Areas of Specialization

Islamic Religious Thought and Mysticism (Sufism), Classical Persian Literature, Gender and Sexuality

Areas of Competence and Teaching Interest

Islam:                                 Sufism, Religious Thought, Women, Gender, Sexuality
Comparative Religion:  Pre-Modern Mysticism, kabbalah
Contemporary:              Theory and Methods in the Study of Religion,  Middle Eastern Cultures, Continental Philosophy
                                (Lacan, Derrida, Irigaray, Butler)

Current Research Interests:

To summarize, i am not a scholar of Lacan, Freud, Zizek, Derrida, or other thinkers, not even Rumi who i think i know inside out.  I am
interested in exploring the nature of religious/mystical experiences especially as they intersect with ertoicism and gender/sexuality.  So i
use postmodern theories to open up these religious/mystical experiences to examination--the results have amazed me!  Read on if you
are interested in academic details of it:

My research interests are thoroughly interdisciplinary and located at the intersection of a number of religious traditions and theories.  I
am fascinated by the phenomenology of religious experiences, the meaning of religious phenomena as it is experienced by believers
and non-believers alike.  In my previous academic work I have intervened on the scholarly debate about the possibility of direct and
“pure” religious experience of the divine, especially mystical experiences.  I have examined the possibility of the existence of a pure
religious experience .  There is always a mixture of context and structural religious underpinnings that provide the interpretive
framework, which in turn shape religious experiences.  For example, it is Rumi’s androcentric cultural context coupled with monotheistic
orientation of Islam that brings about privileging of male as the ontologically independent gender in his mystical work.  

My most recent published article, "The Erotics of Sacrifice in the Quranic Tale of Abel and Cain" (
International Journal of Zizek Studies,
2011--access it next page) examines possible answers to the question: What is the "truth" of the story of Cain and Abel, one killing the
other, in the Qur'an?  Why would the penis/corpse of the murdered brother get exposed right after the killing, and why the regret of the
murderer is not  for the killing but for not covering up the penis/corpse of the victim?  I identify an overlooked erotic layer of meaning
archived in the key Qur’anic term for sacrifice and explore the nexus of eroticism and sacrifice in this tale.  At the beginning of this text
the Qur’an announces that the “truth” of this story will be told.  However, that truth turns out to be the symbolic absence of the truth,
allowing for a range of interpretive possibilities.  Using relevant conceptual tools from Bataille and Lacan (with a pinch of Zizek for good
measure) I argue that in the Qur’anic narrative of Cain and Abel the “shame/penis” of the murdered brother is the site of the "archive,"
and all and any interpretive possibilities are conditioned by the function of the master-signifier, the phallus alluded to in the text by the
presence of the penis.

Currently I am following up on this “modified contextualist” approach to religious phenomenon.  For example, in an article I just
completed entitled “Performing Belief and Reviving Islam: The Function of White Prominent Male Converts in Muslim Revival
Conventions” (under Review by
The Journal of Islamic Studies), I examined the concept of belief as it relates to the conversion of
westerners (Euro-American subjects) to Islam.  This paper argues that for many (born-)Muslims the Western converts function as the
signifiers of belief.  As a subject outwardly embodying the effects of the belief, a Western white convert functions like a “fetish.”  Like the
sexual arousal of a fetishist that cannot take place except in the presence of a psychosexual fetish, for (some) Muslims the deepest
indications of belief are invoked by the converts’ typical hyper-performativity of their faith.  Muslims’ belief about God, prophets and
angels remains objectively insufficient until it is fetishistically invoked by the Western convert.  Conspicuous Western converts in effect
believe for the rest of the Muslims.  Historically scholars of religion argued that proof is derived from belief. They defined belief as a
Pascalian existential “wager” (Cantwell Smith), a subjectively sufficient judgment (Kant), and hence weaker than knowledge (Hume), with
no need of proof (James, Wittgenstein).  This paper has a bearing on this debate by concluding that perhaps it is time to reconsider
characterizations of belief as the producer of proof.  At least in the case of Western converts to Islam we are witnessing the reliance of
belief on proof.

My second book (forthcoming in 2013) is tentatively entitled
Muslim Men and the “F” Word.  Along the same interdisciplinary lines this
book will show the relevance of gender studies and feminism in particular to reconsiderations of Muslim masculinities in ways that are
not about hegemonic domination and control.  I am also contributing a chapter to a forthcoming book:
Islamic Imagery: Studies in Sacred
Symbolism
(ed. by John Morrow), in which I plan to show the relevance of an interdisciplinary/interreligious approach to new readings of
Islamic texts.  

In my published research and future scholarly work, I am seeking to open new paths of inquiry into the textual expressions and lived
experiences of Islam through an interdisciplinary approach and the use of postmodern theories.  This is not a theory-driven rereading of
Islam, which forces novel results.  Rather, my research aims:

1)   to contribute to the academic debates on the phenomenology of religious experiences and symbolism;

2)   to upset reified hermeneutics by cutting across rigid academic disciplines that have produced the dichotomy of postmodern-
medieval divide;

3)    to demonstrate possible contributions of the sophisticated symbolic resources of Islam to our contemporary aspirations and to a
transformative project of addressing the shortfalls of the contemporary human condition.  

Languages

* Native fluency in Persian and English
* Strong command of Arabic
* Reading knowledge of French, German
*
Zaban-e Eshq (Language of Love), still learning the alphabets
Professional Affiliations

•        American Academy of Religion
•        Association of Muslim Social Scientists
•        International Society for Iranian Studies
•        International Tae Kwon Do Federation
Counter
Mahdi Tourage, Ph.D.
Current Positions:
* Associate Professor of Religious Studies and
Social Justice and Peace Studies

Dept. of Religion and Philosophy
King's University College
at the University of Western Ontario
266 Epworth Ave.  
London, Ontario, N6A 2M3
Tel. (519) 433-3491 xtn. 4542
1800 265-4406

tourage-at-yahoo-dot-ca
mtourage-at-uwo-dot-ca

Book Review Editor:





Je suis Canadien
The True North Strong and Free
American Journal of Islamic Social
Sciences
My book, Rumi and the Hermeneutics of Eroticism (Brill, 2007), an expanded version of
my dissertation, is an exploration of gender as a hermeneutical category and the phallus
as an esoteric symbol.  This book thus established a dialogical link between the
discourses of postmodern textual analysis and Islamic mystical hermeneutics while
drawing parallels with Kabbalist texts, particularly the Zohar.  It made a substantial
contribution to the field of Sufi studies demonstrating the relevance of aspects of the
postmodern models of inquiry into subjectivity and semiotics to the creative
transformative processes found in an Islamic mystical text like the Masnavi.  It also
interrupted the prevalent dialectical logic of contraries that views postmodern theories
and medieval-traditional categories as irreconcilable epistemologies.  
Faculty Page