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
E-mail:abarlas@ithaca.edu
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 was recruited into Pakistan's Foreign Service and from which I was later fired on the orders of the country's military dictator, General Zia ul Haq. (I had criticized him, as well as the judiciary, for the hanging of prime minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto.) I then worked briefly as the assistant editor of an opposition newspaper, the Muslim, while also publishing poetry and short-stories, before leaving for the U.S. where I eventually received political asylum.

Much of my research touches on aspects of violence that have impacted my own life in one way or another. Thus, my first book traces the genealogy of Pakistan's militarism (and India's democracy) to British colonialism in the Indian sub-continent (Democracy, Nationalism and Communalism: The Colonial Legacy in South Asia). The next contests patriarchal readings of Islam's scripture, the Qur'an, that justify violence against women, while also proposing a liberatory Qur'anic hermeneutics ("Believing Women" in Islam: Unreading Patriarchal Interpretations of the Qur'an). A second edition is due out in Fall 2018, along with a popular version co-authored with David Raeburn Finn (University of Texas Press). Following 9/11/2001, I spent some years exploring Western racial and epistemic violence against Islam and Muslims (Islam, Muslims and the U.S. and Re-understanding Islam). More recently, I have begun to focus on secular-/feminist approaches to the Qur'an that dispute its status as divine speech (Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion; Philosophy and Social Criticism, and a new chapter in the second edition of Believing Women).

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. (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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