Thursday, April 03, 2008

Postdoctoral Fellowship in Jewish/Muslim Relations

My admirable friend Sam Fleischacker, whom I have mentioned before in this blog, is a Professor of Philosophy at the University of Illinois in Chicago and the author of a pile valuable books, including The Ethics of Culture, A Short History of Distributive Justice, and a a series of important works on Adam Smith as a moral and socio-political thinker, among them A Third Concept of Liberty and On Adam Smith's "Wealth of Nations": A Philosophical Companion.

Sam is also, unlike me, an observant Jew. His religious commitment has inclined him to be more, rather than less, open to other religious traditions. Over the years, he has been impressively persistent in pursuing practical efforts at inter-faith dialogues with Christian and Muslim groups, despite repeated tensions and disappointments. In addition, starting in 2005 Sam launched an effort to promote intellectually serious and rigorous comparative study of Judaism and Islam through an interdisciplinary Jewish/Muslim Studies Initiative. (For more details, see HERE.)

In that connection, Sam has asked me to circulate the following announcement. The Jewish-Muslim Initiative has just obtained funding for a one-semester visiting post-doctoral fellowship in Spring 2009. Unfortunately, this timing means that the deadline for applications will be tight. "It's too late to run ads in the proper places, unfortunately, so those of us on the committee are just distributing the following announcement to people who we think might help us locate good candidates."

See below. If you're interested in applying, get in touch with Prof. Fleischacker ... and if you know anyone who might be appropriate for and interested in this fellowship, please pass this announcement along to them, too.

--Jeff Weintraub

The Jewish-Muslim Initiative at the University of Illinois-Chicago invites applications for a Postdoctoral Fellowship in the Spring semester of 2009. The successful candidate will teach one undergraduate class, give two or three public lectures, and participate in the life of the university. The class may compare Jewish and Muslim views on any topic, or be on any aspect of historical Jewish-Muslim relations. Applicants welcome from History, Philosophy, Religion, Law, Political Science, and other disciplines, or from either a Jewish Studies or an Islamic Studies Department. Successful candidates should display interest in both the Jewish and the Muslim tradition, but need have expertise in only one of them. Applicants should submit a c.v., including the names of at least three referees, and a sample of written work. For full consideration, applications should be in by April 25, 2008. They can be sent to:

Prof. Sam Fleischacker
Jewish/Muslim Search Committee
Philosophy Department (M/C 267)
1407 University Hall
601 South Morgan Street
University of Illinois-Chicago
Chicago, IL 60607-7104

UIC ranks among the nation's top 50 universities in federal research funding and is Chicago's largest university with 25,000 students, 12,000 faculty and staff, 15 colleges and the state's major public medical center. It is an urban, largely commuter campus, with one of the most diverse student populations in the United States. The University of Illinois is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.

Postdoctoral Fellowship in Jewish/Muslim Relations

The rift between Jews and Muslims is among the most serious in the world today. Whatever one’s political views, the need for Jews and Muslims to understand one another better, and to develop friendships and co-operative relationships, could not be more obvious.

With this need in mind, the University of Illinois at Chicago has developed a ground-breaking initiative in Jewish/Muslim relations. As a school with a large Muslim population, in one of America's most ethnically diverse cities, and with a large group of professors with a strong, sympathetic interest in both Judaism and Islam, UIC is well-situated to take the lead in this area.

The heart of the initiative is a course in Jewish/Muslim relations, to be taught each year by a postdoctoral fellow selected from a nationwide competition for that purpose. Any of a large variety of topics can provide the subject matter of this course: it might take up views of Abraham, Joseph or Moses in the Torah and the Quran; the Islamic context of Maimonides’s philosophy; similarities and differences between the Islamic and Jewish legal systems; shared Jewish and Islamic history, in Spain, Iraq, the Balkans, or the United States, or any of a myriad of other topics.

The point of this course, and the fellowship, is three-fold:

1) to provide incentives, in the scholarly world, for young scholars with a strong research interest in either Judaism or Islam to develop knowledge of the other tradition as well — we propose a postdoctoral fellowship precisely to attract scholars at the beginning of their career, just coming out of programs in either Jewish or Islamic Studies, so that they can take the results of this year’s work with them wherever else they go,

2) to provide a venue for Jewish and Muslim students to investigate one another’s traditions together, and

3) to bring the results of this scholarly and pedagogical work to the wider community of Chicago: in the form of presentations by the postdoctoral fellow at mosques and synagogues, Jewish and Islamic schools and cultural centers, and the like, but also in the form of students trained in such a program who go on to work in Jewish or Islamic organizations in the area.

Scholars are well situated to break through stereotypes and provide cool voices to calm down debates clouded by passion. There is a dearth of scholarly work bridging the Jewish and Islamic communities. The UIC Fellowship — which is unique in the world — is one step towards improving that situation.

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