Asma Barlas

Asma Barlas

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

Specialty:(research interests): Islam/ Qur’anic hermeneutics/ Muslim women's rights; 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, for twelve years, was the director of the Center for the Study of Culture, Race, and Ethnicity. In 2008, I also held the Spinoza Chair in Philosophy at the University of Amsterdam, the Netherlands. However, my career path dates from 1976 when I joined Pakistan's Foreign Service from which I was fired on the orders of the country's military ruler, General Zia ul Haq, for having criticized him. I then worked as the assistant editor of an opposition paper before leaving for the U.S. where I was later given political asylum.

My research interests are varied but they all touch on some aspect of violence--political, sexual, racial, epistemic. In my first book, I traced the genealogy of military dictatorships in Pakistan to British colonial rule in India (Democracy, Nationalism and Communalism: The Colonial Legacy in South Asia,1995). After I began teaching, I became interested in interpretations of Islam's scripture that justify women's oppression ("Believing Women" in Islam: Unreading Patriarchal Interpretations of the Qur'an, 2002). In the wake of 9/11/2001, I focused on the history of Western representational violence against Islam (Islam, Muslims and the U.S., 2004; Re- understanding Islam, 2008). Since then, I've written about other topics, including Islamic feminism, but my primary interest remains the Qur'an on which my most recent essays were published in the Oxford Handbook of Theology, Sexuality, and Gender and Patriarchal Moments (Bloomsbury Academic). Another, "Secular and Feminist Critiques of the Qur'an: Anti- hermeneutics as liberation?" is forthcoming in the Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion. Prior to writing academically, I published poetry and short-stories as well.

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), Russia, Turkey, the Netherlands, and Iceland.

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

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