Public Lecture Series Program 2020/21

Middle East And Islamic Studies Lecture Series

Date: March 22, 2021, 6 pm. 

The Arab Spring: Ten Years On 

Featuring two guest speakers

First guest speaker: Professor Asef Bayat 

Presentation title: Arab Spring: A New Generation of 21st Century Revolutions

Abstract: The outbreak of the Arab uprisings created an unprecedented optimism about the future of the Arab world. But today, a strong sense of pessimism and despair surround the trajectory of these uprisings. Why did the Arab revolutions experience such trajectories? How do we understand the nature of the Arab Spring? My presentation attempts to historicize the Arab revolutions comparing them with those of the 1970s notably the Iranian revolution of 1979. I suggest that what transpired in Tunisia, Egypt or Yemen represent a new generation of 21st Century revolutions that are remarkably rich as movement, but woefully poor as change. I discuss why this is so, and what it means for the outcome of these revolutions.   

Second guest speaker: Associate Professor Rabab El Mahdi 

Presentation title: A Decade of Uprisings: What explains the Outcome? 

Abstract: A decade after the onset of Arab Uprisings, the euphoria that surrounded it has given in to frustration, prompting a return to the Arab “exceptionalism” and “anti-democratic tendencies” debate in some circles.  Whether in successful cases like Tunisia and Sudan or in failed cases such as Egypt and Syria, I argue that the outcome in terms of structural change has been limited.  What explains this limited outcome (despite variation) in those different cases? And is it particularly “Arab” or limited to those countries? Focusing on the genealogy of class-structure in these countries, I argue that the main culprit has been the middle-class.  



Asef Bayat, the Catherine & Bruce Bastian Professor of Global and Transnational Studies, teaches Sociology and Middle East at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. Before joining Illinois, he taught at the American University in Cairo for many years; and served as the director of the International Institute for the Study of Islam in the Modern World (ISIM) holding the Chair of Society and Culture of the Modern Middle East at Leiden University, The Netherlands. His research areas range from social movements and social change, to religion and public life, urban space and politics, and contemporary Middle East. His recent books include Being Young and Muslim: Cultural Politics in the Global South and North (ed. with Linda Herrera) (Oxford University Press, 2010); Post-Islamism: The Changing Faces of Political Islam (Oxford University Press, 2013); Life as Politics: How Ordinary People Change the Middle East (Stanford University Press, 2013. 2nd edition), Revolution without Revolutionaries: Making Sense of the Arab Spring (Stanford University Press, 2017), and Global Middle East: Into the 21st Century (ed. With Linda Herrera) (University of California Press, 2021). 

Rabab El Mahdi is an associate professor of political science at The American University in Cairo. Her research interests cover the areas of state-civil society relations, social movements, and contentious politics.  Her publications include; Political Manipulation Or Empowered Participation? Civil Society and the State in Egypt and Bolivia. Brill, 2012 and the edited volumes Arab Spring in Egypt: Revolution and Beyond (with Bahgat Korany)2012, Egypt: The Moment of Change (with Philip Marfleet) 2009 and a number of book chapters and journal articles on labor movements, the feminist question in Egypt, youth mobilization, and the Ultras football fans. She is the founder and director of AUC’s research project, Alternative Policy Solutions (APS).  


Middle East And Islamic Studies Lecture Series

Date: February 22, 2021, 6 pm 

Current Trends in Qur’anic Interpretation: Nation States, Media, and New Subjectivities 

Guest speaker: Professor Johanna Pink 

Abstract: This talk discusses current trends in Muslim qur’anic interpretation as well as the context that shapes them. Demonstrating how the same qur’anic verse is subject to vastly divergent interpretations, I look at the exegetical genealogies and hermeneutical principles that contemporary readings of the Qur’an draw on. Moreover, I discuss the structural factors that influence exegetical endeavors today, such as new media, migration, and the agendas of nation states.  

