We at the Duke Islamic Studies Center are pleased to announce that the work of the Carnegie Corporation of New York-supported Transcultural Islam Project (ISLAMiCommentary and TIRN) has been highlighted in a new report by the Social Science Research Council — “Religion, Media and the Digital Turn.” The report surveyed 160 digital projects and documents the effects that digital modes of research and publication have on the study of religion.

“While our primary goal is to chronicle emerging forms of intellectual production shaping the study of religion, we hope that a greater awareness of this new work will generate more recognition of the high quality and innovative work that already exists,” report authors Chris Cantwell (University of Missouri) and Hussein Rashid (New York University) write, explaining that “the most innovative digital projects are often those that creatively combine a number of these models or genres.”

ISLAMiCommentary was mentioned at the top of several subsections, for this reason, and a lengthy case study of ISLAMiCommentary and TIRN has been included in the report (in Appendix 1) because, as the report authors told us, they find the project “exemplary.” Other projects highlighted with lengthy case studies (in Appendix 1) include the Center for the Study of Material and Visual Cultures of Religion (MAVCOR) at Yale, the Jesuit Libraries Provenance Project at the University of Loyola; and Mapping Ararat — a project of York University, the University of Toronto and Emerson College.

Appendix 2 lists the 160 projects surveyed.

The report can be downloaded HERE.


Marcia Inhorn
Marcia Inhorn

41UvoUJhaJL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_Winner of the 2015 Robert B. Textor and Family Prize for Excellence in Anticipatory Anthropology, and the American Anthropological Association Winner of the 2014 JMEWS Book Award, The New Arab Man: Emergent Masculinities, Technologies, and Islam in the Middle East (Princeton University Press, 2015) by Marcia C. Inhorn challenges the Western stereotypical image of the Arab man as terrorist, religious zealot, and brutal oppressor of women.

Through stories of ordinary Middle Eastern men as they struggle to overcome infertility and childlessness through assisted reproduction, Inhorn draws on two decades of ethnographic research across the Middle East with hundreds of men from a variety of social and religious backgrounds to show how the new Arab man is self-consciously rethinking the patriarchal masculinity of his forefathers and unseating received wisdoms. This is especially true in childless Middle Eastern marriages where, contrary to popular belief, infertility is more common among men than women. Inhorn captures the marital, moral, and material commitments of couples undergoing assisted reproduction, revealing how new technologies are transforming their lives and religious sensibilities. Continue reading

One scholar’s response to Reza Aslan and Hasan Minhaj’s “Open Letter to American Muslims on Same Sex Marriage” 

by ALI A. OLOMI for ISLAMiCommentary on JULY 17, 2015:

"Aqa Mirak" - 16th Safavid watercolor by Aqa Mirak depicting two young princes and lovers. (currently located in the Smithsonian)
“Aqa Mirak” - 16th Safavid watercolor by Aqa Mirak depicting two young princes and lovers. (currently located in the Smithsonian)

Since the legalization of same-sex marriage by the U.S. Supreme Court on June 26th 2015, various religious groups have responded to the ruling. Muslim Americans, who themselves are a minority group in the United States, have struggled to find consensus.

Some have openly condemned the ruling. Others have urged a more hesitant acceptance of the court’s decision. Cognizant of the precarious position of minorities in the United States, Imam Suhaib Webb posted an online message where he encouraged a nuanced perspective that respected the ruling and supported it politically, while acknowledging the theological and ethical dilemmas for conservative Muslims. A group of Afghan American thinkers and activists on The Samovar Network took a more accepting stance when they held an online panel (via a Google hangout) and showed support for the ruling and the LGBTQ community as a whole.

Author, Reza Aslan and comedian, Hasan Minhaj wrote an open letter, published in Religion Dispatches, to Muslim Americans encouraging acceptance and tolerance, reminding Muslims that they too are a minority in the United States and should stand for the rights of their fellow minorities.

