Beginning in 2010, the University of Chicago was given the extraordinary opportunity through a three-year grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to bring nine international visitors to campus for one quarter, with conferences, symposia, and lectures associated with each visit, thus raising the profile of Islamic Studies on campus and firmly establishing it as an interdisciplinary enterprise. Past visiting scholars came from Spain, Iran, Turkey, Germany, England, Italy, Egypt, and the United States, and their areas of expertise were equally diverse, with a range of five different home departments, namely Islamic Studies at the University of Chicago Divinity School, the Departments of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations, History, and Cinema and Media Studies in the Humanities, and the Committee on Social Thought in the Social Sciences Division.
Through the course of the Mellon Islamic Studies Initiative, phase 1, the University of Chicago witnessed an intensification of an intellectual community that stretches across departments, divisions, and schools at the university. The Initiative brought together a large cohort of individuals engaged in the study of Islam who ranged across all periods and geographical regions as well as thematic clusters such as Islam, media and aesthetics; Islamic political theory, violence and the sacred; the reception of classical Islamic philosophical traditions in modern social, political and legal thought; and the complex ways in which regionally defined Islams relate to global transnational networks and immigration.
Thanks to the continued support of the Mellon Foundation, the University of Chicago will begin a new grant for a three-year term, commencing in 2014. The Mellon Islamic Studies Initiative will invite three distinguished international scholars for two-quarter residencies, one each over the next three years. Each visitor will bring to the community a unique area of expertise, which they will share with the campus by teaching two classes (one per quarter), giving a public lecture, and organizing a conference or symposium on their topic of study. This grant represents one key component of the University of Chicago’s goal to forge a new paradigm of transdisciplinary engagement in research and teaching that seeks to transform the way Islam is studied, taught, and understood in the academic and global worlds.