Bio:Johanna Pink is Professor of Islamic Studies at the University of Freiburg, Germany, and Principal Investigator of the ERC-funded project „GloQur – The Global Qur’an“. She is a specialist in the history of qur’anic exegesis and Qur’an translations with a focus on transregional dynamics in the modern period. Her publications include Muslim Qur’anic Interpretation Today: Media, Genealogies and Interpretive Communities (Sheffield: Equinox 2019).  


Middle East And Islamic Studies Lecture Series

Date: 12 October, 2020

Qur’anic Ethics and Hermeneutics: The Case of Gender

Guest lecture: Dr. Omaima Abou-Bakr and Dr. Asma Lamrabet 

Abstract: A growing body of contemporary scholarship on the Qur’an and its exegesis has been engaging with the question of ethics and hermeneutics. Focusing on gender, this scholarship has been tackling the following questions: How do we conceptualize Qur’anic ethics? What interpretive approaches can be used to map out the text’s ethical principles and directives? What are the readings that are made possible by such ethically-oriented interpretive approaches specifically with regard to the question of gender? And what are the methodological, conceptual, political contributions as well as challenges of this scholarship? These questions will be the focus of a public lecture by Professor Omaima Abou-Bakr (Cairo University) and Dr. Asma Lamrabet (Gender Studies Department, the EuroArab Foundation in Granada).


Omaima Abou-Bakr is a Professor of English & Comparative Literature at Cairo University; a founding member of The Women and Memory Forum; a member of the advisory board and the knowledge building working group of Musawah, a global organization of scholars and activists combining production of scientific research and activism towards the goal of transformative knowledge on Islam and gender. Professor Abou-Bakr’s doctorate work at University of California in Berkeley specialized in medieval Sufi poetry and comparative topics in medieval English and Arabic literature. Her research and publications over the span of the last three decades covered: Qur’anic exegesis, women’s mysticism and female spirituality in Christianity and Islam, feminist theology, Muslim women’s history, and gender issues in Islamic discourses.

She is the author of numerous Arabic and English publications. Some notable examples are: “Islamic Feminist Tafsir and Qur’anic Ethics: Rereading the Divorce Verses (co-authored with Mulki Al-Sharmani)” In Nevin Reda and Yasmin Amin (eds.) Islamic Interpretive Tradition and Gender Justice: Processes of Canonization, Subversion, and Change (2020); “Bride of the Qurʾan: An Aesthetic Reading of Surat ar-Rahman” In Dorpmüller, S., Scholz, J., Stille, M., & Weinrich, I. (eds.). Religion and aesthetic experience: Drama – sermons – literature (2018). “The Interpretive Legacy of Qiwamah as an Exegetical Construct.” In: Ziba Mir-Hosseini, Mulki Al-Sharmani and Jana Rumminger (eds.). Men in Charge? Rethinking Authority in Muslim Legal Tradition (2015); “Turning the Tables: Constructions of Muslim Manhood;” In: Hawwa 11(2-3):89-107, 2014. “Teaching the Words of the Prophet: Women Instructors of the Hadith.” In: Hawwa, 1(3), 306-328, 2003. She is also the editor of Al-niswiyyah wa-al-dirasat al-diniyah (Feminism and Religious Studies, 2012); and two volumes of collected articles in English (Feminist and Islamic Perspectives: New Horizons of Knowledge and Reform) and in Arabic (al-Niswiyyah wa-al-manzur al-islami, 2013).

Asma Lamrabet is a Moroccan scholar of Islam. Originally trained as a physician, she has been engaging for many years in the study and reflection on reformist thought in Islam and in particular on the theme of women in Islam. Her work is mainly focused on rereading sacred texts from a reformist and feminist perspective. She has given numerous lectures on this subject around the world.

