Tag Archive for Gottschalk

Wesleyan to Offer Muslim Studies Certificate

muslimstyThe certificate, approved by the faculty on April 25, was proposed by steering committee members Peter Gottschalk, professor of religion, director of the Office of Faculty Career Development; Typhaine Leservot, associate professor of French studies, chair of the Romance Languages and Literatures Department, associate professor of letters; and Ioana Emy Matesan, assistant professor of government, tutor in the College of Social Studies.

“Students in the certificate program will gain an appreciation for the diversity among Muslims geographically, culturally, historically, and religiously,” Leservot said. “They will become accomplished in multi-disciplinary and inter-disciplinary approaches to the study of Muslim communities and their expressions and productions. In an American setting in which stereotypes reduce the more than 1 billion Muslims around the globe to singular caricatures, this represents no small accomplishment.”

The Muslim Studies Certificate will mirror an existing certificate in Jewish and Israeli Studies. Students must complete six designated courses in a range of areas, including contemporary society and practice; literary, artistic and musical studies; and historical inquiry. Courses involving Muslim studies already offered by more than a dozen faculty members will be included.

“This new certificate will highlight Wesleyan’s remarkable collection of faculty, courses, and resources for students interested in studying the lives of Muslims around the globe,” Gottschalk said. “Our faculty teach and conduct research in fields as diverse as Arabic, art history, College of Letters, English, French, government, history, music, religion, and Spanish. As Muslims become increasingly prominent in the United States, the number of faculty and students alike interested in Muslim studies has expanded.”

“The certificate aims to maximize students’ education in Muslim traditions by providing a structured program to guide their studies,” he added. “This will require students to diversify their exposure across disciplines and divisions, period and place.”

At a time when American Muslims are becoming increasingly marginalized, the certificate “will also help our non-Muslim students better understand a set of groups and traditions increasingly the target of disinformation and prejudice,” Matesan said. “Meanwhile, it would signal to our Muslim students and potential applicants that Wesleyan recognizes the diversity and significance of Muslim traditions.”

Gottschalk Featured in CBS Special ‘Faith in America’

Peter Gottschalk

Peter Gottschalk

Peter Gottschalk, professor of religion, professor of science in society, was featured in a CBS special on March 28, “Faith in America: A History.” The program covered a history of Catholic, Jewish and Muslim intolerance in the U.S.

“The very understanding of who is acceptable in American society goes to the very heart of who Americans are, and who Americans can be,”said Gottschalk in his opening appearance. “So issues like excluding immigrants based on a religion test, which is against various laws in our country, not only threaten those who would like to come to the United States, but it threatens those who are within the United States”

“We find that folks like Thomas Jefferson and others were quite clear that there was going to be no discrimination whatsoever, and he very clearly stated that we need to be welcoming of Jews, gentiles, Gentoos, which is actually a word for Hindus, and Muslims. So just absolutely no interest whatsoever in any kind of delimiting notion of who can be American based on religion.”

Today, Muslims face the biggest threat from discrimination. Said Gottschalk, “This current president has capitalized on a nativist sentiment… As we saw in the 1920s, there’s concern about immigrants coming in, taking our jobs, and displacing our values and often not looking like us. So the nativism often has a racial premise as well as a religious premise.”

Gottschalk also is director of the Office of Faculty Career Development.

Gottschalk Writes on the Sufis and Why They Threaten ISIS

Peter Gottschalk

Peter Gottschalk

Professor of Religion Peter Gottschalk recently authored an article, “Who are the Sufis and why does ISIS see them as threatening,” which appeared on Raw Story and The Conversation.

The Sufis, who have been the target of violent attacks in Pakistan in recent years, practice austerity “stemming from a sincere religious devotion that compelled the Sufi into a close, personal relationship with God, modeled on aspects of the Prophet Muhammad’s life. This often involved a more inward, contemplative focus than many other forms of Islamic practice.” And, according to Gottschalk, though “many Muslims and non-Muslims around the globe celebrate Sufi saints and gather together for worship in their shrines,” these practices “do not conform to the Islamic ideologies of intolerant revivalist groups such as the Islamic State.”

Gottschalk argues that there are two reasons why the Islamic State violently opposes Sufis:

First, some Sufis – as illustrated by Rabia, the Sufi from Basra – deliberately flout the Islamic conventions of their peers, which causes many in their communities to condemn their unorthodox views and practices.

Second, many Muslims, not just militants, consider shrine devotion as superstitious and idolatrous. The popularity among Muslims and non-Muslims of tomb veneration alarms many conservative Muslims.

When a Sufi tomb grows in reputation for its miraculous powers, then an increasing number of people begin to frequent it to seek blessings. The tombs often become a gathering place for Hindus, Christians, Sikhs and people from other faiths.

Special songs of praise – “qawwali” – are sung at these shrines that express Islamic values using the imagery of love and devotion.

