About the Project
The Neo-Zoroastrian Project is an academic undertaking by Mr. Ruzbeh Hodiwala, a PhD student at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London under the supervision of Dr. Almut Hintze, the Zarthoshty Brothers Professor for Zoroastrianism, and Dr. Nima Mina, Senior Lecturer in Persian and Iranian Studies.
Authors and academics use the term 'Neo-Zoroastrians' to refer to those Zoroastrian adherents who were born to non-Zoroastrian parents - where both mother and father are non-Zoroastrians. These are known as 'Zoroastrians by choice' in common discourse, in contrast to those who by reason of birth are Zoroastrians. These individuals voluntarily underwent a Soodreh-Pooshi/Navjote – the Zoroastrian initiation ceremony – or merely identify themselves as Zoroastrians when the circumstances are unfavourable to undergo the initiation ceremony.
The idea of the project dates back to 2015 when out of curiosity the researcher had travelled to Europe and stayed with a group of ‘Neo-Zoroastrians’ and interviewed them for an independent article that never saw the light of the day. Instead, it was decided to use the findings to formulate a wider project to study the Neo-Zoroastrian settlements globally and understand their interaction with the established Zoroastrian communities – of those who were born to Zoroastrian parent/s. The project involves an academic exercise spanning postgraduate (2016-17) and doctoral studies (2019-23) in contemporary Zoroastrianism, under the expertise of academics at SOAS, University of London.
The project involves travelling to various countries in order to live and interact with the Neo-Zoroastrians and attend their socio-cultural and religious gatherings. This also includes meetings and interactions with Zoroastrians – those born to Zoroastrian parent/s - to understand their attitudinal patterns towards the Neo-Zoroastrians. Since 2015, the researcher has travelled to parts of Europe, North America, and Central Asia to conduct the study and has plans in the future to visit more groups and centres globally.