South Asia Institute
South Asia Institute

A. Azfar Moin


Assistant ProfessorPhD, University of Michigan

A. Azfar Moin

Contact

Interests


Sufism and Sainthood in Islam; Sacred Kingship; Early Modern Iran, Central Asia, and South Asia

Biography


Azfar Moin is Assistant Professor of Religious Studies. He received a Ph.D. in History from the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor and taught South Asian history at Southern Methodist University prior to joining UT-Austin. Prof. Moin studies the history of the pre-modern Islamic world from comparative perspectives with a focus on concepts and practices of sovereignty. His book The Millennial Sovereign: Sacred Kingship and Sainthood in Islam won the Best First Book in the History of Religions Award from the American Academy of Religion, John F. Richards Prize in South Asian History from the American Historical Association, and Honorable Mention for the Bernard S. Cohn Book Prize (South Asia) from the Association for Asian Studies. His research has also been published in Comparative Studies in Society and HistoryJournal of the American Oriental SocietyFragments: Interdisciplinary Approaches to the Study of Ancient and Medieval PastsIndian Economic & Social History Review, and in a number of edited volumes. His current project, for which he received a Postdoctoral Fellowship for Transregional Research from the Social Science Research Council and a Charles A. Ryskamp Research Fellowship from the American Council of Learned Societies, focuses on ritual violence and kingship in late medieval and early modern world. Prof. Moin teaches courses on religious transformations in the early modern Islamic world, rituals and practice of sovereignty in Islam, and theory and method in the study of religion.

Courses


CTI 304 • Judaism, Christianity, & Islam

33719 • Fall 2016
Meets TTH 11:00AM-12:30PM GEA 114
(also listed as HIS 304R, ISL 311, J S 311, R S 304)

This course asks students to recognize the ethical implications of the ways we talk about religion – both our own religion (if any) and those of others. Choosing definitions for religion is an ethical choice with social, political, and civic implications; the goal of this course is to assist students in becoming self-conscious about that choice. In so doing, students will improve their ability to tolerate and reduce moral disagreements about religious beliefs and practices, something that is at the heart of practical ethics education. Specifically, the ethical issues in this course encourage students to:

• reflect on different definitions of religion, to choose which ones appeal to them, and to explore their implications

• analyze the ways in which religions form “communities of memory,” to consider in what ways these communities create boundaries that both enclose and exclude

• understand the different ways that religions have historically intersected with with politics, with science, and with culture

•consider how these intersections might influence the students’ perceptions of religion and the ways in which religion is presented in contemporary media and popular culture.

 

R S 383M • Thry & Meth In Study Of Relig

43745 • Fall 2016
Meets T 3:00PM-6:00PM BUR 554

This seminar introduces graduate students to the field by considering the history of theories and methods in the study of religion. We concentrate on three fundamental questions: 1) How have scholars defined “religion”?; 2) How have they studied it?; and 3) How have they narrated the field’s history? Focusing on the period between the 1870s and the 1970s, especially the decades before and after the turn of the twentieth century, we read “classic” texts and consider multiple approaches—anthropological, psychological, historical, phenomenological, geographical, and sociological. We also identify some lineages in the study of religion that have been obscured in most of the histories.  Considering more recent trajectories and issues in the study of religion since the 1970s, we end by looking at a few works on gender studies, cognitive science, spatial analysis, poststructuralism, and postcolonial theory. Along the way, we will read a wide range of interpreters, including works by David Hume, Herbert of Cherbury, Hannah Adams, Friedrich Schleiermacher, Ludwig Feuerbach, Karl Marx, F. Max Müller, Morris Jastrow, E. B. Tylor, James Frazer, William James, Sigmund Freud, Emil Durkheim, Max Weber, Rudolph Otto, G. Van der Leeuw, Mircea Eliade, Jonathan Z. Smith, Victor Turner, Clifford Geertz, Talal Asad, Timothy Fitzgerald, Russell McCutcheon, Ursula King, Karen McCarthy Brown, Harvey Whitehouse, Edward Said, David Chidester, and Richard King.

