Headshot, 2021

Asma Barlas

Professor Emerita, Politics
School: School of Humanities and Sciences
Specialty: Research Interests: Islam; Qur’anic hermeneutics; Muslim sexual politics; Colonialism and Decoloniality.
file-outline C.V. - barlas.cv24_2.pdf (132.92 KB)

I joined the Politics department in 1991 and retired from it in 2020. For half this time, I served as the (founding) director of the Center for the Study of Culture, Race, and Ethnicity and, for a semester, held the Spinoza Chair in Philosophy at the University of Amsterdam, the Netherlands. However, my career path began in 1976 when I was inducted into Pakistan's Foreign Service but from which I was later fired at the behest of the military dictator, General Zia ul Haq, for having (privately) criticized him. I then worked as an assistant editor of The Muslim, an opposition paper, until 1983, when I left for graduate school in the U.S. where I was subsequently granted political asylum.

University of the Punjab, Lahore, Pakistan

University of the Punjab, Lahore, Pakistan.

Much of my academic work is about configurations of power and violence, in particular, colonial, sexual/ textual, and epistemic. My first book traces the trajectory of post-independence politics in Pakistan and India to British colonialism, while the next counters patriarchal readings of Islam’s scripture with a hermeneutics that draws on Qur'anic conceptions of a God beyond sex/gender and the absence of gender in the text. Many post 9/ 11/ 2001 writings detail the West's millennium-long history of recycling pejorative representations of Islam and Muslims whereas the more recent critique secular/ feminist scholarship that disputes the Qur'an's sacrality in the name of women's rights and feminist justice. Currently, I'm exploring the concept of an ungendered Islamic theology and reading some allusions to men's and women's roles in the Qur'an as time/ culture-bound as a way to recuperate its more universalistic "ethics of responsiblization" (to rephrase Jacques Derrida) and mutual guardianship between women and men.

Believing Women in Islam: Unreading Patriarchal Interpretations of the Qur'an (University of Texas Press, 2002), has been translated into Bahasa Indonesia (2005), while derivative essays have appeared in Arabic, Bengali, Spanish, Dutch, German, French and Portuguese. A revised second edition was published in 2019 (in the U.K., by Saqi), along with a brief introduction, co-authored with David R. Finn.

Kinnaird College for Women, Lahore.

Kinnaird College for Women, Lahore, Pakistan.

My non-academic publications include poetry, short-stories, a weekly column for the Muslim and The Daily Times and op-eds for Al-Jazeera, The Guardian, Open Democracy, and New Statesman.

I have a Ph.D. (with distinction) in International Studies from the Graduate School of International Studies (now the Josef Korbel School), University of Denver, U.S., an M.A. (first position) in Journalism from the University of the Punjab, Pakistan, and a B.A. in English Literature and Philosophy from Kinnaird College for Women, Pakistan.