Tanvi Kapoor

Grant Type

Dissertation Fieldwork Grant

Institutional Affiliation

New York U.

Grant number

Gr. 10318

Approve Date

April 13, 2022

Project Title

Kapoor, Tanvi (New York U.) "A History of Waiting: Time, Politics, and Cosmology in Zanzibar (1950-Present)"

TANVI KAPOOR, then a graduate student at New York University, New York, New York, received a grant in April 2022 to aid research on “A History of Waiting: Time, Politics, and Cosmology in Zanzibar (1950-Present),” supervised by Dr. Julie Livingston. This dissertation traces a history of waiting and proposes a distinct understanding of time. This history emerges out of the semi-autonomous, predominantly Muslim archipelago of Zanzibar in Tanzania. In Zanzibar, patience (“subira” in Swahili, from the Qur’anic “ṣabr”) is a religious virtue. Yet to be made to wait, especially in state institutions, is also experienced as an exercise of power. Through the lens of Zanzibar’s only referral hospital, this study looks at how Zanzibaris have created waiting as a pious temporality amidst lasting state suppression over the past century. Combining hospital ethnography, Shi’i Twelver mosque ethnography, archival research, patient complaints, medical court cases, oral histories, interviews, Qur’an exegesis, and Swahili poetry, the researcher asks: how have Zanzibaris inhabited the test of waiting? How have they created waiting as a pious temporality and when has it become impossible to do so? Does waiting ever lead to a loss of patience (subira) and faith (imani), thus becoming impious? If so, how does piety re-assert itself? With waiting as her analytic, Kapoor ultimately charts an alternative religious history of Zanzibar via its lone referral hospital.