Karen Ruffle

Associate Professor, Departments of Historical Studies and Study of Religion
Centre for South Asian Studies at the Asian Institute


Karen Ruffle, Associate Professor of History of Religions (UTM) and the Study of Religion (UTSG), specializes in the study of South Asian Shiʿism. Her research and teaching interests focus on devotional texts, ritual practice, and Shiʿi material practices in South Asia. She has conducted field research in India, Pakistan, Iran, Turkey, and Syria. Her books include Gender, Sainthood, and Everyday Practice in South Asian Shi’ism (2011) and Everyday Shiʿism in South Asia (2021). Her current projects include a monograph titled, Building the City of Haidar: Kingship, Urban Space, and Shiʿi Ritual in Qutb Shahi Hyderabad and a large-scale study of South Asian Shiʿi material culture and sensorial practices titled, Baraka Bodies: Shiʿi Materiality, the Sensorium, and Ritual in India and Pakistan.

Karen is co-Editor in Chief of the International Journal of Islam in Asia, and she is co-editor of the series Religion and Society (DeGruyter). She is the convenor of the international Working Group Sensing Shiʿism, which brings together a collective of junior and mid-career scholars engaging with an emergent field of Shi’i studies engaging with ethnographic, theoretical, and empirical research on material culture, the sensorium and ritual practice.

Selected Recent Publications


Everyday Shiʿism in South Asia. Hoboken: Wiley, 2021.

Gender, Sainthood, and Everyday Practice in South Asian Shiʿism. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2011.


“Gazing in the Eyes of the Martyrs: Four Theories of South Asian Shiʿi Visuality.” Journal of Material Cultures in the Muslim World 1:1-2 (2020): 268–290.

“Making Shiʿism an Indian Religion: A Perspective from the Qutb Shahi Deccan.” Beyond Revival and Reform: Reorient the Study of South Asian Islam, edited by Teena Purohit and SherAli Tareen. ReOrient: Journal of Critical Muslim Studies 5:2 (2020): 287–304.

“Presence in Absence: The Formation of Reliquary Shiʿism in Qutb Shahi Hyderabad.” Material Religion: The Journal of Objects, Art, and Belief 13:3 (2017): 329–353.

“Guises of the Protective Hand: The ʿAlam and the ‘Domestiction’ of Qutb Shahi Shiʿism.” Re-Use of the Past: Producing the Deccan, 1300–1700, edited by Ajay Rao. South Asian Studies 32:1 (2016): 54­–67.

“Presence in Absence: Relics and Their Role in Ḥaidarābādī Shīʿism.” Hind-i Farsi, edited by Firoozeh Papan-Matin (in Persian). Iran Namag 1:3 (2016): 178–195.

“Wounds of Devotion: Re-Conceiving Mātam in Shiʿi Islam.” History of Religions 55:2 (2015): 172–195.

“An Even Better Creation: The Role of Adam and Eve in Shiʿi Narratives about Fatimah al-Zahra.” Journal of the American Academy of Religion 81:3 (2013): 791–813.

“May You Learn from Their Model: The Exemplary Father-Daughter Relationship of Mohammad and Fatima in South Asian Shiʿism.” Journal of Persianate Studies 4:1 (2011): 12–29.

“May Fatimah Gather Our Tears: The Mystical and Intercessory Powers of Fatimah al-Zahra in Indo Persian, Shiʿi Devotional Literature and Performance.” Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East 30:3 (2010):  386–397.


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