About Princeton Islamic Studies Colloquium

Spring 2014 Events


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Upcoming Event: Thursday, May 8

"Methodological Considerations in the Study of Contemporary Islamist Thought"

Presenter: Usaama al-Azami (NES)


The attached chapter will probably be the first chapter of my dissertation on contemporary Islamist thought. The broader dissertation is concerned with understanding how prominent Islamist intellectuals reflect on Western values like secularism, democracy, and liberty; and how they selectively acquire and/or reject aspects of these concepts into their own Islamic conceptions of such ideas. As a preface to this project, this chapter considers certain theoretical and methodological questions that pertain to the study of contemporary Islamist thought. Drawing mainly from the reflections of Western intellectual historians and philosophers, I argue that a proper description of Islamist thought and motivations must be one that can be recognizable to Islamists themselves. Two specific methodological proposals that are presented here include: 1. Approaching the subject of one’s study through the interpretive lens known as the “Principle of Charity;” and 2. Presupposing minimalist conception of “truth” and “rationality” in assessing the ideas and arguments of Islamists. This would entail self-consciously suspending value judgments regarding these ideas, including subtle value judgments; and instead focusing on “seeing things their way.” A second essay, related to the first, is attached as an appendix. This essay goes further to reconsider the normative-descriptive divide in Islamic studies, and suggests that it rests upon a conception of objectivity that has been called into question in recent decades. Such a conception, as is argued in the first essay, often presents subtly normative arguments as descriptive scholarship. The appended essay suggests that in the absence of incontestable forms of “objectivity,” overt normative perspectives could be accepted into the field, and that this could potentially even enrich the scholarly conversation. An example of this in action could be seen in the work of Andrew March.


Discussant: Michael Dann (REL)

102 Jones Hall
12pm-1:20pm. A light lunch will be served.

RSVP to PISC@princeton.edu to receive a copy of the paper.

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About the PISC

The Princeton Islamic Studies Colloquium is a forum for discussion and peer review of graduate students' research projects and guest scholars' works-in-progress in the field of Islamic Studies. The Islamic Studies Colloquium formed in the spring of 2009 with the hope of encouraging an interdepartmental discussion and circulation of ideas among graduate students and professors with an interest in Islamic Studies.

The colloquium meets once or twice a month over lunch to discuss a pre-circulated paper, and all attendees are expected to have read and reflected on the paper beforehand. A discussant initiates the conversation with a summary of the work in progress' main argument, taking care to identify what the piece contributes to current scholarship as well as the potential for further development. Following the author's response, a moderator conducts an hour of mediated discussion. The forum is led and organized by graduate students.

PISC is supported by the generosity of Princeton University's Department of Religion, the Department of Near Eastern Studies and the Center for the Study of Religion.

Please contact pisc@princeton.edu for more information.

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Spring Schedule 2014

All meetings will take place in Jones 102 at 12pm unless otherwise noted:

Thursday, February 20 (Rescheduled due to weather)
Presenter: Simon Fuchs (NES)
Title: "Importing the Revolution: Pakistani Readings of the Islamic Republic of Iran"

Thursday, February 27
Presenter: Jacob Olidort (NES)
Title: "The Politics of the Publishing Industry: Albani and al-Maktab al-Islami"

Wednesday, March 12
Presenter: James Pickett (HIS)
Title: "Opportunity from Upheaval: Lineages, Patronage, and the Alliance of Convenience between Islamic Scholars and Turkic Nobility"

Thursday, March 27
Presenter: Nathan Hodson (NES)
Title: "Business-State Relations Under Ibn Sa'ud: A Study in Political Consolidation in Early Saudi Arabia (1925-1953)"

Thursday, April 24
Presenter: Daniel Sheffield (NES/ Society of Fellows)
Title: "Colonizing the Persianate: Gender, Patronage, and Empire in the Georgenāma of Mullā Fīrūz"

Thursday, May 1
Presenter: Kevan Harris (NES)
Title: "Creating a Martyrs Welfare State: 1979, War, and the Survival of the Islamic Republic"

Thursday, May 8
Presenter: Usaama al-Azami (NES)
Title: "Methodological Considerations in the Study of Contemporary Islamist Thought"

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Last updated: May 2014.