Section Information for Spring 2012Islamic Studies is a field that is both new and old. In Muslim majority societies, Islamic Studies generally referred to the interdisciplinary study of texts central to Islam as a religion, and the application of those texts to everyday life. Studies included not only those directly related to better understanding scripture and its commentaries, but also the ancillary disciplines of the Arabic language, the history and biographies of the Prophet Muhammad and the early Muslim community, and law and legal methodology. From the eighteenth century, western scholars began to exclusively identify Islam with a region of imperial interest, the Middle East and North Africa, understanding this region’s history, politics, and societies through the lens of what they perceived was distinctly “Islamic”. In other words, much about the diverse social, economic, cultural as well as political experience of the region was attributed to an essential and unchanging Islam. This course will introduce, explore and problematize these constructs, through a number of themes or topics that have emerged as central to debates within Islamic and western academic traditions, including: the interpretation of texts such as Qur’an and Hadith, the issue of authority, political and religious, the elaboration of law and legal methodology, the impact of modernization and globalization on religious authority and textual interpretation, and the evolving role of gender in Islam.
Introduces students to the central issues and debates surrounding the study of the Middle East, Islam, and Muslim societies. Covers key methodological issues including the role of area studies vis__vis disciplinary approaches and debates on the politics of knowledge production and historiography.