I am honored to have received a Marty Center Junior Fellowship, which I will use to support work on my dissertation that explores discourses of tradition in educational and legal thought in modern Egypt and China. I want to think beyond familiar oppositions of "history" and "progress" in looking at specific ways of talking about Islamic and Confucian traditions in the projects of modernization. These traditions developed with very different understandings of knowledge, belonging, and personal vocation, and for Westerners, they represented the geographical, temporal, and conceptual boundaries of the Orientalist imagination. However, I want to think about similar ways they have changed to fit rubrics of state ideology and "cultural heritage" as well as the alternatives to those modern commonplaces present in Islamic and Chinese histories.
Because of the comparative purpose of this project, I hope to learn how my Marty Center colleagues approach the different situations in which their projects are located. Though many of us recognize the importance of “interdiscplinarity”, this goal can inform many different approaches to the texts and encounters we study and the theoretical literatures we employ. I have looked at how religious studies itself names religious traditions as “others” to modernity, and the modern academy, in our critical practices. I look forward to learning more about the exciting and challenging work going on among us and around us.