INAF-488 The Western Idea of Islam: From the Crusades to the War on Terrorism
Spring for 2009-2010
For almost ten centuries, the West has been held hostage to a grand, totalizing narrative that shapes what can – and, more importantly, what cannot – be said and thought about Islam and the Muslims. This same narrative, which reflects what I call the anti-Islam discourse, exercises a profound and corrosive effects on a range of issues across the contemporary social sciences, including sociology, politics, the history of ideas, law, theology, international relations, human rights, and security studies.
The Western Idea of Islam: From the First Crusade to the War on Terrorism will first introduce students to the formative years of this historical narrative through a careful reading of primary texts in English translation. The class will then follow the evolution of Western thinking about Islam across different historical eras and social topics. These include: the Western adoption of medieval Islamic science and philosophy; the rejection of Muslim influence in the Renaissance; Enlightenment attitudes toward the Islam; the colonial experience as reflected in Napolen’s expedition to Egypt and, later, in the Indian rebellion against the British; and the notion of an inevitable ‘clash of civilizations.’ Students will also learn to apply some critical theory to the Western historiography of Islam and to Western writings on religious and ethnic communities in general.
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