The Afterlives of Urban Muslim Asia

To what extent do great urban centres in Muslim Asia continue to be a powerful source of identity in diaspora, and what accounts for this?

This new research project, funded by the AHRC, explores the legacies of urban life in four cities: Kabul, Herat, Bukhara and Aleppo. In particular, it focuses on cosmopolitan habits of maintaining inter-ethnic and inter-religious relationships.

All four cities were home to sizeable communities of ethno-religious minorities who underwent major migrations to other parts of the world over the past century. It is often assumed that these migrations led to a loss of cosmopolitan habits of urban life and inter-religious relations, among both Muslims and non-Muslims. But to what extent do interreligious relations persist, in older and newer diasporic contexts? And where they do persist, what role is played by appeals to shared urban heritage?

Political conflict and war have also led to the displacement of the cities’ Muslim populations. What forms of urban heritage are being produced as these cities’ Muslim-majority populations suffer the effects of war and displacement? In the aftermath of conflict, how is urban heritage being drawn into new forms of geographical and political imagination?

Rather than focusing on memory and nostalgia, this project will explore the modes of urban life that displaced populations sustain and transmit in the diaspora. We will look both at the cities’ dispersed populations and those actively involved in the production and dissemination of knowledge about them.

We hope that this will inform attempts to conserve urban heritage, and transform public perceptions of Muslim Asia. The project is being led by the University of Sussex (Sussex Asia Centre and the School of Global Studies), with project partners at the University of Copenhagen (Department of Cross-Cultural and Regional Studies), the University of Cambridge (the Centre of Islamic Studies and the Faculty and Asian and Middle Eastern Studies), and the Afghan Institute for Strategic Studies.



On 23rd May 2023 we will hold a workshop at the University of Cambridge – for details click here


Core team:

Principal Investigator: Professor Magnus Marsden, University of Sussex




Co-Investigator: Dr Vera Skvirskaja, University of Copenhagen,




Co-Investigator: Dr Paul Anderson, University of Cambridge





For more information: