Mushegh Asatryan

Biography and/or project

I am an Associate Professor of Arabic and Muslim Cultures at the University of Calgary (Canada). I received my PhD in Religious Studies from Yale, with a specialization on Islam. 

My research expertise is in the field of the religious, social, and intellectual history of the pre-modern Arabic- and Persian-speaking Muslim Middle East. Broadly speaking, I am interested in the interrelations between religion, culture, and society. In particular, I explore medieval Muslim constructions of heresy and orthodoxy, sectarianism, and the politics of religious polemics. I also study the production and circulation of texts, examining what they tell us about their authors and readers. One of my current projects is a book on medieval Muslim heresiology. 

I am also interested in how theory is used (both critically and uncritically) in studies of the premodern Muslim world; but also how so-called empirical (aka philological) studies, when done without theoretical insight, suffer from the same limitations as the uncritical deployment of theory. I just published on article where I critique studies on early Islamic sectarianism and provide a peliminary exploration of the uses of theory in historical studies. One of my forthcoming projects is a study of the types of analytical operations scholars perform in using various social-scientific and literary theories when studying the medieval Muslim world. My goal is to isolate the uncritical uses of theory and to propose a cogent formulation of how theory could be applied to documents of the past in ways that are cognitively fruitful.