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During Lent and Summer terms 2010, Professor Bowen gave three lectures on Islam, secularisms, and law in the contemporary world, as part of his Leverhulme Visiting Professorship at LSE. 

February 2010: Secularisms in Crisis

March 2010: Studying Islam across times and place: how to compare?

May 2010: Islam, secularisms and law across Europe

For full details, please see this page||.

Professor John Bowen

Professor John BowenJohn R. Bowen is Dunbar-Van Cleve Professor in Arts & Sciences, Sociocultural Anthropology at Washington University in St. Louis, and Visiting Professor in the Department of Anthropology at the LSE. 

My current research focuses on comparative social studies of Islam across the world. My own ethnographic studies take place in Indonesia, France, and England, but I work with students and colleagues with field sites across Asia, the Middle East, and Africa. In particular, I analyze how Muslims (judges and scholars, public figures, ordinary people) work across plural sources of norms and values, including diverse interpretations of the Islamic tradition, law codes and decisions, and local social norms.

My first three books examined issues of religion, culture, and politics in Indonesia, looking outward from a long-term research site in the Gayo highlands of Aceh. I studied a century of changes in oratory, song, and historical narratives; everyday practices of (and debates about) Islam in a highland farming community; and the interpretive work of judges in Indonesian Islamic and civil courts. In my next two books I looked at Islam in France: first, why non-Muslim French people supported a law against religious signs in schools; secondly, how Muslims in France create new Islamic institutions and new views on how to interpret Islam. I am now working on Shari'a Councils in England and North America. Along the way, I have written on ethnic conflict, comparative methods, schooling, and the anthropology of religion.

I work with many doctoral students, engaged in a wide variety of dissertation projects, from urban youth identities in Kenya, to Islamic movements in Kyrgyzstan, to language revitalization in Wales. Together, we work in a collaborative writing group that meets regularly throughout the year.

Selected Publications


2009 Can Islam Be French? Pluralism and Pragmatism in a Secularist State.  Princeton: Princeton University Press.

2009 "Private Arrangements: `Recognizing sharî`a' in England", Boston Review,  March/April. [pdf||]

2009 "Recognizing Islam in France after 9/11", Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies 35:3, pp. 439-52.

2008 "Republican ironies: Equality and identities in French schools", in Martha Minow, Richard A. Shweder, and Hazel Rose Markus, eds., Just Schools: Pursuing Equality in Societies of Difference, pp. 204-24.  New York: Russell Sage Foundation.

2008 "Europe", in Andrew Rippin, ed., The Muslim World, pp. 118-30.   London, New York: Routledge. [pdf]

2007 Why the French Don't Like Headscarves: Islam, the State, and Public Space.  Princeton: Princeton University Press. [website||]

2006 "France's Revolt: Can the Republic live up to its ideals?", Boston Review  January/February, pp. 29-32. [pdf||]


2008 "Intellectual Pilgrimages and Local Norms in Fashioning Indonesian Islam", Revue d'Etudes sur le Monde Musulman et la Méditerranée, 123: 37-54. [pdf||]

2005 "Normative Pluralism in Indonesia: Regions, Religions, and Ethnicities," in Will Kymlicka and Boagang He, eds., Multiculturalism in Asia: Theoretical Perspectives, pp. 152-69. Oxford: Oxford University Press. [pdf||]

2005 "Fairness and Law in an Indonesian Court", in M. Khalid Masud, David S. Powers, and Ruud Peters, eds., Dispensing Justice in Muslim Courts: Qadis, Procedures and Judgments, pp. 117-41. Leiden: Brill. [pdf||]

2004 "The Development of Southeast Asian Studies in the United States", in David L. Szanton, ed., The Politics of Knowledge: Area Studies and the Disciplines, pp. 386-425. Berkeley: University of California Press. [Digital edition||]

2003 Islam, Law and Equality in Indonesia: An Anthropology of Public Reasoning. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press (awarded the 2004 Herbert Jacobs Prize by the Law and Society Association for the "outstanding book" of 2003). 

Religion and Comparative Studies

2010 The New Anthropology of Islam. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

2008 Religions in Practice: An Approach to the Anthropology of Religion (4th ed.)   Needham Heights, MA: Allyn & Bacon [website||]

2006 "Anti-Americanism as Schemas and Diacritics across Indonesia and France," in Peter Katzenstein and Robert Keohane, eds., Anti-Americanisms in World Politics. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.