School of Religion

“Being Muslim: Women of Color in North American Islam"

March 28th, 2019
Biosciences Complex - Room 1102

In her lecture, Professor Chan-Malik considers the ways U.S. Muslim women’s identities are expressions of Islam as both Black protest religion and universal faith tradition,  and explore how this history shapes Muslim women’s identity formation and cultural presence in both the U.S. and Canada. Drawing on archival images, cultural texts, popular media, and interviews, she will show how communities of American Islam became sites of safety, support, spirituality, and social activism, and how women of color were central to their formation. By accounting for Islam’s rich histories of mobilization and community in the U.S, she highlights the forms of resistance that Muslim women have historically engaged in, and how this has come to inform transnational networks of activism and advocacy around issues of Islam, race, and gender. From the stories  she gathers, Professor Chan-Malik demonstrates the diversity and similarities of Black, Arab, South Asian, Latina, Indigenous, and multiracial Muslim women in the U.S. and Canada, and how North American understandings of Islam have shifted against the evolution of racial and gender politics, nationalism, and the logics of empire-building over past century. In borrowing from the lineages of Black and women-of-color feminism, Chan-Malik offers a new vocabulary for Muslim feminism in North America, one that is as conscious of race, gender, sexuality, and nation, as it is region and religion.


Sylvia Chan-Malik is Associate Professor in the Departments of American and Women’s and Gender Studies at Rutgers University, New Brunswick, where she directs the Social Justice Program and teaches courses on race and ethnicity in the United States, Islam in/and America, social justice movements, feminist methodologies, and multiethnic literature and culture in the U.S. She is the author of Being Muslim: A Cultural History of Women of Color in American Islam (NYU Press, 2018), which offers an alternative narrative of American Islam in the 20th-21st century that centers the lives, subjectivities, voice, and representations of women of color. Her writings are also featured in numerous anthologies, including With Stones in Our Hands: Writings on Muslim, Racism, and Empire (UMinn Press, 2018), Routledge Handbook of Islam in the West(Routledge, 2015), and The Cambridge Companion to American Islam (Cambridge, 2013), and in scholarly journals, such as Amerasia, CUNY Forum, Journal of Race, Ethnicity, and Religion, and The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science. She speaks frequently on issues of U.S. Muslim politics and culture, Islam and gender, and racial and gender politics in the U.S., and her commentary has appeared in venues such as Slate News, The Intercept, Daily Beast, PRI, Huffington Post, Patheos, Religion News Service, and others. She holds a Ph.D. in Ethnic Studies from the University of California, Berkeley, and an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from Mills College.