Asma Barlas

Asma Barlas

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

Specialty:{Research Interests] 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 and will be retiring in 2020. In this time, I served as the founding director of the Center for the Study of Culture, Race, and Ethnicity for twelve years (1999-2002; 2006-15) and, for a semester, held the Spinoza Chair in Philosophy at the University of Amsterdam, the Netherlands (2008). However, my career path dates from my induction, in 1976, into Pakistan's Foreign Service from which I was later fired for having criticized the country's military dictator, General Zia ul Haq. I then worked as the assistant editor of the Muslim, an opposition paper, while also publishing short stories and poetry. In 1983, I left for the U.S. where I eventually received political asylum.

Much of my work-- perhaps not coincidentally--focuses on violence, especially colonial, sexual, epistemic, and secular. In graduate school, I traced the genealogy of Pakistan's militarism (and India's democracy) to the effects of British colonial rule (Democracy, Nationalism and Communalism: The Colonial Legacy in South Asia, Westview; 1995). After I began teaching about Islam, I became interested in traditional exegeses of its scripture that condone women's oppression and in the possibility of an alternative, liberatory, hermeneutics (Believing Women in Islam: Unreading Patriarchal Interpretations of the Qur'an; University of Texas Press, 2002; a revised edition will be released in January 2019, along with a monograph, Believing Women: A Brief Introduction, co-authored by David R. Finn. In the wake of 9 /11 /2001, I wrote about Western secular and religious violence against Muslims (Islam, Muslims and the U.S.; Global Media, 2004; Re-understanding Islam; Van Gorcum, 2008). In recent years, I have reverted to questioning the Qur'an's patriarchal readings, this time by secular-/ feminists who also dispute its sacrality (a new chapter in Believing Women; Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion and Philosophy and Social Criticism).

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

I have a B.A. in English Literature and Philosophy (Kinnaird College) and an M.A. (first position) in Journalism (University of the Punjab), from Pakistan, and an M.A. and Ph.D. (with distinction) in International Studies (Graduate School of International Studies, University of Denver) from the U.S.

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