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 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 entered Pakistan's Foreign Service from which I was later fired 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 some aspect of violence. For instance, my first book traces the incidence of military dictatorships in Pakistan to the legacy of British colonialism in the Indian subcontinent (Democracy, Nationalism and Communalism: The Colonial Legacy in South Asia). The next contests 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 will be published in 2018 (University of Texas Press). A post- 9/11/2001 collection of popular essays and an academic monograph focus on Western epistemic and racial violence against Islam (Islam, Muslims and the U.S., and Re-understanding Islam). While I have also written on other topics, notably, Islamic feminism, my primary interest remains the Qur'an on which I've recently published essays in the Oxford Handbook of Theology, Sexuality, and Gender and Patriarchal Moments (Bloomsbury). Two more, on secular/ feminist critiques of the Qur'an and Islamic feminism, are forthcoming in the Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion (Fall, 2016), and a volume on Muslima Theology (being compiled at University of Muenster, Germany). In addition, a new volume, co-authored with David Raeburn Finn, Confronting Qur'anic Patriarchy, is forthcoming (University of Texas Press, 2018).

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), 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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