John R. Bowen, Ph.D., the Dunbar-Van Cleve Professor in Arts & Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis, has been named a 2005 Carnegie Scholar by the Carnegie Corp. of New York.
Bowen, who also is chair and professor of Social Thought and Analysis in Arts & Sciences, is one of 16 scholars nationwide selected in this highly competitive fellowship program.
The scholars, who receive up to $100,000 each over a two-year period to pursue research, will all study themes focusing on Islam and the modern world.
The Carnegie Corp. is concentrating the scholars program on Islam over the next few years to encourage the development and expansion of the study of Islam within the United States, and to stimulate research on which to help build a body of thoughtful and original scholarship.
“John Bowen is the ideal recipient of the Carnegie award,” said Edward S. Macias, Ph.D., executive vice chancellor, dean of Arts & Sciences and the Barbara and David Thomas Distinguished Professor in Arts & Sciences. “His work on Islam today has received much acclaim from academic and general audiences.
“John is a talented, effective faculty leader, teacher and researcher, and I’m delighted at this latest recognition of his important work on Islam.”
A professor of anthropology and of Religious Studies, Bowen studies problems of pluralism, law and religion, and, in particular, contemporary efforts to rethink Islamic norms and law in Asia, North America and Europe.
Bowen’s Carnegie research project is titled “Shaping French Islam.” Bowen said that Muslims living in non-majority Muslim countries like France find it challenging to adapt their religious institutions and practices to secular laws and traditions.
His project will examine how French Muslims strive to build a base for their religious lives in a society that views these practices as incompatible with national values.
One such practice is the wearing of headscarves by Muslim women and girls. In March 2004, France passed a law forbidding such “conspicuous religious signs” or apparel in its public schools.
Bowen’s book titled Why the French Don’t Like Headscarves, to be published in early 2006, situates this law in French politics, culture and media practices.
Focusing on Muslim public reasoning and the activities of Muslim public intellectuals in France, Bowen will analyze the arguments and justifications that French Muslims use when discussing issues such as marriage, divorce and dress prohibitions.
Bowen asserts that these discourses — addressing the question of how to be at once a good Muslim and a French citizen — reveal how Islam is being adapted within Western culture.
His work is expected to make an important contribution to understanding how Middle Eastern Islamic values, particularly in respect to gender equality, are transformed by secular ideology and jurisprudence, offering fresh insight into Islam’s future in Europe and the West.
Bowen has been doing research in and on Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim-majority country, since 1978.
A 1973 Stanford University graduate, he earned a master’s degree in 1977 and a doctorate in 1984, both in anthropology, from the University of Chicago.
Editor’s note: Bowen is a resident of Olivette, Mo. (63132).