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Identity, Politics and the Study of Islam

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Based partly on a series of posts coming out of the Bulletin for the Study of Religion blog, this volume includes greatly expanded essays by Ruth Mas, Sarah Imhoff and James Crossley as well as new pieces by Devin Stewart, Carlos Segovia, Alexandre Caeiro and Emmanuelle Stefanidis, Russell McCutcheon and Salman Sayyid. This volume, thus, brings together a variety of scholars both inside and outside of Islamic Studies in order to grapple with such questions as: what, if anything, is unique about Islamic Studies? How should Islamic studies as religious studies engage with postcolonial critique? What is the role of identity politics in such endeavors? What are the lines between descriptive (hermeneutic) work and theoretical explanations of Islamic texts? What can scholars in related areas, such as the study of Judaism and early Christianity, offer to this conversation by way of analogy? Can ethical, political, or theological concerns function critically to help theorize Islam?

The volume is divided into four sections: Theory and Identity Politics in the Study of Islam, which looks at the role of identity, knowledge production, and political commitments among scholars of Islam; Critique and Identity in Qur'anic Studies, which deals with challenges in applying critical-historical methods to the study of the Qur’an and how these methods relate to some of the issues raised Omid Safi and Aaron Hughes; Comparative Views from Outside Islamic Studies, which provides a comparative view of how scholars have dealt with similar concerns in the study of Judaism and Christianity; and A Critical Appraisal, which offers a direct challenge to Safi and Hughes.

Published: Sep 3, 2018


Section Chapter Authors
Identity, Apologetics, and the Shapes of Critique in the Study of Islam Matt Sheedy
Part I: Theory and Identity Politics in the Study of Islam
1. The Modesty of Theory Ruth Mas
2. I Want My Discipline Back Salman Sayyid
Part II: Critique and Identity in Qur'an Studies
3. Religion, History, Ethics: Rethinking the Crisis of Western Qur’anic Studies Alexandre Caeiro, Emmanuelle Stefanidis
4. Identity Politics and the Study of Islamic Origins: The Inscriptions of the Dome of the Rock as a Test Case Carlos Segovia
Part III: Comparative Views from Outside Islamic Studies
5. Jews, Jewish Studies, and the Study of Islam Sarah Imhoff
6. The Quest for the Historical: Can Biblical Studies Lead Qur’anic Studies away from Theology? James Crossley
Part IV: A Critical Appraisal
7. A Modest Proposal for Islamic Studies Devin Stewart
The Meaning and End of Scholarship on Religion Russell McCutcheon
End Matter
Index Matt Sheedy


The volume by Sheedy is an important, intriguing and welcome analysis of what is at stake in the Western study of Islam. I only hope that such approaches will be echoed and analyzed (and not marginalized) in other Muslim societies where the study of Islam still largely takes place in a vacuum.
Reading Religion

I recommend the book for all students and researchers on Islam, as it is an excellent work on how relations of power, knowledge, the self, the academy and the study of Islam are entangled.
Islam and Christian-Muslim Relations

Many readers may find a path forward in situating themselves in the field by appreciating that boundaries are based on human choices, not essential truths. For all the binaries offered in the provocations that led up to this volume, readers will find nuanced approaches that introduce practical strategies for how they might approach their own work in Islamic studies. This book would be useful to graduate students (especially in North America) and early career scholars seeking a balanced introduction to questions of identity and politics in Islamic studies.
Religious Studies Review