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Professor Andrea Stanton's Work Sheds Light on Islam, Past and Present

Professor’s Work Sheds Light on Islam, Past and Present
by Janette Ballard

Andrea StantonWhile most Americans catch news updates of crisis in the Middle East sporadically, Andrea Stanton has her finger on the pulse of the region. The assistant professor of Islamic studies regularly has a browser page opened to Al Jazeera's live stream. Her interest in the region runs from its history to media and religious identity.

Stanton has a PhD in Middle Eastern History from Columbia University. While pursuing her degree, she spent summers in Damascus studying Arabic and growing fond of the people and the country.

“The refugee crisis today is almost impossible for anyone who knows Syria and Syrians to believe. Syria reminded me a lot of my childhood – different religion and culture, yes, but the same focus on family, family values, a kind of general but non-extreme conservatism and a general contentment with life,” said Stanton, who grew up in Iowa. “Today, these same people struggle to survive as refugees and see their future slipping away day by day.”

“I don’t see any hope for displaced and refugee Syrians in the short term, but having spent so much time in the country and having met so many strong, bright, committed Syrians, I believe that this country will have a brighter future than we see today,” she said.

Stanton is often sought after to provide expert commentary on the Syrian crisis and other contemporary Middle Eastern issues. She has been interviewed recently on the evolving role of women in Islamist militant groups, including this piece by CNN in January.

Early in her teaching career at Sarah Lawrence College and the American University of Beirut, Stanton realized that her interests and research involved questions of religious identity and practice, and how those had evolved over time.

“History for me is a crucial lens through which to examine contemporary questions, like what role people in Muslim-majority countries think Islam or religion in general should play in public life,” Stanton said. “I believe that bringing history into Islamic studies helps us be able to better address assumptions that people today, Muslim and non-Muslim, have about Islam.”

Stanton believes that the current controversy over hostile depictions of Muhammad by Charlie Hebdo misses the point in saying that Islam forbids images of Muhammad.

“Sunni Muslims today by and large feel that Muhammad should not be depicted visually, but Shii Muslims have many artistic depictions of Muhammad and his family,” she said. “The Qur’an says nothing about visual art or a prohibition on visual depictions of Muhammad. Saying that ‘Islam forbids images of Muhammad’ plays into stereotypes about Islam as an irrational or inherently extremist religion. History helps us go beyond the stereotype, and understand the complexity of the Muslim world today.”

Stanton joined the DU religious studies department in 2010 to teach Islamic studies. Her research interests include media and politics. Her first book, This is Jerusalem Calling: State Radio in Mandate Palestine, was published in 2013.

This winter quarter, Stanton is on mini-sabbatical working on a project about the hajj, the annual Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca. She currently is in Beirut conducting research on this project.

“I’m looking at the impact that broadcast media—radio, television, film and internet—have had since the mid-1900s on Muslims’ experience of the hajj, and how that is intersecting with the advances in transportation and the growth of the Muslim population worldwide. Together, this puts tremendous pressures on the number of pilgrims who can go on hajj each year,” she said.

Stanton enjoys sharing her expertise with the community and offers an opportunity for area educators, at the K-12 as well as college level, to develop knowledge of Islam, past and present, in an annual, one-day workshop. Participants learn practical techniques for teaching about Islam, as well as prepare for consulting or non-profit work with Muslim communities in the United States and abroad.

Last year, she and a colleague from George Mason University were awarded a National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) grant to host a three-week summer institute at the University of Denver for middle and high school teachers entitled “Teaching Connected Histories of the Mediterranean.” The institute, to be held July 2015, will offer teachers the chance to refresh their knowledge and consider new ways to teach about the Mediterranean, past and present, including art history, religion, commerce and society, as well as political histories.

“I’m personally grateful to have been awarded such a big grant, but also delighted because to me the NEH summer institutes fit so well with DU’s mission, to be a great private university dedicated to the public good,” said Stanton. “Educating the next generation is 100% about contributing to the public good, and I’m honored to be hosting the first NEH summer institute held at our university.”

Check out Professor Stanton's short interview "Western Women Lured by Radical Terrorist Networks" here.

*Article featured in DU Expressions e-Newsletter

Anthea Butler's 2015 James A. Kirk lecture

If you missed the 2015 James A. Kirk Lecture back in February with Anthea Butler, you can watch her lecture "Ignorance is Not Bliss: Understanding Religion in the 21st Century" here.

Professor Carl Raschke's Force of God: Political Theology and the Crisis of Liberal Democracy

“Drawing on the thought of Hegel and Nietzsche as well as recent work by Michel Foucault, Jacques Derrida, Jean-Joseph Goux, Giorgio Agamben, and Alain Badiou, among others, Raschke recasts political theology for a new generation. He proposes a bold, uncompromising critical theory that acknowledges the enduring significance of Marx without his materialism and builds a vital, more spiritually grounded relationship between politics and the religious imaginary.”

Professor Carl Raschke's new book Force of God:  Political Theology and the Crisis of Liberal Democracy is now available in the "Insurrections" series from Columbia University Press.  The book is a major theoretical piece that confronts both the cultural decline of the West and the growing global economic crisis we are facing today.

Click here to read more about his new book.

Click here to order your own copy today!

 Force of God

Professor benjamin nourse awarded Prestigious Three-year Mellon-Funded fellowship 

RLGS has the pleasure to announce that our post-doctoral teaching fellow, Benjamin Nourse, has been awarded an Andrew W. Mellon Fellowship of Scholars in Critical Bibliography at the Rare Book School. As the fellowship notes:

Mellon Fellows study with Rare Book School’s distinguished international faculty once per year for three years. Fellows receive hands-on, expert instruction by RBS faculty on interpreting the material forms of textual artifacts, from medieval manuscripts and early American hand-press books to born-digital materials. During these weeklong seminar-style courses, fellows have the opportunity to handle, analyze, and interpret materials from RBS’s c.80,000-item collection, from the University of Virginia’s Special Collections, and, in some cases, from the Library of Congress, The Morgan Library & Museum, and other major special collections in the United States. One course, Advanced Seminar in Critical Bibliography, is required; fellows choose the other two courses to suit their research interests. The fellowship provides a $6,000 stipend to cover travel, meals, lodging, course materials, and research-related needs, in addition to tuition waivers for three RBS courses.

This is a tremendous honor and signals the start of a successful career! We are delighted to have Professor Nourse with us - and encourage students to look for his courses on Buddhism, which are among our most popular.

Click here for more information on Prof. Nourse's fellowship.

Congratulations to RLGS Undergraduate award winners

Please join the Department in congratulating our undergraduate award winners:

Melanie Kesner, Cecil Franklin Award

Kieryn Wurts-Hammond, Cecil Franklin Award

Neda Kikhia, Gregory A. Robbins Award

We are proud of all our students and their many accomplishments in scholarship and service.

RLGS-ILIFF JDP student wins Theta Alpha Kappa Albert Clark Award

RLGS and the DU-ILIFF Joint Doctoral Program have the great pleasure to announce that – for the third year in a row – a University of Denver-Iliff School of Theology Joint Doctoral Program student has won the Theta Alpha Kappa Albert Clark Award.

Theta Alpha Kappa is the US national honor society for theology and religious studies; DU has been a chapter member since 2013. The Albert Clark Award is offered annually for the best undergraduate and graduate essays submitted to the Journal of Theta Alpha Kappa , and includes a $500 prize. 

This year, Daniel Yencich has won the graduate award for an essay titled “God in the Central Tower”; his essay will be published in the Journal later this year or in 2016.