Since March 2018, she has been the director of the Gender Studies Department at the EuroArab Foundation in Granada. From 2011 to 2018, she was the Director of the Center for Women’s Studies in Islam in the Rabita Mohammadia des Oulémas du Maroc since 2011 to March 2018. From 2008 to 2010, she was the President of GIERFI (International group for study and reflection on women and Islam) in Barcelona. From 2004 to 2007, she was coordinator of a research and reflection group on Muslim women and intercultural dialogue in Rabat (Morocco).

Dr. Lamrabet is a member of the Observatory of the Muslim Arab world at the ULB University of Belgium since March 2018, and a member of the scientific committee of the National Institute of Human Rights of Morocco since June 2019. She is the author of numerous books in Arabic and French (also translated to English). Notable examples are: Women and Men in the Qur’ān; 2018; Women in the Qur’an: An Emancipatory Reading, 2016; 20 Questions and Answers on Islam and Women from a reformist vision, 2016


Middle East And Islamic Studies Lecture Series

Date: 12 June 2020, 4 pm

Humor in Islam 

Guest lecture: Yasmin Amin – Ph.D. Exeter University

Abstract: Muslims are nowadays often stereotyped as humorless. Burning flags, besieged embassies, angry mobs, and terrorist attacks are the images frequently associated with Muslims. But these images are at odds with the abundant evidence of humor in Islamic civilization. Textual sources such as hadith collections and adab al-nawadir show that humor was an integral part of the lives of Muslims over the centuries. Furthermore, Muslims were also not afraid to use their religious obligations to generate laughs. This presentation takes you on a journey through the ages to shed light on instances of Muslim humor.

Bio: A half-German, half-Egyptian, Yasmin Amin is currently a PhD student in Islamic Studies at Exeter University’s Arab & Islamic Institute, finalizing her research “Humor and Laughter in the Hadith”. She obtained a post graduate diploma in Islamic Studies from the American University in Cairo in 2006 as well as an MA in Islamic Studies in 2010. Her research covers various aspects of early Muslim society and culture as well as the original heritage texts of Islamic history, law and Prophetic traditions. She is co-translator of the book The Sorrowful Muslim’s Guide (EUP 2018), co-editor of the book Islamic Interpretive Tradition and Gender Justice: Processes of Canonization, Subversion, and Change (MQUP 2020) and the author of the forthcoming Musnad Umm Salama and the Factors Affecting its Evolution (Brill).

update: May 16, 2021- Dr. Amin has since completed her doctoral studies.

Students wishing to obtain a video recording of the lecture for educational purposes can contact Mulki Al-Sharmani at


Middle East And Islamic Studies Lecture Series

Date: 8 May, 2020- 12 pm 

Islam, Native Americans, and the Conquest of Canaan: A Qur’anic Reading

Guest lecture: Dr Shadaab Rahemtulla of University of Edinburgh

Abstract: This presentation seeks to put Islamic liberation theology in conversation with Native American rights, focusing on an indigenous critique of Christian liberation theology. The Exodus is a central paradigm for Latin American and Black theologians, representing a just deity in solidarity with the oppressed. But native scholars have critiqued the Exodus paradigm as selective, omitting “the other side” of the story: namely, the Israelite conquest of Canaan and destruction of its local inhabitants. Given the Exodus is also a key trope in Islamic liberation theology, this paper raises the following questions: What exactly does the Qur’an have to say about the Israelite encounter with Canaan? Does it mirror the biblical account? Did a mass genocide take place, and, if so, was this a result of divine decree?

Bio: A Canadian Muslim of Indian descent, Shadaab Rahemtulla is Lecturer in Islam and Christian-Muslim Relations at the School of Divinity, University of Edinburgh. Trained in Islamic thought at the University of Oxford, Shadaab’s primary interest lies in the relationship between religion, power, and resistance, exploring how religious texts can be  (re)interpreted to challenge structures of social domination, including poverty and patriarchy, racism and empire. He is the author of the book, Qur’an of the Oppressed: Liberation Theology and Gender Justice in Islam (OUP, 2018).