Islamic Modernity in Global Perspective: A Civilization in Crisis

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Spring 2018
Credits per quarter

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Taught by

comparative religion

This challenging program is an exploration of the time period known in western discourse as modernity.  Modernity is understood primarily as a temporal category – one that is alternatively understood to begin with the Enlightenment or the Industrial Revolution – but it is also a category that connotes a set of qualities and affects –secularization, citizenship, gender and sexuality equality, and above all, progress. What happens when we look at modernity from a non-western (which is to say, non-militarily and economically dominant) perspective? What happens to taken- -for-granted processes of secularization, citizenship, gender and sexuality equality, and progress?

This program will investigate this theme through the specific example of the fall of the Ottoman Empire (r. c. 1299-1922), and with it, the intensified encroachment of European colonialism in the Middle East and North Africa. In response to this seismic shift in eastern modernity, we will focus on the al-Nahda (Arab renaissance) movement that centered in Egypt but also included many voices from the Levant (especially greater Syria) and Iraq. The Nahda movement attempted to reconcile Arab/Islamic civilizational with the western through deep engagement with comparative philosophy, religion, ethics and linguistics. Whether the Muslim Brotherhood and the rise of political Islam can be considered part of the Nahda movement is a scholarly debate. We will consider this as well. In the end students will take a deep look at what it means for a culture to confront a deep civilizational paradigm shift. Specific areas of focus will, in part, be determined by student interests and research.

This is for students ready for rigorous work in history, comparative religion, and/or philosophy. Readings and writings will be plenty and deadlines will be strict.  Students with previous work in religious studies, such as God(s): An Inquiry or the equivalent, will have a solid basis for asking questions of this material from the study of religion.  This program will deepen their study of religion in modernity. This program will include an introductory, non-intensive Arabic language component.

Fields of study: 

This offering will prepare you for careers and advanced study in: philosophy and religious studies.

Online learning:
  • No Required Online Learning - No access to web tools required. Any web tools provided are optional.

Previous coursework in religious studies recommended.

Scheduled for: Day

Located in: Olympia

Final schedule and room assignment:

2018-03-14This program is now open to students of all levels.
2018-03-12Subtitle added: A Civilization in Crisis