Social Sciences Research Council.

2017. "Thinking About Method: A Conversation with Talal Asad." Qui Parle: Critical Humanities and Social Sciences 26, no. 1 (June): 195-218.

2013. Assistant editor, The Integrated Encyclopedia of the Qur'an, ed. Muzaffar Iqbal et al. Center for Islamic Sciences. Vol. 1.