People were surprised by the letter and some have attributed the position of the authors to Western influence. Popular representations in America and Europe, tend to depict Muslims as staunchly against same-sex marriage. But I would point out that positions like Reza’s and others like him actually highlight a forgotten part of Islamic history. Continue reading

by ALI ALTAF MIAN for ISLAMiCommentary and TIRN on NOVEMBER 6, 2014:

Ali Mian
Ali Mian

Is Sigmund Freud a stranger to the robust intellectual scenes of the modern Middle East? Is there mutual ignorance between Islam and psychoanalysis? Do only secular Arab thinkers invoke Western discourses of suspicion, such as psychoanalysis?

In a forthcoming monograph, provisionally titled The Arabic Freud, UC-Davis historian Omnia El Shakry casts much-needed light on modern intellectual collaborations and interconnected webs of knowledge production between Egypt and Europe, especially with reference to psychoanalysis. She investigates the travels of psychoanalysis in post-WWII Egypt, primarily through an exploration of social scientific, religious, and legal writings about self and subjectivity. This important work will illuminate how Arab scholars in the 1940s and 1950s understood the emerging disciplinary space of psychology as a science of selfhood and the soul. The disciplines of psychology and psychoanalysis in this context were therefore not reduced to empirical studies of mental processes. In fact, mental health professionals and psychologists, but also Islamic thinkers and legal practitioners, creatively blended European discourses of self and psyche with local Islamicate knowledge traditions.

Omnia El Shakry
Omnia El Shakry

In a recent talk at Duke University, El Shakry discussed the emergence of the psychosexual subject in postwar Egyptian discourses, as evident in the Journal of Psychology (Majallat ‘ilm al-nafs). This journal was founded in 1945 by the Egyptian psychology professor Yusuf Murad and psychoanalyst Mustafa Ziywar. The postwar period witnessed an innovative discussion about human sexuality, shifting from the fin-de-siècle focus on biomedicine and psychiatric nosology to psychology, psychoanalysis, and Islamic mystical and ethical traditions. These intellectual overlaps between Europe and Egypt refute the claim that psychoanalysis and Islam are incompatible.

El Shakry also argued that in contradistinction to the crisis of masculinity in Egypt between WWI and WWII (as discussed by Middle Eastern studies specialists such as Hanan Kholoussy, Wilson Jacob, and Liat Kozma), postwar discourses increasingly started to analyze the female body and psyche. In this way, contributors to the Journal of Psychology asked fresh questions, extending the limits of the thinkable in Egyptian academic circles.

Gender and sexual formation were taken to be compelling questions, addressed by various authors who contributed to the Journal of Psychology. On the pages of this journal, Egyptian readership encountered theories that explained how heterosexual masculinity and femininity were nearly impossible norms of psychosexual development. At places, readers were even introduced to the desirability of homosocial romantic attachments as the quintessential model for ideal heterosexuality. Continue reading


Amanullah De Sondy
Amanullah De Sondy

[Cross-posted from New Books in Religion] What gets to count as Islam? In the current political climate this question is being repeated in a variety of contexts. The tapestry of various Islamic identities is revealed in an investigation of gender. In The Crisis of Islamic Masculinities (Bloomsbury, 2014), Amanullah De Sondy, Assistant Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Miami, tackles the construction of Muslim manhood in several interpretive traditions. These forms of masculinity – both ideal & reviled – are taken across a wide spectrum of thought, from Islamist perspectives to those challenging patriarchy. Many of the discussions revolve around similar themes, most importantly family, marriage, sexuality, and veiling. Other constructions of masculinity challenge heteronormativity within Muslim identities. The Qur’an is central to many of the interpretations discussed in the book but De Sondy demonstrates that here too we are not presented with a singular and clear ideal of masculinity. Qur’anic descriptions of male prophets, including Adam, Joseph, Muhammad, and Jesus, each complicate a simple narrative of Muslim manhood. In our conversation we discuss hermeneutical strategies, feminists approaches to the Qur’an, notions of love and sexual boundaries, the Mughal poet Mirza Ghalib, gender fluidity, Sufism in South Asia, prophethood, and same-sex love.


In September 2014 the Duke Islamic Studies Center (which manages the Transcultural Islam Project of which TIRN is a part), announced its official institutional affiliation with New Books in Islamic Studies — a bi-weekly audio podcast featuring hour long conversations with authors of exciting new research. For an archive see HERE