The Construction of Knowledge About Muslim Cultures and Societies
 


The Construction of Knowledge About Muslim Cultures and Societies 

A great deal of what is accepted as knowledge about Muslim cultures and societies has not been examined for the ways in which that knowledge has been produced, disseminated and received.  This is of concern because the implications of such knowledge are profound: not only for scholarly or academic reasons, but also for the basis that such knowledge provides for public and private imagination, interactions, responses and policies in the culturally plural world that we inhabit. 

In every period of their history, however, knowledge about fundamental aspects of Muslim cultures and societies has been negotiated in numerous realms.  AKU-ISMC aims to reveal such negotiations at work.  Contemporary work in the sociology of knowledge, literary theory, historiography, education theory and other fields has sought to both de-mystify and reveal the importance of processes of knowledge construction, and to underscore the diverse effects of these processes, especially in social, religious, economic, political, and educational realms. AKU-ISMC takes up such work, aware that Muslim cultures and societies are not sui generis but rather must be seen alongside other world cultures and societies.  It does so also with the awareness of its own situatedness and thus will continuously discuss its own approaches and assumptions.

The Institute undertakes specifically to examine the ways that knowledge about Muslim cultures and societies gains authority, the nature of the assumptions and claims that underlie it, and the contexts of the production of knowledge. The Institute understands that this knowledge is instantiated in texts and practices, in traditions, and in other forms that are promoted through numerous mechanisms, including pedagogical practice, artistic and literary production, and social and legal norms. 

Construction of Knowledge: Research Questions 

Currently, the Institute’s research and teaching in this area is guided by the following questions:

How is historical knowledge about Muslim cultures and societies created, and what roles does this knowledge play within the societies themselves?  
Current AKU-ISMC research projects related to this question include:

  • “Arabic Pasts – Time and Change in a World Culture” - Sarah Bowen Savant with Konrad Hirschler (SOAS) and James McDougall (Oxford). Initiated with “Arabic Pasts” workshops, co-sponsored by AKU-ISMC and SOAS
  • “The First Muslims of Post-Conquest Iran: Tradition, Memory, and Conversion” - Sarah Bowen Savant
  • “Genealogy and Knowledge in Muslim Societies: Understanding the Past” - Sarah Bowen Savant
  • “Rethinking the Heritage of Muslims: Contemporary Scholars and the Issue of Historical Consciousness”  - Abdou Filali-Ansary
  • “Portrayals of Muslim Cultures in School Textbooks” -  Farid Panjwani
  • “Encyclopaedias about Muslim Civilisations” - Muslim Civilisations Abstracts project,  Aptin Khanbaghi

How has a concept of law been understood, produced and developed within Muslim contexts over time?​
Current AKU-ISMC research projects related to this question include: 

  • “Law as Contested Field: Religion, Custom and the State in Aceh” -  Arskal Salim
  • “Interpretations of Law and Ethics in Muslim Contexts.” - Muslim Civilisations Abstracts project,  Aptin Khanbaghi

How can education about Muslim contexts contribute to cultural and societal reform? 
Current AKU-ISMC research projects related to this question include:

  • “Processing Knowledge: the Representation of ‘Islam’ in Muslim Faith Schools in Britain” - Farid Panjwani.

Construction of Knowledge: MA Dissertations

Recent MA dissertations in the area of Construction of Knowledge include:

  • “The Perception of Medieval Egyptian Homeland and Inhabitants: a Study of the Mamluk Historians” - Mustafa Abul-Himal
  • “Appropriation of the Idea of ‘Self’ in Muslim Reformist Thought: An Analysis of the Idea of Self in Allama Muhammad Iqbal (1876-1938)” - Nazim Aman
  • “From News Agency to Newspaper:  an Investigation into the Photographic Representation of Muslims in the UK Print Media” - Nina Hirji Kheraj
  • "Revelation as Poetics: Abdolkarim Soroush and the Nonrealistic Theory of Islamic Revelation” - Yaser Mirdamadi

Related Research Activities and Projects

  • Arabic Pasts: Histories and Historiography
  • Law in Muslim Contexts
  • Law as Contested Field: Religion, Custom and the State in Aceh
  • Organising Knowledge: Encyclopaedic Activities in the Pre-Eighteenth Century Muslim World​