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 was hired in 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 joined 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 briefly as the assistant editor of an opposition newspaper, in addition to publishing poetry and short-stories, before eventually leaving for the U.S. where I received political asylum.

Much of my research is about some aspect of violence. For instance, my first book traces the genealogy of militarism in Pakistan to the effects of Britain's colonization of India (Democracy, Nationalism and Communalism). The next contests interpretations of Islam's scripture that legitimize violence against women ("Believing Women" in Islam). The second edition of this book, with two additional chapters, along with another co-authored with David Raeburn Finn, Confronting Qur'anic Patriarchy, will be published in Spring 2018 (University of Texas Press). Following the 9/11/2001 attacks against the U.S., I became interested in Western epistemic and racial violence against Islam and Muslims (Re-understanding Islam and Muslims and the U.S.). Since then, I have explored some other topics, most notably, Islamic feminism, but 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, will appear in a volume on Muslima Theology currently being compiled at the 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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