The demand, indeed urgency, within the American Academy for courses on Islam has perhaps never been greater than at current. Yet, the very conditions that create this urgency also produce anxieties for those fulfilling this pedagogical role. The challenge confronting many of us - knowing that our students will enter the classroom with ideas/questions about Islam stemming, in large part, from what they’ve encountered through popular media and the news – is how to carry out this work in a way that both acknowledges this abiding, even if delimiting, contemporary context without allowing our teaching to be subsumed by it. How to engage with students’ a priori ideas and questions without assuming a pedagogical posture that offers ‘correctives’ rather than a different point of entry into conversations about Islam. How to provide students with knowledge about Islam that they can “hold onto” without fixing Islam in ways that reproduce totalizing or singular conceptions of this, or any, religious tradition.
Edward Curtis’ edited volume, The Practice of Islam in America, provides both the methodological tools and content to resolve a number of these conundrums. It is a valuable and effective resource for all those invested in the academic study and teaching of Islam broadly, as well as the more particular context of the United States. The strength of this four-part text, comprised of twelve individually authored essays, can be enumerated in a variety of ways. For the purpose of this review, my comments will focus on its pedagogical breadth and utility; the capacity of this volume of essays to (individually and collectively) provide teachers and students with an array of ethnographic evidence to assist students in gaining a fuller understanding of Islam as a textual, historical and lived tradition.
"Review of The Practice of Islam in America: An Introduction,"
The Journal of Social Encounters:
Available at: https://digitalcommons.csbsju.edu/social_encounters/vol3/iss1/11