The Zoroastrian Diaspora: Religion and Migration : The Ratanbai Katrak Lectures, the Oriental Faculty, Oxford 1985

The Zoroastrian Diaspora: Religion and Migration : The Ratanbai Katrak Lectures, the Oriental Faculty, Oxford 1985

The Zoroastrian Diaspora: Religion and Migration : The Ratanbai Katrak Lectures, the Oriental Faculty, Oxford 1985

The Zoroastrian Diaspora: Religion and Migration : The Ratanbai Katrak Lectures, the Oriental Faculty, Oxford 1985


What is the distinctive Zoroastrian experience, and what is the common diasporic experience? The Zoroastrian Diaspora is the outcome of twenty years of research and of archival and fieldwork in eleven countries, involving approximately 250,000 miles of travel. It has also involved a surveyquestionnaire in eight countries, yielding over 1,840 responses. This is the first book to attempt a global comparison of Diaspora groups in six continents. Little has been written about Zoroastrian communities as far apart as China, East Africa, Europe, America, and Australia or on Parsis in Mumbai post-Independence. Each chapter is based on unused originalsources ranging from nineteenth century archives to contemporary newsletters. The book also includes studies of Zoroastrians on the Internet, audio-visual resources, and the modern development of Parsi novels in English. As well as studying the Zoroastrians for their own inherent importance, this book contextualizes the Zoroastrian migrations within contemporary debates on Diaspora studies. John R. Hinnells examines what it is like to be a religious Asian in Los Angeles or London, Sydney or Hong Kong. Moreover, heexplores not only how experience differs from one country to another, but also the differences between cities in the same country, for example, Chicago and Houston. The survey data is used firstly to consider the distinguishing demographic features of the Zoroastrian communities in variouscountries; and secondly to analyse different patterns of assimilation between different groups: men and women and according to the level and type of education. Comparisons are also drawn between people from rural and urban backgrounds; and between generations in religious beliefs and practices,including the preservation of secular culture.


This book has grown out of the Ratanbai Katrak Lectures delivered in 1985 in the Oriental Institute at Oxford. It was a great honour to be invited to deliver such a prestigious series of lectures. the previous Katrak lecturer had been my mentor, Prof. Mary Boyce. Her research for these lectures was so innovative and scholarly that she was awarded the Burton Gold Medal by the Royal Asiatic Society. Her fieldwork among orthodox Zoroastrians in remote villages of Iran, where the religion had been practised traditionally and with devotion for millennia, caused her to question the scholarly presuppositions that had dominated the subject for a century. It transformed her own perspective, and she has subsequently influenced the assumptions of those who have come after her. Following such groundbreaking research by one's own teacher was a daunting prospect. I am grateful to the Trustees of the Katrak lectureship for inviting me to do so, even if somewhat overwhelmed.

As I had undertaken research for these lectures for the previous three years, I have been working on this book for a total of twenty years, or—put another way—for one third of my life. I am grateful to the Trustees and to the Clarendon Press for their patience and good will, and for their acceptance of what had been intended as just one chapter, Zoroastrians in Britain, published as a separate volume in 1996. in one sense, this book is Volume 2 of those lectures. There have been many reasons for its long gestation. a major factor has been the extent of the fieldwork involved. It has included several visits to India, two to Pakistan, three to Hong Kong, as well as trips to Zanzibar, Kenya, France, Germany, several visits to communities in different parts of Canada and the usa, and two to Australia. I estimate that this research has involved approximately 250,000 miles of travel. There have been ten spells in hospital for major surgery, with lengthy periods in

Persian Stronghold of Zoroastrianism, Oxford, 1977; repr. Lanham, 1989.

For a study of her scholarly distinctiveness see Hinnells, Zoroastrian and Parsi Studies:
Selected Works of John R. Hinnells
, Aldershot, 2000, pp. 7–25.

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