Asma Barlas

Asma Barlas

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

Specialty:Areas of research and interest: Islam; Qur’anic hermeneutics; Muslim sexual politics; Colonialism and Decolonial thought.
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 my recruitment, in 1976, into 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 had criticized him, as well as the judiciary, after the hanging of prime minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto.) I then worked briefly as the assistant editor of an opposition newspaper, the Muslim, in addition to publishing poetry and short-stories, before leaving for the U.S. where I eventually received political asylum.

Most of my research touches on aspects of violence which have, in some way, impacted my own life. My first book, for instance, traces the genealogies of Pakistan's militarism and India's democracy to Britain's colonization of the Indian subcontinent (Democracy, Nationalism and Communalism: The Colonial Legacy in South Asia). The next contests patriarchal readings of Islam's scripture, the Qur'an, while also proposing a liberatory hermeneutics ("Believing Women" in Islam: Unreading Patriarchal Interpretations of the Qur'an). A revised edition of this book will be released in Spring 2018, along with a version for general readers co-authored with Canadian philosopher David Raeburn Finn, Confronting Qur'anic Patriarchy (University of Texas Press). Following 9/11/2001, some of my work explored Western violence against Islam and Muslims (Islam, Muslims and the U.S. and Re- understanding Islam). In more recent years, I have written about ongoing efforts, many by secular feminists, to question the Qur'an's centrality to Islamic belief and practice (Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion; Philosophy and Social Criticism, a new chapter in "Believing Women," and an edited volume on Muslima Theology currently under review).

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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