for autonomous sociology

Training Scholars to Study Non-Scholarly Life

Edward Said’s Orientalism pointed out the folly of assuming ‘that the swarming, unpredictable, and problematic mess in which human beings live can be understood on the basis of what books—texts—say,’ but the field of Islamic Studies doesn’t seem to have paid much attention. Job descriptions emphasise knowledge of canonical texts, and published work, such as Shahab Ahmed’s What Is Islam? (2016), is often written as if you could understand, say, Sufism just by reading classical Sufi philosophy, without taking a close look at what Sufis actually do. Read more →

Sociology and the History of Islam

Here’s a video of a 40-minute introductory talk I gave on the Qur’an and the early history of Islam, on 30 January 2013 at the National University of Singapore. The talk was part of a lecture series called ‘Introduction to the Study of the Contemporary Middle East’, organised by the university’s Middle East Institute, where I was then a post-doc.  I didn’t try to do anything more than summarise the current state of scholarship on the topic, including the main areas of disagreement among specialists. Read more →