January 1, 2015

Professor Richard Bulliet: Religion and the State in Islam: From Medieval Caliphate to the Muslim Brotherhood

Richard W. Bulliet is a professor of history at Columbia University who specializes in the history of Islamic society and institutions, the history of technology, and the history of the role of animals in human society
Amazon Biography of Richard W. Bulliet:
I have been teaching at Columbia University since 1973. Before that I taught at Harvard for six years and at UC Berkeley for two. All that redeems me from being identified as a pure academic is the enjoyment I derive from writing fiction. My first novel, Kicked to Death by a Camel, was nominated for an Edgar in the category of Best First Mystery. Some readers have maintained that the best thing about it was the title. Neither Kicked to Death nor any of my subsequent novels met much commercial success, but they enabled me to make stories out of my personal experiences, mostly during travels to the Middle East. 
My academic writings deal either with Islam, human-animal relations, or the history of technology. In all three cases, my greatest satisfaction comes from asking unusual or previously unasked questions and exploring innovative methods in trying to answer them. When I came to Columbia, a colleague who was opposed to my appointment predicted that I would never write "real" history. Maybe I haven't. That's for others to judge. All I can say is that I don't think I have written any history that could have been written by someone else.

Personally, I come from Rockford, Illinois and consider myself a lapsed Methodist. That is to say, I recognize that the conduct of my life has been strongly influenced by the social expectations of Methodism, but I have long departed from the theology and rituals of any church. I have no personal or family roots in the Middle East or in Islam--or on a farm, for that matter. Though my early research and writing concentrated on the social and economic aspects of medieval Islam, and of Iran in particular, after the Iranian Revolution I became more actively involved in contemporary affairs. In particular, I pay close attention to religious political currents in the Muslim world and to the ups and downs of the Islamic Republic of Iran, which I feel constitutes one of the major political and social experiments of our time.

After 40+ years as a Middle East/Islam specialist, I'm pretty tired of reading about that subject. My reading preferences lean more to science fiction (William Gibson, Bruce Sterling, Neal Stephenson, Richard Morgan), graphic novels (Neil Gaiman, Alan Moore, Frank Miller, Garth Ennis, Mike Carey, Brian Vaughan), and experimental novelists (John Barth, Donald Barthelme, Thomas Pynchon, William Gaddis).
Title: Religion and the State in Islam: From Medieval Caliphate to the Muslim Brotherhood. Source: DU Center for Middle East Studies. Date Published: March 27, 2013. Description: 
A lecture with Columbia University Professor, Richard Bulliet. Sponsored by the Center for Middle East Studies and the Religious Studies Department at the University of Denver. Professor Bulliet is a Professor of History at Columbia and author of numerous books on the Middle East and Islam, including "Islam: The View from the Edge" (1993) and "The Case for Islamo-Christian Civilization" (2004). Bulliet's lecture at DU, introduced and moderated by Religious Studies Professor, Andrea Stanton (a former graduate advisee of his), delves into the contentious history and historiography surrounding the subject of "Islam and the state". The lecture took place on February 18, 2013.