Interview: Rebecca Faulkner

School/Institution:

Princeton University

Areas of Interest/Research:

Islam

What is it about your field that you love researching?

There is an incredible beauty and pleasure in reading poetry as a major part of my work. I love being able to center the arts in research about political and economic philosophy. In big-picture terms, South Asian Studies, Islamic Studies, and the academic study of religion in general have extraordinary theoretical resources built by innumerable compassionate, thoughtful colleagues. I am grateful to be able to work in this kind of environment. 

What is one “big idea” in your scholarship?

So much of my work is shaped by this question: what does religion have to do with our shared political life? It seems more obvious and pressing every day to say—a lot! My research agenda is concerned with how to tease out the particularities of context and to highlight contributions made to answering that line of questioning that have not been heard enough, especially from literary sources.

What is your current research about?

My current book project focuses on the work of Muhammad Iqbal (1877-1938), a massively influential South Asian poet-philosopher. I am writing about his prolific work on political, economic, and religious reform, including many collections of Urdu and Persian poetry. A big theoretical interest I have in this project is how religious studies thinks about modernity, which I contest in the book in terms of ideas like liberalism and economic justice.

Who is one of your academic heroes and why do you admire them?

I will risk being a little corny in order to tell the truth: my previous advisor, Souleymane Bachir Diagne. His work shaped my thinking about philosophy of religion more than I can say. When I was an undergraduate in Georgia, I dreamed about working with him one day. That dream came true, and along the way his kindness and brilliance lit sparks of curiosity and nurtured a kind of humanism in my own life.

What books have been formative for you in your study? Why were they so important? How did they shape you?

Many years ago one of the very first (and still one of the best) works on Iqbal I read was Annemarie Schimmel’s book Gabriel’s Wing. A. Azfar Moin’s book Millennial Sovereign is not on my research topic, but it helped shape how I think about religion in politics. Leora Batnitzky’s book How Judaism Became a Religion helps me think about religion, literature, and philosophy in relation to modernity. Her approach complements Sudipta Kaviraj’s work, for example in his book The Invention of Private Life, in influencing my thinking on literature and intellectual history.

Do you have any publications we can showcase?

Not yet! But you can read about my current book project, follow my presentations, and see a broad range of my teaching and research interests on my website (rebeccalynnfaulkner.com). 

Where can we follow you online?

You can follow me on twitter (@sugarkekse) for friendly retweets of excellent scholarly resources and the occasional meme. 

If we ran into you at a conference and you didn’t want to talk about your field what would you want to talk about?

I will probably make Sopranos references, ask your opinion about a fiction book I was supposed to have read already, and suggest we go on a hunt for the nearest cup of tea.   

What research/writing project are you working on right now that you’re excited about?

Right now I am reading and tracking down sources in preparation for my next book manuscript on Islamic socialism. I am super invigorated and inspired by what I have found, which is of course a wonderful side effect of new projects.

>> Thank you so much, Rebecca, for taking the time to share a bit about yourself and your work.


Are you a PhD student or Early Career Researcher working in Religion or Biblical Studies? If so, we’d like to hear from you. This website is dedicated solely to interviewing PhD students and ECRs on who they are, what they love about their work, and what has inspired them. If you’d like to be interviewed, head over to the Contact page and fill out the form. There’s no catch. Don’t be shy. Self-promotion is a virtue.

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