However, Islamist groups such as the Taliban reject shrine worship as well as dancing and singing as un-Islamic (hence their assassination of the world-famous qawwali singer Amjad Sabri). In their view, prayers to Sufis are idolatrous.

Gottschalk also is professor of science in society, and director of the Office of Faculty Career Development.

Gottschalk writes on Islamophobia, Homophobia and Orlando

Peter Gottschalk

Peter Gottschalk

In the wake of the unparalleled homophobic violence committed in Orlando this month, and the Islamophobic and anti-Muslim sentiments expressed only hours later (notably, by presidential candidate Donald Trump), Professor of Religion Peter Gottschalk writes an op-ed for Inside Sources about the deep roots of all three in America.

He opens on a personal note: “As a boy in the late 1960s and 1970s, I knew there were few more destructive suspicions that could be voiced about me than those connoted by the label ‘gay.’ While the term might be flung at someone by friends as a joke, it could be a damning adjective if antagonistically and permanently attached to one’s name. […] Meanwhile — in an era that extended through two Israeli-Arab wars, the OPEC oil embargo and the Iranian Revolution — Middle Eastern politics reinforced longstanding American antipathies toward Arabs and Muslims. I grew up with the impression that all Muslims were Arab, violent and non-American. Of what others did one hear?”

Gottschalk goes on:

Raised in the United States, perhaps (killer Omar) Mateen’s homophobia stemmed, at least in part, from the same fears from which mine did. However, it seems significant that his father reported that Mateen’s outrage was piqued recently when the killer’s 3-year-old son saw two men kissing. In addition to whatever childhood antipathies with which he likely grew up, his homophobic-fueled fury seemingly also fed on fears that public gay life represented a threat to his family, if not to society in general: attitudes still expressed by too many Americans.

It is here that the homophobia still sadly endemic in America intersects with an Islamophobia that also has a long history. Donald Trump lost no time connecting Mateen’s horrible violence to his demand that all Muslim immigration into the United States temporarily cease. His speeches repeat tired stereotypes debunked too long ago to be accidental.

The Republican presidential nominee consistently uses “Muslim” and “Middle Eastern” as interchangeable terms, even though the overwhelming majority of Muslims live outside that region, which is also populated by sizable Christian and Jewish populations.

And Trump loudly insinuates that Muslims should be suspect not only because, as immigrants from conflict zones, they might bring violence with them. In his statement about Muslim migrants on Sunday, he claimed, “And we will have no way to screen them, pay for them, or prevent the second generation from radicalizing.”

An uncritical audience would likely ask why — if the children of migrants might radicalize — might not the third, fourth or 10th generation do so? Are not nearly all Muslims therefore suspect?

Read more here.

Gottschalk is also professor of science in society.

Gottschalk Named Director of Faculty Career Development

Professor of Religion Peter Gottschalk is the recipient of a $20,000 National Endowment for the Humanities "Enduring Questions" grant.

Peter Gottschalk

Peter Gottschalk was named the Director of the Center for Faculty Career Development for a three-year term starting July 1.

Gottschalk is currently Professor of Religion and has been at Wesleyan since 2002. He earned his BA at the College of the Holy Cross, his MA at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and his PhD at the University of Chicago. Gottschalk has co-edited one volume, co-authored another with a Wesleyan student, and authored three monographs, including the recent Religion, Science, and Empire: Classifying Hinduism and Islam in British India. His work has also been published in The Los Angeles Times and the OnFaith website formerly of The Washington Post, and his teaching has been recognized with an NEH Enduring Questions grant.

Gottschalk to Develop Course on “The Sacred” with NEH Grant

Professor of Religion Peter Gottschalk is the recipient of a $20,000 National Endowment for the Humanities "Enduring Questions" grant.

Professor of Religion Peter Gottschalk is the recipient of a $20,000 National Endowment for the Humanities “Enduring Questions” grant.

Professor of Religion Peter Gottschalk has been awarded a National Endowment for the Humanities “Enduring Questions” grant for approximately $20,000 to develop and teach a new course on different understandings of “the sacred.”

Over the last five annual competitions, this competitive grant program received approximately 200 applications each year on average, and funded only 19 awards each year.

Gottschalk Authors Op-Ed Published in L.A. Times

Professor of Religion Peter Gottschalk is the author of an op-ed published April 17 in The Los Angeles Times on the history of religious intolerance in the U.S. Responding to recent shootings near Jewish community centers in Kansas, in which three people were killed, Gottschalk writes that though the incident “seems at first glance like a disparaged past flaring briefly into the present,” in fact religiously motivated violence is alive and well in the U.S. Gottschalk walks readers through a history of religious intolerance from the country’s earliest days, and traces the various forms the KKK has taken over the years. He concludes: “The religious pluralism evident in the United States testifies to the remarkable accomplishments the nation has made in promoting tolerance and inclusion. However, the recent sad news from Kansas reminds us that a pernicious current promoting racial, religious, and national exclusivity electrifies an active third rail of American history.”

