Dr Benjamin Kirby

Dr Benjamin Kirby


I returned to Leeds as a British Academy Postdoctoral Research Fellow in September 2018, having completed my AHRC-funded doctoral research project here in 2017.

My British Academy postdoctoral research project is entitled "The politics of religious infrastructure: Christian and Muslim urban worlds in Africa".

I am closely involved with the work of the Leeds University Centre for African Studies (LUCAS) and the Centre for Religion and Public Life (CRPL).

Research interests

My research is focused on religious politics and African cities. I work at the interface of African studies, religious studies, and urban studies.

Using ethnographic and experimental methods, my research sheds light on the contemporary vitality of religious identity and religious infrastructure in rapidly urbanising settings in the African continent. By foregrounding the everyday lives of Christians and Muslims who share urban habitats like Dar es Salaam and Kampala, I want to provide a more nuanced framework for understanding the political dynamics that exist within and between these religious groups. My aim is to contribute to wider attempts to disrupt conventional (and often problematic) categories which structure how we think about religious politics and urban futures in Africa and beyond.

My doctoral research project was an ethnographic study of the Kariakoo neighbourhood in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Kariakoo is an inner-city market district which is a regional centre for commerce and Muslim activism. I am currently writing a monograph based on this research, asking why Muslim residents are more associated with informal livelihood activities in Dar es Salaam than their Christian counterparts, and what it means for residents and commentators to speak about "Muslim neighbourhoods". I am particularly interested in how residents make use of Muslim social practices and cultural forms to secure livelihoods or frame collective action, and how these dynamics are shaping the built environments and street cultures of Dar es Salaam.

In my present research, I am exploring parallel entanglements of religion, informality, and infrastructure elsewhere in East Africa (Kampala, Nairobi) and along the Indian Ocean littoral (Cape Town, Durban, Port Elizabeth).

If you have any questions about my work, please do get in touch.

<h4>Research projects</h4> <p>Any research projects I'm currently working on will be listed below. Our list of all <a href="https://ahc.leeds.ac.uk/dir/research-projects">research projects</a> allows you to view and search the full list of projects in the faculty.</p>


  • PhD Religious Studies, University of Leeds (2017)
  • MA Religion and Public Life, University of Leeds (2013)
  • BA Theology, University of Oxford (2010)

Student education

I have been involved in teaching various undergraduate modules relating to my areas of expertise, including religion, politics, and urban Africa.

Research groups and institutes

  • Centre for Religion and Public Life
<h4>Postgraduate research opportunities</h4> <p>We welcome enquiries from motivated and qualified applicants from all around the world who are interested in PhD study. Our <a href="https://phd.leeds.ac.uk">research opportunities</a> allow you to search for projects and scholarships.</p>