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Aaron Rock-Singer

  • Near Eastern Studies
Position: Graduate Student
Title: 5th-year graduate student
Office: Jones Hall

I'm a social and intellectual historian of Islam in 20th century Egypt. I did my B.A at the University of Pennsylvania and my M.Phil at St. Antony’s College, Oxford.  At Princeton, my dissertation  examines four Islamic magazines representing a range of Islamic institutions and political positions between 1976 and 1981. Collectively, these periodicals represented a key site for the formation of what we now call “Islamic Revival” in Egypt.
My dissertation draws on both articles and popular correspondence (both letters to the editor and fatwa requests) within these magazines to chart elite/non-elite interaction over key issues of the Islamic Revival and as a lens through which to understand broader negotiations of religious authority. In this context, I pay particular attention to two related sets of questions. First, how should we understand Islamic magazines as a site for the negotiation of textual authority? How do scholarly and lay elites alike seek to reproduce their claims to authority and how do readers challenge these claims and articulate independent positions? Second, what are the  tensions produced by the programmatic visions of leading scholars and laymen and how do readers-turned-participants challenge the implementation of these visions by demonstrating the practical obstacles which they entail?  My research thus explores not merely the formation of these projects  –such as changing notions of women’s veiling practices, daily prayer or the formation of alternative religious educational institutions– but also  the ways in which the stringency of these projects produces contradictions which must then be resolved, either through active solutions or willful ignorance.  It is only by historicizing both the dynamics of these popular texts and the projects contained therein that contemporary religious developments (and their complications) become comprehensible.