Asma Barlas

Asma Barlas

Professor and Program Director, Center for the Study of Culture, Race and Ethnicity

Faculty, Department of Politics

Specialty:Islam, Qur'anic hermeneutics, Muslim women, Politics of the Third world, colonialism, and anti-colonialism.
Phone:(607) 274-1056
Office:101 Center for Health Sciences
Ithaca, NY 14850

A biographical note

I have been at Ithaca College since 1991 and am currently the director of the CSCRE though I am tenured in the Politics department (a separate unit). I've also held the Spinoza Chair in Philosophy at the University of Amsterdam, the Netherlands.  My career path, however, began in 1976 when I joined Pakistan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs as a diplomat, a position from which I was fired for criticizing the country's military dictator, General Zia ul Haq.  I then worked as the assistant editor of an opposition paper, the Muslim, before eventually leaving for the U.S. where I also received political asylum. While in Pakistan, I published poetry and short-stories as well.

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

Much of my scholarship focuses on different forms of violence. My Ph.D. dissertation explored the relationship between British colonialism and military rule in post- independence Pakistan (Democracy, Nationalism and Communalism: The Colonial Legacy in South Asia,1995). After I began teaching, I became interested in Muslim sexual/ textual politics, specifically, in how patriarchal interpretations of scripture are used to justify Muslim women's oppression ("Believing Women" in Islam: Unreading Patriarchal Interpretations of the Qur'an, 2002). This interest then shifted to studying the interface between Islam and the West (Islam, Muslims and the U.S., 2004; Re- understanding Islam, 2008).  In more recent years, I've written about the body, the pluralism of the Abrahamic tradition, and Islamic/ Muslim feminism. Two essays, on the Qur'an and on Islam are forthcoming in the Oxford Handbook of Theology, Sexuality, and Gender, and Patriarchal Moments, to be published as part of Bloomsbury Academic's Series, Textual Moments in the History of Political Thought, (U.K.).

To my good fortune, my work on the Qur'an has been translated into several languages (Arabic, Bengali, Indonesian, Spanish, Portuguese, French, Dutch, and Urdu) and I've also been invited to present it both in the U.S. and abroad.  I've particularly appreciated the opportunity to do so in Indonesia, Egypt, Granada (Spain), Turkey, the Netherlands, Finland, Iceland, and Russia.