ITHACA, NYâ€”Longtime faculty member and administrator Asma Barlas has been named director of Ithaca Collegeâ€™s Center for the Study of Culture, Race, and Ethnicity (CSCRE). She served as the founding director of the CSCRE from 1999 to 2002 and returned to the position for a three-year appointment in 2006.
A member of the faculty since 1991, Barlas is a professor in the Department of Politics in the School of Humanities and Sciences. She has focused her research on Islam and on how Muslims interpret and live it in accord with the Qurâ€™an, particularly with regard to women.
The CSCRE is a campus-wide interdisciplinary unit within the Division of Interdisciplinary and International Studies (DIIS). It offers courses that engage with the experiences of ALANA people (African-Americans, Latino/a-Americans, Asian-Americans, and Native-Americans), who are generally marginalized, under-represented or misrepresented in the U.S. as well as in the curriculum. The center hosts an annual year-long discussion series to promote meaningful dialogue on themes that may not be well covered in the college-wide curriculum.
â€œDr. Barlas is noted for her intellectual accomplishments, advocacy on behalf of ALANA people and commitment to considering the connections between the domestic and the international,â€ said Tanya Saunders, dean of the DIIS. â€œWe are delighted that she will continue to lead the center, contribute to the collegeâ€™s plan for diversity, support student and faculty engagement with life in a dynamic multiracial and polycultural world, and strengthen the understanding of how race and ethnicity shape an individualâ€™s identity and life chances.â€
Barlas has authored the books â€œIslam, Muslims, and the U.S.: Essays on Religion and Politics,â€ â€œâ€˜Believing Womenâ€™ in Islam: Unreading Patriarchal Interpretations of the Qurâ€™anâ€ and â€œDemocracy, Nationalism and Communalism: The Colonial Legacy in South Asia.â€ In the spring of 2008 she held the prestigious Spinoza Chair at the University of Amsterdam in the Netherlands, where she delivered public lectures, discussed her work in progress with faculty, taught a course for graduate students on Islam and pursued her own research.
A Muslim and a native of Pakistan, Barlas was one of the first women to join the Foreign Service and later became assistant editor of a leading opposition newspaper. In the mid-1980s she came to the United States, where she eventually received political asylum. She holds a Ph.D. in international studies from the University of Denver, an M.A. in journalism from the University of the Punjab, Pakistan and a B.A. in English literature and philosophy from Kinnaird College for Women, Pakistan.