Excerpt from the interview:
B. Yurtalan: The Institute of Ismaili Studies which was established in 1977 encourages academic study of Shiism. As far as I know, they supported your research and your book is part of Ismaili Heritage Series organized by this Institute. Do you think this Institute has advanced the academic study of Ismaili Shiism or Shiism in general? What about the impact of western scholars like Paul Walker?
S. Hamdani: The Institute of Ismaili Studies has most definitely advanced the academic study of Ismaili Shiism. There is no question that without its publications, and its patronage of the research of scholars like myself, very little might have been produced in the way of academic study of Ismailism. The lion’s share of that credit goes to Farhad Daftary, not only for having produced the first and still seminal master narrative of Ismaili Shiism (The Ismailis: Their History and Doctrine), and very many important and foundational studies since then but as well in soliciting and overseeing the Institute’s publication output. But as I have mentioned already, despite all these new resources about Ismaili Shiism western scholarship still has not integrated or explored the sources in understanding the period of the 2-6th/8-12th centuries when Ismaili Shiism was an important phenomenon, in my view. Nevertheless, I think the publications and presence of scholars like Paul Walker have done a lot to publicize the importance of Ismaili Shiism in the American academy. Other scholars have also done a lot to publicize and establish the importance of Ismaili Shiism like Ismail Poonawala. There is a younger generation of scholars who have also begun to do some very important work either on the Fatimid period or Ismaili Shiism.
Dr. Sumaiya Hamdani is an Associate Professor in the History and Art History Department of George Mason University, Virginia. Hamdani received her B.A. from Georgetown University, and her M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in Islamic History from Princeton University specializing in medieval Islamic and Fatimid history. Her research has also included articles and reviews in the fields of Shi’i thought, Islamic history, and women in Islam.