Richard W. Bulliet is an innovative historian of the Islamic world. His contributions have changed the way scholars think about the history of medieval city life, animal domestication, wheeled transport, religious conversion, Islamic institutions, and relations between Islam and Christianity. His fifty-year career at Harvard, Berkeley, and Columbia coincided with the rise of Middle East Studies as an American academic enterprise and with his Columbia colleague Edward Said’s book Orientalism, which set off a lasting debate over the value of Americans’ and Europeans’ studying non-Western cultures. In Methodists and Muslims, Bulliet has fashioned a critique of both Orientalism and Middle East Studies. His memoir also recounts how a young Methodist from Illinois made his way into the then-arcane field of Islamic Studies, became involved in shaping Middle East Studies, and developed relations with the Islamic Republic of Iran, culminating in the controversial visit to New York City by President Ahmadinejad of Iran.
It would take most people many lifetimes to cover the ground that Professor Bulliet has covered, both intellectually and geographically. From his Midwestern roots to his deep Middle Eastern engagement, from the Koran to comic books, a record of a truly unique life and mind.
Bulliet has a way of connecting the dots that informs, entertains, or even startles on occasion. Who knew that the founding fathers of Wahhibism and Methodism were born in the same year? What does that have to do with the life and education of the author? A lot, as it turns out. Read it. You’ll see.
Bulliet parallels his own adventures in academe and abroad, with a view from the inside—and the edge—of the entire field of American Middle East Studies from the 1960s to the present. Laced with iconoclastic observations, Bulliet trains his unrelenting sights on that most problematic and enduring descriptor: Orientalist.
Filled with crisp memories refracted through passionate self-reflection, Bulliet’s narrative journey vividly conveys the quest to understand oneself while thinking deeply yet broadly about others, issues, and the momentous impacts of seemingly localized events. A must-read!
Richard Bulliet’s passion for academic excellence, combined with his emphasis on ‘diversity and a little bit of craziness,’ is reflective of his unique vision as well as the broader possibilities that refreshingly run counter to conventional historical study.
At its heart Methodists and Muslims is a page-turning story of how a white male, from a Methodist family in Rockford, Illinois, became an Ivy League professor of medieval Islamic history. Writing from the vantage point of retirement, the scars of loss (both personal and professional), and the insatiable curiosity of an eclectic mind, Bulliet challenges the over-determinacy of humanistic ‘models’ like Orientalism by telling us a story—his story.
- 194 pages
- 6 x 9 inches
- Ilex Foundation
From this author
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