Mellon Islamic Studies Initiative

Supported by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the University of Chicago's Mellon Islamic Studies Initiative is a cross-divisional collaboration, intended to create a sustained campus conversation about the future of Islamic studies.


Beginning in 2010, the University of Chicago was given the extraordinary opportunity through a three-year grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundationto bring nine international visitors to campus for one quarter, with conferences, symposia, and lectures associated with each visit, thus raising the profile of Islamic Studies on campus and firmly establishing it as an interdisciplinary enterprise. Past visiting scholars came from Spain, Iran, Turkey, Germany, England, Italy, Egypt, and the United States, and their areas of expertise were equally diverse, with a range of five different home departments, namely Islamic Studies at the University of Chicago Divinity School, the Departments of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations, History, and Cinema and Media Studies in the Humanities, and the Committee on Social Thought in the Social Sciences Division.

Through the course of the Mellon Islamic Studies Initiative, phase 1, the University of Chicago witnessed an intensification of an intellectual community that stretches across departments, divisions, and schools at the university.  The Initiative brought together a large cohort of individuals engaged in the study of Islam who ranged across all periods and geographical regions as well as thematic clusters such as Islam, media and aesthetics; Islamic political theory, violence and the sacred; the reception of classical Islamic philosophical traditions in modern social, political and legal thought; and the complex ways in which regionally defined Islams relate to global transnational networks and immigration.

Thanks to the continued support of the Mellon Foundation, the University of Chicago began a new grant for a three-year term, commencing in 2014. The Mellon Islamic Studies Initiative will invite three distinguished international scholars for two-quarter residencies, one each over the next three years. Each visitor will bring to the community a unique area of expertise, which they will share with the campus by teaching two classes (one per quarter), giving a public lecture, and organizing a conference or symposium on their topic of study.  This grant represents one key component of the University of Chicago’s goal to forge a new paradigm of transdisciplinary engagement in research and teaching that seeks to transform the way Islam is studied, taught, and understood in the academic and global worlds.

The Visiting Scholar for 2014-2015 is Regula Qureshi.

Regula Burckhardt Qureshi is a Fellow of the Royal Canadian Society (FRSC), Professor of Music, founder and Director of the Canadian Centre for Ethnomusicology, co-founder, past director of folkwaysAlive!, and member of the Religious Studies Advisory council, at the University of Alberta. A graduate of the University of Pennsylvania (MA Germanics), and Alberta (MA Music 1972, PhD Anthropology 1981), she is also a performer (cello Curtis Institute of Music, sarangi Ustad Sabri Khan, Pandit Ram Narayan). Her major interests are South Asian, Islamic, and Canadian sonic and social practices with focus on preserving sonic and literary heritage under condition of generational change, especially in diasporic Muslim communities. Her numerous publications include the books The Muslim Community in North America and Muslim Families in North America, Sufi Music in India and Pakistan: Sound, Context and Meaning in QawwaliMusic and Marx: Ideas, Practice, Politics, and Master Musicians of India: Hereditary Sarangi Players Speak. Most recently she was invited for a month of lectures and research exploration in by the CNRS Laboratoire d’Ethnologie et Sociologie Comparée and the Centre de Recherche en Ethnomusicologie in Paris.

At the University of Alberta, Dr. Qureshi established the study of World Music, with special focus on he music of India. To create a locus for community outreach and performance, she founded the Canadian Centre for Ethnomusicology in 1995, and in 1999 the Indian Music Ensemble.  Located in the CCE’s Sound Archive her large collection of field recordings of Indian and Islamic music documents over fifty years of music making in South Asia and Canada, the latter accessible in the website South Asian Music and Culture in Canada (SAMC). Her growing interest is in diverse forms of Muslim hymnody.  Most recently she organized an international conference onSounds and Spaces of Muslim Piety: Traditions and Transformation under the auspices of the CCE and in collaboration with the UK based Association for the Study of Ginan. Her goal is to make Edmonton and the University of Alberta a centre for the study of Muslim devotional sonic expression, thereby reconnecting with, and recognizing her uncle Titus Burckhardt and his profound contribution to European understanding of Sufism and Islam. 

Dr. Regula Qureshi will join the Department of Music at the University of Chicago for the Fall and Winter Quarters of the 2014-2015 academic year.

LECTURE : Sufi Music of India and Pakistan: Feudal Ritual to Global Challenge
Friday, January 16
4:30 - 6 pm, Swift Hall Common Room