AAR Member Spotlight

Asma Afsaruddin

Asma Afsaruddin (she/her) is a professor of Islamic Studies in the Department of Middle Eastern Languages and Cultures at Indiana University Bloomington. She is the author or editor of eight books, including her forthcoming Jihad: What Everyone Needs to Know (Oxford University Press, 2022). She was previously the Kraemer Middle East Distinguished Scholar-in-Residence at the College of William and Mary and a visiting scholar at the Centre for Islamic Studies at the London School of Oriental and African Studies. Afsaruddin was named a Carnegie Scholar in 2005 and was inducted into the Johns Hopkins Society of Scholars in 2019. She is a past member of the AAR Board of Directors and recently rotated off the Committee for the Public Understanding of Religion.

Why did you get involved with AAR and how is your work aligned?

I became involved with AAR as a junior faculty member and have attended the annual conference regularly since then. Given my interest in Islam and Muslim interactions with people of other faith groups in Islamicate realms and beyond, AAR was a natural fit with so many relevant units to choose from.

What is your area of expertise or field of study?

My field of study is Islamic Studies broadly defined; more narrowly, Islamic political and religious thought of the pre-modern and modern periods. Since completing my doctoral studies, I have additionally become interested in gender and interfaith issues, as well as the concepts of war and peace in Islamic theology, history, and law. The latter interest has led to explorations of modern Islamic movements and their interpretations of scripture to justify their political platforms and the adoption of militancy in the case of some.

How has AAR been beneficial to you and your career?

AAR has been a wonderful venue to present my research and learn from the work of other specialists in my field and beyond. Every annual conference provides a cornucopia of panels to attend and opportunities to network with colleagues who keep me connected with the latest trends in my field. When I was a member of the board of directors, I furthermore developed a great appreciation for the dedication of my fellow members to the organization and its goals. These opportunities have helped me grow both as a scholar and academic administrator.

What book is on your nightstand that you're reading or intend to read in the future?

I am currently reading Islam in Liberalism by Joseph Massad – an intellectual tour de force that compellingly demonstrates how the relentless construction of Islam and Muslims as the “illiberal other” in the Western imaginary shapes the modern West’s self-understanding as the bastion of liberalism. Next on my list is Alan Mikhail’s God's Shadow: Sultan Selim, His Ottoman Empire, and the Making of the Modern World, a revisionist work of intellectual history, which like Massad’s book, explains how Islam as a counterfoil, especially during the Ottoman period, was essential to the creation of the modern West.

What do you enjoy doing outside of work?

I love traveling, although that has become curtailed due to the current pandemic. I also love reading biographies and watching movies – the more escapist and action-packed they are the better!

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This feature is devoted to profiling AAR members making waves in their departments, institutions, and communities—as well as AAR at large!

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