Asma Barlas

Asma Barlas

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

Specialty:[Research interests] Islam & Muslims, especially women's rights; Qur’anic hermeneutics; 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, for twelve years, served as 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 for having criticized the country's military ruler, General Zia ul Haq.  I then worked as the assistant editor of an opposition paper before leaving for the U.S. where I received political asylum.

Most of my research is about different forms of violence: colonial, sexual, racial, epistemic. In my Ph.D. dissertation, I traced the genealogy of military rule in Pakistan to British colonialism in South Asia (Democracy, Nationalism and Communalism: The Colonial Legacy in South Asia,1995). After I began teaching at Ithaca, I became interested in Muslim sexual/ textual politics, specifically, 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, this interest shifted to looking at epistemic and polemical violence against Islam/ Muslims in the West (Islam, Muslims and the U.S., 2004; Re- understanding Islam, 2008).  More recently, I have written about Muslim bodies, differing narratives of Abraham's sacrifice, and Islamic feminism. However, my primary interest remains the Qur'an on which I have just published two essays in the Oxford Handbook of Theology, Sexuality, and Gender and Patriarchal Moments, in Bloomsbury Academic's Series, Textual Moments in the History of Political Thought, (U.K.). Another, on "Secular and Feminist Critiques of the Qur'an: Anti-hermeneutics as liberation?" is forthcoming in Fall 2016 in the Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion. Prior to writing academically, I also published poetry and short-stories.

To my good fortune, my work on the Qur'an has been translated into a number of languages (Arabic, Bengali, Indonesian, Urdu, Spanish, Portuguese, French, Dutch and German) and I've also been invited to speak about it in several countries. I have particularly appreciated doing so in Indonesia, Granada (Spain), Russia, Turkey, the Netherlands, Egypt, 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.

School of Humanities and Sciences  ·  201 Muller Center  ·  Ithaca College  ·  Ithaca, NY 14850  ·  (607) 274-3102  ·  Full Directory Listing