Islamic Studies scholars join Harvard Divinity School faculty

By Michael Naughton

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Scholars Mohsen Goudarzi and Terenjit Sevea have each been named Assistant Professor in Islamic Studies at Harvard Divinity School.

Sevea’s appointment is effective July 1, 2020, while Goudarzi’s appointment is effective July 1, 2021.

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Sevea is currently Assistant Professor of South Asian Studies at the University of Pennsylvania, a position he has held since 2013. He is also Undergraduate Chair of South Asian Studies at Penn. He has a PhD in history from the University of California, Los Angeles.

Goudarzi is currently Assistant Professor in the Program in Religious Studies and Department of Classical and Near Eastern Studies at the University of Minnesota, a position he has held since 2018. He earned his PhD in the study of religion from Harvard.

“I am delighted that both Mohsen Goudarzi and Terenjit Sevea will join the HDS faculty,” says Dean David N. Hempton. “Professor Goudarzi, who has expertise in the critical field of Qur’anic Studies, excels not only in research, but also teaching. He received a certificate of distinction in teaching three times from the Office of Undergraduate Education while a teaching fellow at Harvard. Professor Sevea, who specializes in Islam in Southeast Asia, impressed the search committee as a capable and brilliant candidate. In his writings, Professor Sevea has explored history, religion, and Sufism in early modern and modern South and Southeast Asia. Their contributions in the classroom and community will undoubtedly strengthen the Islamic Studies offerings at HDS and Harvard more broadly.”

Sevea’s forthcoming book is Miracles and Material Life: Rice, Ore, Traps and Guns in Islamic Malaya, which reveals the economic, environmental and religious significance of Islamic miracle workers (pawangs) in the nineteenth- and twentieth-century Malay world.

“It is truly an honor to be part of Harvard Divinity School and contribute to the edifying and interdisciplinary research being carried out by its faculty members and students,” said Sevea. “I feel privileged to receive this opportunity to work with distinguished scholars who have informed my approaches to the study of religion, and with the dedicated students.”

Goudarzi’s research focuses on the intellectual and social aspects of Islam’s emergence, in particular the Qur’an’s relationship to Late Antique literature as well as its textual history. His current book project proposes a new reading of major elements of the Qur’anic worldview, including the Qur’an’s conception of scriptural and prophetic history.

“I am thrilled to be joining HDS. As a doctoral student, I found HDS to be a nurturing environment that fostered the study and practice of religion in productive harmony,” said Goudarzi. “Many of my fondest memories are from the time I spent in HDS classrooms, faculty offices, the library, and the Rock Café. I am delighted to have the opportunity to contribute to this exceptional community, and hope to support its mission to advance religious scholarship and leadership at the national and international level.”

Ousmane Kane, Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Professor of Contemporary Islamic Religion and Society at HDS, chaired the faculty search committee. He praised the research and expertise of both scholars.

“Mohsen Goudarzi is an emerging Qur’anic scholar whose research is leading to the reevaluation of some of the most fundamental assumptions previously held in the study of the Qur’an. He is a wonderful conversation partner to colleagues in Islamic, biblical, and New Testament studies at HDS, and his scholarship is an excellent fit at Harvard for the way in which it complements existing strengths at the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations,” said Kane. “Teren Sevea’s scholarship is truly wide ranging as an expert of South and South East Asia, two regions which host the majority of the global Muslim population. His hire strengthens our offerings on global Islam.”

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