Caleb Elfenbein

Assistant Professor
Grinnell College

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The core learning goal of my introduction to Islam is that “Islam” is not a thing. Islam does not say anything. Islam does not do anything. Islam holds no power over anyone. Given the incredible diversity across time and space that marks the practices, habits, desires, sensibilities, beliefs, and feelings ...

Don’t we all have moments when we want to, or perhaps feel like we should, set aside a class session plan in lieu of discussing a pressing event or development? Despite the vast array of subjects that we teach within the broader field of Islamic studies—not to mention ...

Some time back, I wrote a blog post called “Teaching Islam and gender: why we need to set an ethical agenda for the classroom.” It described how, working collaboratively, my class on Islam, gender, and sexuality drew on the work of Lila Abu-Lughod to articulate an ethical approach to our ...

More often than not, it seems, students register for courses on Islam wanting to learn “stuff.” In a moment when the ubiquity of Islam in public consciousness is matched by general illiteracy about its history and diverse forms, these expectations are tempting. Yet if we don’t spend time really ...

Last year, I began asking students in my Islam, gender, and sexuality course to write a paragraph about what they think it means to study these topics from a humanistic perspective. It’s the first thing they write for the course. This year (as with last year), a good number ...

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