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UC Berkeley Press Release

Islamic scholars receive Carnegie grants

– Two University of California, Berkeley, faculty members are among 21 specialists in Islamic studies named this week as Carnegie Scholars by the Carnegie Corporation in New York.

Saba Mahmood and Charles Hirschkind, both associate professors in the Department of Anthropology, each will receive a $100,000 grant to research themes relating to Islam and the modern world.

This is the first time that this prestigious award has been presented to a UC Berkeley faculty member.

"It's a great honor to the campus as well as to our Islam faculty and program," said Mahmood.

Mahmood and Hirschkind said that they hope the awards will boost the prominence of Middle East and Islamic studies at UC Berkeley and that those fields can be further developed on campus.

With her grant, Mahmood, author of the widely acclaimed book "Politics of Piety: The Islamic Revival and the Feminist Subject" (2005), will conduct a comparative study of how secularism has been promoted and contested in two Muslim majority societies, Lebanon and Egypt, in the post-colonial period. In both countries, she said, secularism has increasingly come to be seen as a way to prevent religious strife and political struggle. Mahmood's historical and ethnographic study will analyze how secularism has come to be understood in light of the state's regulation of religious life, and how Muslim religious scholars and ordinary believers have come to accommodate and challenge the ethical and political dimensions of secularization.

Hirschkind, the author of "The Ethical Soundscape: Cassette Sermons and Islamic Counterpublics" (2006) and numerous articles on political and religious issues in the Middle East, will focus on how the vestiges of Europe's Islamic past affect efforts today to reinforce Europe's Christian identity. Concentrating on southern Spain, Hirschkind will analyze the social and political processes that encourage active engagement with Europe's Islamic heritage, and the potential impact these processes have on Europe's Muslim immigrants, Spanish converts and Andalusian Catholics.

The Carnegie Scholars Program, launched in 1999, has since 2005 focused specifically on Islam because of the sponsors' belief that developing a deeper understanding of Islam and the modern world is of vital importance.