Gottschalk’s New Book Chronicles History of Religious Intolerance in the U.S

New book by Peter Gottschalk.

New book by Peter Gottschalk.

Professor of Religion Peter Gottschalk recently authored a new book, American Heretics: Catholics, Jews, Muslims, and the History of Religious Intolerancepublished by Palgrave Macmillan in November 2013The book chronicles the history of religious intolerance in the U.S. – from persecution of Irish and German Catholics in the mid-19th century to today’s discrimination against Muslims, Sikhs and other religious groups. Through the historical record it presents, the book challenges the notion that the U.S. is a stronghold of religious freedom.

Gottschalk’s book recently was featured in a holiday book round-up in the Chicago Tribune.

Gottschalk’s Book on Hinduism and Islam in British India Published

Peter Gottschalk

Book by Peter Gottschalk.

Peter Gottschalk, professor of religion, is the author of Religion, Science, and Empire Classifying Hinduism and Islam in British India, published by Oxford University Press in November 2012. In this 448-page book, Gottschalk offers a compelling study of how, through the British implementation of scientific taxonomy in the subcontinent, Britons and Indians identified an inherent divide between mutually antagonistic religious communities.

England’s ascent to power coincided with the rise of empirical science as an authoritative way of knowing not only the natural world, but the human one as well. The British scientific passion for classification, combined with the Christian impulse to differentiate people according to religion, led to a designation of Indians as either Hindu or Muslim according to rigidly defined criteria that paralleled classification in botanical and zoological taxonomies.

Through an historical and ethnographic study of the north Indian village of Chainpur, Gottschalk shows that the Britons’ presumed categories did not necessarily reflect the Indians’ concepts of their own identities, though many Indians came to embrace this scientism and gradually accepted the categories the British instituted through projects like the Census of India, the Archaeological Survey of India, and the India Museum. Today’s propogators of Hindu-Muslim violence often cite scientistic formulations of difference that descend directly from the categories introduced by imperial Britain.

Religion, Science, and Empire will be a valuable resource to anyone interested in the colonial and postcolonial history of religion in India.

Gottschalk Edits Book on South Asian Religions, Indigenous Responses

Book edited by Peter Gottschalk.

Peter Gottschalk, chair and professor of religion, is the editor of the book, Engaging South Asian Religions: Boundaries, Appropriations, and Resistances, published by the State University of New York Press in May 2011. The book looks at Western understandings of South Asian religions and indigenous responses from precolonial to contemporary times.

Focusing on boundaries, appropriations, and resistances involved in Western engagements with South Asian religions, this volume considers both the pre- and postcolonial period in India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh. It pays particular attention to contemporary controversies surrounding the study of South Asian religions, including several scholars’ reflections on the contentious reaction to their own work. Other issues explored include British colonial epistemologies, Hegel’s study of South Asia, Hindu-Christian interactions in charismatic Catholicism and the canonization of Francis Xavier, feminist interpretations of the mother of the Buddha, and theological controversies among Muslims in Bangladesh and Pakistan. By using the themes of boundaries, appropriations, and resistances, this work offers insight into the dynamics and diversity of Western approaches to South Asian religions and the indigenous responses to, involvements with, and influences on them.

5 Questions With . . . Religion’s Peter Gottschalk

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This issue we ask “5 Questions” of Peter Gottschalk, chair and professor of religion and co-author, with Gabriel Greenberg ’04, of the book Islamophobia: Making Muslims the Enemy (Rowman & Littlefield).

Q. How did you become interested in studying Islam?

A: My interest arose entirely by serendipity. While in college, I hadn’t any interest in studying Islam but, because I was planning on visiting my parents who had just moved to Saudi Arabia, I took an introductory course on Islam. Fortunately, John Esposito, one of the few American specialists in Islam at the time, taught the class. From Saudi, I continued on to my first trip to India, where I lived in an area with a mixed Hindu, Muslim, and Christian population. I didn’t go to India for the sake of learning about the local religions, but the similarities and differences among the religious practices there, and between the forms of Islam practiced in Saudi and India, piqued my interest. After my return to the U.S., following other career pursuits, the lure of understanding more about both Islamic and Hindu traditions grew until it finally overtook me, and I shifted my attention.

Peter Gottschalk, chair and professor of religion, is the co-author of the book Islamophobia: Making Muslims the Enemy. The book aims to better publicize the existence of an accepted – and corrosive – social prejudice. (Photo by Olivia Drake)

Q: Much of your scholarly work has been focused on Islam in the Asian subcontinent, but your book Islamophobia is decidedly focused on the Western World. How did this come about? 

 



A: Following the tragedies of 9/11, it wasn’t hard to guess that the prejudice that Muslims historically had faced in the United States would heighten. Of course, the hijackers religiously justified the violence they unleashed against their victims, but this clearly resulted from an entirely marginal interpretation of Islam held by a fraction of Muslims so small that they would be insignificant,