Book: Identity, Politics and the Study of Islam
Chapter: 5. Jews, Jewish Studies, and the Study of Islam
In the Americas, Jews have dominated Jewish Studies, but Muslims have made
up a far smaller portion of Islamic Studies scholars. These seemingly opposite trends are deeply rooted in the histories of the fields. While Islamic Studies in America traces much of its history through Orientalism—non-Muslims studying Muslims and Islamic civilizations—the dominant narrative of Jewish Studies begins with Jews studying Judaism. Despite these different narratives, each field has confronted similar questions about scholars’ own identifications, epistemological debates about insiders and outsiders, political questions about minority identity and pluralism, and questions about the relationship between funding and scholarly research. This chapter explores the origin stories of Jewish Studies and the meanings for its’ past, and asks what these stories might suggest about Islamic Studies and its future.