 

Texts

Eric J. Sharpe, Comparative Religion: A History (Chicago: Open Court, 1986); David Hume, The Natural History of Religion (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1956); William James, The Varieties of Religious Experience (New York: Penguin, 1982); Peter Gay, ed., The Freud Reader (New York: Norton, 1989); W. S. F. Pickering, ed., Durkheim on Religion  AAR Texts and Translations Series (Atlanta: Scholars Press; New York, 1994: distributed by Oxford University Press); Max Weber, The Sociology of Religion (Boston: Beacon, 1964; 1993). Mircea Eliade, The Sacred and the Profane (New York: Harvest, 1959); Victor Turner, The Ritual Process (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1969); Karen McCarthy Brown, Mama Lola, updated edition (Berkeley: University of California, 2001); Harvey Whitehouse, Modes of Religiosity: A Cognitive Theory of Religious Transmission (Walnut Creek: Altamira Press, 2004); Richard King, Orientalism and Religion: Postcolonial Theory, India, and ‘The Mystic East’ (London: Routledge, 1999); Thomas A. Tweed, Crossing and Dwelling: A Theory of Religion (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2006).

Recommended Text: Daniel Pals, Eight Theories of Religion, 2nd ed. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2006). Pals is highly recommended. [Another volume that might help those who feel they need a bit more introduction to cultural theory is Philip Smith’s Cultural Theory: An Introduction (2001).]

Grading

Assessment will be based on the following: 1) ANALYSIS PAPERS (15% each): Three critical analysis papers (two to three pages each) that consider one of the assigned texts. One of these three papers must describe and assess one of the narrative histories of the field (See the list of narratives below). 2) CLASS ORIENTATION (10%): One 12-15 minute class presentation that introduces the other members of the seminar to the assigned readings for the day. 3) FIELD OR SUBFIELD PAPER (10%): One two to three-page analysis of how one of the assigned texts, or in some cases it could be a recommended text, has been used or criticized in your own discipline or area of specialization. 4) OVERVIEW (30%): One overview or analysis of the history of the study of religion (from three to five pages, or its equivalent). This can take any form that seems most helpful to you and suits your learning style. It could be an historical narrative, thematic analysis, diagram, chart, table, video, web page, data base, blog, chronology, or it could combine multiple forms of visual and verbal representation. 5) PARTICIPATION (5%): Regular attendance and informed participation in the seminar.

HIS 304R • Judaism, Christianity, Islam

38163 • Fall 2015
Meets TTH 11:00AM-12:30PM GEA 114
(also listed as ISL 311, J S 311, R S 304)

This course will focus on the three related religious traditions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, which originated in the "near east" and today have a global reach. These religions are sometimes called “Abrahamic traditions” as they all claim a special relationship with the biblical figure, Abraham. We will explore the historical development, belief systems, practices, sacred texts, and cultural influences of these three traditions, independently and in relation to each other. By the end of the course, you can expect to have a basic understanding of the essential characteristics of each tradition and the way they manifest in different cultural contexts in the past and present. This class will also provide an introduction to the field of religious studies by exposing students to some of the interdisciplinary methods used to understand religion as a central component of human culture.  These will include historical methods, the study of ritual, and the analysis of ideas. 

 

 

 

Texts

TBA

 

 

 

Grading

Attendance and participation 20%

Quiz 10%

Essay (5 pages) 20%

Mid-term 20%

Final exam 30%

R S 383M • Thry & Meth In Study Of Relig

42880 • Fall 2015
Meets T 3:30PM-6:30PM BUR 554

This seminar introduces graduate students to the field by considering the history of theories and methods in the study of religion. We concentrate on three fundamental questions: 1) How have scholars defined “religion”?; 2) How have they studied it?; and 3) How have they narrated the field’s history? Focusing on the period between the 1870s and the 1970s, especially the decades before and after the turn of the twentieth century, we read “classic” texts and consider multiple approaches—anthropological, psychological, historical, phenomenological, and sociological. We will also examine some recent trends in gender studies, cognitive science, poststructuralism, and postcolonial theory. Along the way, we will read a wide range of interpreters such as Karl Marx, E. B. Tylor, Sigmund Freud, Emile Durkheim, Max Weber, Mircea Eliade, Jonathan Z. Smith, Victor Turner, Clifford Geertz, Robert Bellah, Jan Assmann, and Talal Asad.

