Fellow 2023/2024William Sherman

Fellowship Term: 10/2023 – 02/2024

William Sherman is Assistant Professor of Islamic Studies at UNC Charlotte since 2017. He earned his Ph.D. at the Stanford University with his dissertation “Mountains and Messiahs: The Roshaniyya, Revelation, and Afghan Becoming” (2017). His upcoming publications include “Singing with the Mountains: The Language of God in the Afghan Highlands”, Fordham University Press, Forthcoming 2023 and “Finding the Qu’ran in Imitation: Critical Mimesis from Musaylima to Finnegans Wake. “, ReOrient: The Journal of Critical Muslim Studies, Forthcoming 2023.

Previous publications include the peer-reviewed articles “In the Garden of Language: Religion, Vernacularization, and the Pashto Poetry of Arzani in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries.”, Afghanistan 5.1, April 2022. and “Romance on the Afghan Frontier: Desire in the Literature of the Church Missionary Society in Peshawar.”, Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History. Vol. 49, #6 (2021): 1021-1046. Grants and fellowships include the NEH Scholarly Translations and Editions Grant “Attar’s Affliction: Sufism and Allegory in the Global Middle Ages”, 2023-2024 and the Pirzada Dissertation Prize from the Institute for South Asia Studies, UC Berkeley, 2018.

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In the spotlight: William Sherman


William Sherman

The Global Apocalyptic in Early Modern Afghanistan

When the Jesuit Monserrate sat on the banks of the Indus with the Mughal emperor Akbar in 1581 and looked upon the Afghan highlands, they discussed the end of the world. Taking a cue from their conversation but focusing upon apocalyptic imaginaries among the non-elite, this project explores how ideas of the apocalypse circulated in Afghanistan and shaped emergent, early modern notions of belonging, language, and religion among Muslims, Jesuits, Sikhs, and Hindus. This project explores the apocalyptic encounters of early modern Afghanistan as a way to understand transformations of global importance. Some of the exchanges that lie at the heart of this project include: a Muslim heresiographer's reports on the would-be messiahs in the frontier who were influenced by yogis; Jesuit accounts of strange “legends” they heard while traveling among Afghans; the hagiographies of Mahdawi teachers active in Mughal and Sikh courts; the swapped eschatological folk tales of the Sulayman Mountains; and “epistles of the end” penned by itinerant scholars in Kabul and beyond. This project seeks to uncover the global dimensions of the 'everyday apocalypse' of Afghan communities outside the centers of political power whose religious imaginations did not stay within the confines of a particular religion, sect, or cultural sphere.