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. My career path, however, dates from 1976 when I entered the Foreign Service of Pakistan from which I was fired after six years on the orders of the country's military ruler, General Zia ul Haq. 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 was given political asylum.

Much of my research is about some aspect of violence. My first book traced the genealogy of military dictatorships in Pakistan to British colonialism (Democracy, Nationalism and Communalism: The Colonial Legacy in South Asia). After I began teaching, I became interested in readings of Islam's scripture that sanction discrimination or violence against women ("Believing Women" in Islam: Unreading Patriarchal Interpretations of the Qur'an). In the wake of 9/11/2001, I explored Western epistemic and racial violence against Islam (Islam, Muslims and the U.S., and Re- understanding Islam). Since then, I've written about Islamic feminism and other topics, but my primary interest remains the Qur'an on which I recently published essays in the Oxford Handbook of Theology, Sexuality, and Gender and Patriarchal Moments (Bloomsbury). Two others, on secular/ feminist critiques of Islamic feminism and the Qur'an, are forthcoming in the Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion (Fall, 2016), and a volume on Muslima Theology being compiled at the University of Muenster, Germany.

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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