5. Jews, Jewish Studies, and the Study of Islam

Identity, Politics and the Study of Islam - Current Dilemmas in the Study of Religions - Matt Sheedy

Sarah Imhoff [+-]
Indiana University
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Sarah Imhoff is Assistant Professor of Jewish Studies and Religious Studies at Indiana University, Bloomington, USA. She writes on gender and American Judaism, the role of the body and medical discourse in the construction of Jewishness, the history of the field of Jewish Studies, and the history of the field of Religious Studies, especially in its relation to US law. She is the author of Masculinity and the Making of American Judaism (Indiana University Press, 2017). Her work has appeared in the Journal of Religion, Culture and Religion, Critical Research on Religion, the Bulletin of the Study of Religion, and American Jewish History.


In the Americas, Jews have dominated Jewish Studies, but Muslims have made up a far smaller portion of Islamic Studies scholars. These seemingly opposite trends are deeply rooted in the histories of the fields. While Islamic Studies in America traces much of its history through Orientalism—non-Muslims studying Muslims and Islamic civilizations—the dominant narrative of Jewish Studies begins with Jews studying Judaism. Despite these different narratives, each field has confronted similar questions about scholars’ own identifications, epistemological debates about insiders and outsiders, political questions about minority identity and pluralism, and questions about the relationship between funding and scholarly research. This chapter explores the origin stories of Jewish Studies and the meanings for its’ past, and asks what these stories might suggest about Islamic Studies and its future.

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Imhoff, Sarah. 5. Jews, Jewish Studies, and the Study of Islam. Identity, Politics and the Study of Islam - Current Dilemmas in the Study of Religions. Equinox eBooks Publishing, United Kingdom. p. Oct 2018. ISBN 9781781794890. https://www.equinoxpub.com/home/view-chapter/?id=30338. Date accessed: 26 Feb 2018 doi: 10.1558/equinox.30338. Oct 2018

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