Dr. Aliaa Remtilla, Research Associate
Dr. Aliaa Remtilla is an anthropologist and filmmaker. She holds a Ph.D. in Social Anthropology with Visual Media from the University of Manchester (2012) where she also received her M.A. in Social Anthropology (2007). She completed her B.A. at Harvard University, concentrating in film production and the study of Islam (2005). Her Ph.D. research examines how Ismaili Muslims in the Tajik province of Badakhshan accommodate post-Soviet political and economic changes with the help of their Imam, the Aga Khan IV, and his development institution, the AKDN.
Dr. Remtilla’s publications include an article on how Tajik Ismailis engage with photographs of their Imam in The Journal for Persianate Societies. She presented her Ph.D. research at nearly a dozen conferences and organized two international one-day conferences, including one on temporal relations and change. She served as co-editor of the biannual online journal, Anthropology Matters, from 2011-2012. Dr. Remtilla is currently the director of a two-week residential summer school on Islam for Ismaili Muslim undergraduate students in the U.S.A., and is the academic advisor for the Institute of Ismaili Studies' International Training Program, supervising 35 adult students to write 5,000-word original research papers.
Using her training as a filmmaker, Dr. Remtilla uses film as a representational medium to communicate her research findings with both academic and public audiences. Her most recent film, Bridging the Divide (2013), explores the the impact of the Aga Khan’s development work and spiritual influence on Tajik and Afghan Ismailis’ everyday lives. The film examines multiple layers of transnational kinship, demonstrating that human beings can be bridges, building connections based on a shared humanity without dissolving certain social and political differences that continue to be maintained.
Dr. Remtilla strives to combine her independent research with community outreach and collaborative projects. She recently completed a study on Disaster Microfinance Management with the Aga Khan Agency for Microfinance, documenting the institution’s and its clients' responses to disasters in Kyrgyzstan and Pakistan. She currently works as a scholar for the Ismaili Tariqah and Religious Education Board, U.S.A. During her stay at the Centre, she will build on her Ph.D. research while exploring possibilities for further research on how economic systems and financial practices impact the ethical sensibilities of societies.