Reading ‘race’ in the Islamicate Past | Dr Haroon Bashir (Markfield Institute) | AMI Research Seminar

During the second research of the academic term Dr Haroon Bashir explored race in Islamicate societies and the claim that it was structured around racial hierarchies using blackness as a case study. He posed the question as to why certain stories of anti-blackness have been produced and reproduced so widely in western literature? Through the exploration of an under-studied genre of ‘Black Excellence’ literature, he attempted to unmoor these narratives. Haroon presented the thesis that much of the literature exploring the subject is characterised essentialist narratives about ‘Arab supremacy’ and exclusively considering slaves as black in order to reaffirm the colonial history of the West and their troubled relations with race. In contrast to this, he argued that such rigid notions of race cannot be projected onto Islamicate society, where race was a far more fluid concept, as there are examples of being Arab being associated with the language as opposed to ethnicity. Haroon concluded the presentation by arguing that whilst studying the relationship between different tribes is necessary for understanding race relations in Islamicate societies, it is imperative to detach this study from the Eurocentric narrative.

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Dr Haroon Bashir is Head of Islamic Studies at the Markfield Institute of Higher Education. He completed his Ph.D in Islamic Studies at the University of Leeds. His research, funded by the White Rose College of Arts & Humanities (WRoCAH), focused on discourses pertaining to slavery, race, and emancipation within the exegetical and legal traditions of Islam. Prior to this, Dr Bashir read an M.St in the Study of Religion at the University of Oxford and received his B.A in Arabic. & Islamic Studies from the University of Leeds.