Berlin Graduate School Muslim Cultures and Societies
Hassan J. Ndzovu is a lecturer in Religious Studies (with a focus on Islamic Studies) in the Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies, Moi University, Kenya since 2001. His areas of specialization and research interests include Islam and Politics; emerging contemporary issues in Islam; Religion and Media; and generally Islam in Africa. In 2009, Ndzovu was awarded a PhD degree in Religious Studies from the University of Kwazulu Natal, South Africa. His PhD dissertation project entitled, “Religion and Politics: A Critical Study of the Politicization of Islam in Kenya”, was funded by the Humanities Collaborative Research Centre (SFB/FK) of the University of Bayreuth, Germany. The study examined the relationship between religion and politics, as reflected in the case of the Muslim community of Kenya. In particular it studies the changing relationship between Muslims and various political orders in Kenya since the coming of British colonial rule, through independence and into the current period. In the study, Ndzovu was concerned to show the increasing politicization of Islam in Kenya crystallizing the growing process of radicalization of sections of Kenya’s Muslims.
After his PhD studies, later in 2009, Ndzovu was part of a research team that conducted a study on “Trends in Kenyan Islam.” The research project explored initiatives in three areas (leadership, education and religious broadcasting) through which Kenyan Muslims are seeking to challenge their perceived marginalization and improve the status of the Muslim community. Of the three areas of initiative explored, leadership was the least effective. Ethnic and sectarian differences together with personal ambitions remain powerful and divisive factors among Muslims. Initiatives in education are more dynamic but are also prone to divisive sectarian politics, and are more likely to be affected by any attempts to standardize the religious part of the syllabus. While the Islamic radio stations are also characterized by regional and ethnic divide, broadcasting is most dynamic of all, as a tool for welfare and education.
In 2010 Ndzovu was granted a three months visiting fellowship at the African Studies Centre, Leiden to begin revising his PhD dissertation for the purpose of possible publication. As a continuation of this, between 2010 and 2011, he embarked on a book project as a Northwestern University Postdoctoral Fellow in the Program of African Studies. The book project, Muslims in Kenyan Politics: Political Involvement, Marginalization and Minority Status, is still going on and will be published by the Northwestern University Press. As suggested by the title, it examines the political engagement of Muslims in Kenya against the backdrop of their perceived marginalization and minority status.
As a COFUND Fellow 2013, Ndzovu has been working on a research project entitled: Mediated Sermons: Production, Women and Popular Themes of Muslim Preachers in Kenya. This study explores how Muslim women preachers in Kenya have succeeded through the use of media tools (CD/DVD and sometimes cassettes) to make themselves and their sermons visible in the Muslim public sphere. In particular the project intends to investigate the processes of production and circulation of Muslim women sermons through spatial and social interaction, focusing on media tools as modes of transmission as well as generated discourses and popular themes from selected Muslim preachers. Furthermore, extended spheres of religious authority and knowledge that permit expanded participation of Muslim women within the Islamic tradition are a theme that this study addresses.