 

Texts

  • Daniel Pals, Eight Theories of Religion, 2nd ed. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2006).
  • Course packet of articles and book chapters

 

Grading

  • Participation and discussion questions 20%
  • Four response papers (4 pages each) 40%
  • Project presentation (10 minutes in class) and final paper (12-14 pages) 40%

ANS 391 • Sovereignty In Islam:thry/Prac

31160 • Spring 2015
Meets T 2:00PM-5:00PM BUR 228
(also listed as MES 386, R S 390T)

How have Muslim intellectuals thought about the nature of sovereignty, and how have Muslim sovereigns practiced the art of politics? These two questions, the answers to which have rarely been in harmony, will be the focus of this seminar. We will examine scholarship on medieval, early modern, and modern eras to understand the theoretical and ritual basis of sovereignty in Muslim cultures in different world regions. Students will be introduced to a range of perspectives that draw upon court literature, law, Sufi metaphysics, philosophy, and art. In the research paper, students are welcome to explore comparisons between different parts of the Islamic world, between Islamic and other cultures, or between pre-modern and contemporary developments.

Grading: Two analytical essays, 6-8 pages, (20% each), Research paper and presentation (15 pages, 40%), participation (20%)

Texts: (subject to change)

Patricia Crone, Medieval Islamic Political Thought
Finbarr Flood, Objects of Translation
Michael Cooperson, Al-Ma'mun
Kathryn Babayan, Mystics, Monarchs, and Messiahs: Cultural Landscapes of Early Modern Iran
Giles Kepel, Jihad: The Trail of Political Islam

A selection of articles and book chapters provided by the instructor.

HIS 364G • Islam Early Mod World:rel/Cult

38795 • Spring 2015
Meets TTH 11:00AM-12:30PM JES A215A
(also listed as ISL 372, MES 343, R S 358)

In this course, we will examine the religious and cultural developments across the Islamic world between the thirteenth and the eighteenth centuries, stemming from the rise of the Mongols and the end of the caliphate. After the Mongols destroyed the Abbasid caliphate in Baghdad in 1258 and established their rule in large swathes of Asia, the Islamic world entered an era of momentous change. In Iran, Central Asia, and parts of the Middle East, Muslim religious identities experienced a phase of “confessional ambiguity,” marked by the widespread veneration of saints and shrines. To explore the significance of these shifts, we will focus on three themes: the spread of a new type of devotional, shrine-centered, Sufi Islam across Muslim Asia and the Indian Ocean world; the development of a new style of Islamic sovereignty that replaced the caliphate; and the rise of new forms of knowledge, both scientific and artistic, sponsored by the early modern Muslim empires of the Ottomans, Safavids, and the Mughals.

Texts:

Stephen Dale, The Muslim Empires of the Ottomans, Safavids, and Mughals
Nile Green, Sufism: A Global History
Giancarlo Casale, The Ottoman Age of Exploration

Additional readings provided by instructor

Grading: Attendance: 10%; Quiz:10%; Essay: (6 pages) 20%; Mid-term: 30%; Final: 30%

R S 375S • What Is Religion?

44295 • Fall 2014
Meets MW 3:00PM-4:30PM BUR 436A

This seminar course introduces students to classic and contemporary debates on the origin, nature, and significance of phenomena commonly thought of as religious. It examines the question “What is religion?” from a range of disciplinary perspectives including psychology, sociology, history, anthropology, and gender studies. Students will learn to apply these perspectives to interpret specific case studies of religious practices. The course grade will depend on the quality of participation in class discussions, two response papers, two short essays, and a final research project. The final project can be either a synthetic essay that traces a key theme in two or more theoretical approaches discussed in class or an interpretive essay that evaluates an event, person, group, or object in the light of one or more of the approaches. Students will formally present their research paper in the last week of class.

 

Texts

  • Daniel Pals, Eight Theories of Religion
  • Mary Douglas, How Institutions Think
  • Claude Levi-Strauss, Myth and Meaning
  • George Vaillant, Spiritual Evolution
  • Course packet of additional readings 

 

Grading

  • Attendance and participation 20%
  • Two response papers (2 pages each) 10%
  • Two short essays (4 pages each) 20%
  • Project proposal and bibliography (2-3 pages) 5%
  • Project presentation (10 minutes in class) 5%
  • Project paper (15 pages) 40%

Curriculum Vitae


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