Asma Barlas

Asma Barlas

Professor, Department of Politics
Faculty, School of Humanities and Sciences

Specialty:Islam; Qur’anic hermeneutics; Muslim sexual politics; Colonialism and Decolonial thought; 'Third' world.
Phone:(607) 274-3557
Office:328 Muller Center
Ithaca, NY 14850

I joined the Politics department in 1991 but served as the founding director of the Center for the Study of Culture, Race, and Ethnicity for twelve years. During that time, I also held the Spinoza Chair in Philosophy at the University of Amsterdam, the Netherlands (2008). My career path, however, dates from 1976 when I was inducted into Pakistan's Foreign Service from which I was fired six years later on the orders of General Zia ul Haq, the country's military ruler. I then worked as the assistant editor of an opposition newspaper, in addition to publishing poetry and short-stories, before leaving for the U.S. where I received political asylum.

Much of my research has turned out to be about one form of violence or another. In my first book, I traced the incidence of militarism in Pakistani politics to the legacy of British colonial rule in the Indian subcontinent (Democracy, Nationalism and Communalism: The Colonial Legacy in South Asia). In the next, I contested patriarchal interpretations of Islam's scripture that sanction discrimination against women ("Believing Women" in Islam: Unreading Patriarchal Interpretations of the Qur'an). A revised and expanded edition of this book, together with a new one, co-authored with David Raeburn Finn, Confronting Qur'anic Patriarchy, will be published in Spring 2018 (University of Texas Press). Post- 9/11/2001, I focused on Western epistemic and racial violence against Muslims in a collection of popular essays (Islam, Muslims and the U.S.) and an academic monograph (Re-understanding Islam). While I have also written about other topics, notably, Islamic feminism, my primary interest remains the Qur'an on which I've recently published essays in the Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion, the Oxford Handbook of Theology, Sexuality, and Gender, and Patriarchal Moments (Bloomsbury). Another, on secular/ feminist critiques of the Qur'an, is forthcoming in a volume on Muslima Theology (University of Munster, Germany).

To my good fortune, my work on the Qur'an has been translated into a number of languages (Arabic, Bengali, Indonesian, Urdu, Spanish, Dutch, Portuguese, French, and German) and I've also been invited to speak about it in different countries. I have particularly liked doing so in Indonesia, Granada (Spain), Egypt, Russia, Turkey, and Iceland.

I have a B.A. in English Literature and Philosophy (Kinnaird College) and an M.A. (with honors) in Journalism (University of the Punjab), from Pakistan, and an M.A. and Ph.D. (with distinction) in International Studies (University of Denver) from the U.S.

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