Anthropologist John Bowen Interviewed About Burqas in France

Author of Why the French Don’t like Headscarves (Princeton UP, 2007), Professor John Bowen of the University of Washington in St. Louis is interviewed about the new commission on the burqa and niqab, set to give its recommendations in December 2009. Bowen describes other European positions against the burqa and how it has trespassed French positions of religion in the public sphere. He suggests that new forms of dialogue which privilege Muslim interlocutors are important to normalize the presence of Islam in France.

Why The French Don’t Like Headscarves

Speaker: JOHN BOWEN, Chair, Social Thought and Analysis & Professor of Anthropology, Washington University in St. Louis; 


Commentators: JOCELYNE CESARI, Harvard Center for Middle Eastern Studies and Director of Harvard’s Islam in the West Program; MARY LEWIS, History Department, Harvard University; AMY WALDMAN, “The Atlantic” and Fellow at Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study

Sponsor: Social Exclusion and Inclusion in an Expanded Europe Study Group co-sponsored by the Islam in the West Lecture Series 

Location: Lower Level Conference Room

Contact Name: Hilary Silver, Jocelyne Cesari Contact Email: hsilver@email.brown.edu, sprevatt@hds.harvard.edu

Details: “Author Meets Critics” panel discussion of John Bowen’s Why the French Don’t Like Headscarves: Islam, the State and Public Space, Princeton University Press, 2007.

Interpreting the Islamic Tradition in the Contemporary World

All members of the Harvard community are cordially invited to attend the Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Islamic Studies Program’s first annual conference entitled, “Interpreting the Islamic Tradition in the Contemporary World.” Events will be held on Saturday, November 3 and Sunday, November 4. The agenda for the conference events is below. The conference is free, including the lunch reception on November 3 and the Gamelan performance on November 4. The events will take place on the first floor of the Barker Center both days.

Saturday, November 3

9:30 am – 12:30 pm

  • Thompson Room, Barker Center
  • John Bowen, Washington University in Saint Louis: “Ibn Ashur in Aceh and Paris: Adapting Shar?`a by way of its Objectives”
  • Muhammad Qasim Zaman, Princeton University: “Religious Authority and the Language of Ijtihad in Contemporary Sunni Islam”
  • Asef Bayat, Leiden University: “Fun and Fundamentalism”
  • 12:30 pm to 2:00 pm Barker Center Middle Eastern lunch reception for members of the Harvard community

    2:00 pm to 5:00 pm Thompson Room, Barker Center

  • Said Arjomand, State University of New York-Stony Brook: “Islamic Constitutionalism: Paradoxes and Pitfalls in the Appropriation of the Islamicate Political Tradition”
  • Farid Esack, Harvard University: “Redeeming Islam: Constructing the Good Muslim Subject in Contemporary Religious Studies”
  • Omid Safi, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill: “Reforming Islam in the ’Axis of Evil’: Contesting Islam in Post-Revolutionary Iran”
  • Sunday, November 4

    9:30 am – 12:30 pm Thompson Room, Barker Center

  • Mahmood Mamdani, Columbia University: “Distinguishing Bigotry from Blasphemy in Contemporary Freedom of Speech Debates”
  • David Cook, Rice University: “Faith and Fornication: Behind the Murji’a Debate in Contemporary Islam”
  • Sherman Jackson, University of Michigan: “Ibn Taymya and Black Theodicy”
  • 12:30 pm – 2:30 pm

  • Barker Center Concluding remarks, closing reception
  • Performance by Boston Village Gamelan Group