Disciplinary Deconstruction and Reconstruction
Many academics, especially in the aftermath of September 11th, have had to become a public authority on Islam. This is largely due to the ongoing negative portrayal of Muslims in the media and the numerous misconceptions individuals derive from these portraits. Others have noted some of the consequences of this new call many Islamicists choose to answer but in this new volume, Theorizing Islam: Disciplinary Deconstruction and Reconstruction (Equinox, 2012), the types of scholarship scholars of Islam produce are put under the microscope. In this book, Aaron Hughes, professor in the Department of Religion and Classics at the University of Rochester, does not reflect on how Muslims understand the boundaries of their tradition but offers a study of the study of Islam. Overall, Hughes contends that scholars of Islam working in Religious Studies Departments generally reproduce apologetic portraits of Islam that do not effectively demonstrate the spectrum of Muslim perspectives. For Hughes, the result is that the complicated relationship between Islamic and Religious Studies is never resolved and Islamicist continue to remain relegated to their own quarter of the field and avoid contributing to larger ongoing discourses. The provocation introduced in Theorizing Islam is a call for a more sophisticated approach to the academic study of Islam, which accounts for critical theory and methodology. In our conversation we discuss contemporary presentations of Muhammad’s life, how research is affected when stepping into the public discourse about Islam, the rhetorical dichotomy of culture and religion, orientalism, historicity versus redaction, institutional and academic affiliation, and when the academic study of religion work best.