Islamic Studies: A Field of Research Under Transcultural Crossfire
This article gauges the transcultural character and disposition of Islamic Studies, a discipline of European origins that emerged in the early modern period and has been accused of catering to the needs of a colonial and imperialist agenda. It establishes that a discipline with a history of formulating largely non-Muslim Western perceptions on non-Western societies marked by Islam, whose object of study is a religious orbit that transcends ethnic and political boundaries, can be regarded as transcultural per se. This does not mean, however, that the transcultural approach—presented here as a methodological tool for conceptual deconstruction and a multiplication of scales and perspectives of analysis—will be accepted by intellectuals and ideologues in Western and Muslim societies alike. Discussing various potential anti-reactions to the transcultural approach, the article concludes that such criticism cannot erase the many forms of interpenetration that have marked and will continue to mark future relations between Islam and the West. In view of this, the transcultural approach seems to be of high relevance to understand past, present, and future processes of interaction, entanglement, and hybridization.
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