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.CV_.23_0.pdf (134.55 KB)

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

University of the Punjab, Lahore, Pakistan

University of the Punjab, Lahore, Pakistan.

My scholarship focuses largely on different configurations of power and violence, such as colonial, sexual/ textual, and epistemic. My first book, traces the effects of British colonialism on Pakistan's militaristic politics, while the next counters patriarchal readings of Islam’s scripture with a liberatory hermeneutics that draws on its accounts of a God who is beyond sex/ gender as well as its own indifference to gender. Many post 9/ 11/ 2001 writings explore the West's pejorative images of Islam, while more recent ones critique secular/ feminist Muslim scholarship that disputes the Qur'an's sacrality in the name of women's rights and feminist justice.

Presently, I'm exploring the concept of an ungendered Islamic theology as well as how reading specific allusions to men's and women's roles in the Qur'an as being time- and culture-bound can help to recuperate its "ethics of responsiblization" (to rephrase Jacques Derrida), and notion of 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 work includes poetry, short-stories, and a weekly column for the Muslim, and, later, The Daily Times, as well as op-eds for Al-Jazeera, The Guardian, Open Democracy, and New Statesman.

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