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

Research interests

My research explores religious politics and urban mutuality from the vantage point of rapidly-growing cities in the African continent. I work at the interface of religious studies, African studies, and urban studies.

As part of my postdoctoral research project, I am currently developing an account of “religious infrastructure” which draws on fieldwork in three African cities (Dar es Salaam, Durban, Kampala).  With this concept, I explore how residents construct religious networks which—no less than mass transit and water supply systems—hold together lives, build capacities, and forge common worlds. I also investigate how religious infrastructures serve as important sites of political contestation. More broadly, this project aims to develop an innovative framework for understanding everyday dynamics of mutuality and resistance across different global settings—one which contributes to wider efforts to re-imagine and cultivate shared futures.

With Dr Yanti Hoelzschen (Goethe University Frankfurt), I am currently building an international research network which extends the analytic potential of religious infrastructure as a site for studying social entanglements.

I am currently completing a book based on my doctoral research in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. This project draws on fifteen months of ethnographic fieldwork in Kariakoo, an inner-city market district which is a regional hub for commerce and Muslim activism. I explore how a Muslim infrastructure makes and sustains this multi-religious habitat, extending the capacity of diverse residents (both Muslim and non-Muslim) to secure livelihoods, claim respectability, and mobilise against injustice and inequality. In this respect, I am particularly interested in constructions of Muslim masculinity. This project has two larger objectives. First, it directly challenges Islamophobic rhetoric that associates Muslim urbanism with “no-go zones”. Second, it seeks to develop a more nuanced framework for understanding religious politics and urban futures in African settings.

My ongoing research in Dar es Salaam has inspired the production of an immersive documentary which has been screened at several international film festivals, and for which I acted as a consultant.

I have recently conducted fieldwork in Durban, South Africa with Dr Francis Sibanda and Dr Fred Charway (both University of Fort Hare) funded by the British Academy. Our research explores how migrant business operators rely on Durban’s Muslim infrastructure to pursue their life-projects and construct a sense of belonging to the city amidst conditions of marginality. We also demonstrate how this infrastructure enables migrants to build relationships with Indian South African residents, bringing into view unforeseen horizons of reciprocity and resistance.

My research is published in leading peer-reviewed journals (e.g. Africa: Journal of the International African Institute; City and Society; Religion) and edited collections published by Bloomsbury and Routledge (see “Publications” below). I have also used my research to speak to contemporary issues in popular articles for The Conversation and Africa at LSE.

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 lead and teach on various undergraduate and postgraduate modules relating to my areas of expertise, including religion, international politics, global development, and contemporary African societies and cultures.

In recognition of my professional expertise in higher education teaching, I have been awarded Fellowship of the Higher Education Academy (FHEA).

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>