Zarate, Arthur

Arthur S. Zárate

Lecturer, Humanities Department
Comparative Religious Studies Program



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  • Columbia University, Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.), History, 2018
  • Columbia University, Master of Philosophy (M.Phil.), History, 2015
  • Columbia University, Master of Arts (M.A.), History, 2013
  • University of Wisconsin, Madison, Bachelor of Arts (B.A.), Double Major, History and Languages and Cultures of Asia, 2010
  • University of Wisconsin, Waukesha, 2005-2006  


I'm an interdisciplinary scholar of religion whose research explores the intersection of science, ethics, and politics in contemporary Islamic thought. My teaching and research combine insights from the disciplines of religious studies and anthropology with my training at Columbia University as a historian of the Islamic world. I have lived and travelled extensively throughout the Middle East and speak Arabic.

I'm a lecturer in the Comparative Religious Studies Program at San José State University, where I teach World Religions, Middle East Traditions, and Islam, Politics and the West. In the spring 2021, I will be joining the Humanities Honors Program as a lecturer. My classes aim to introduce students to the diversity of human religious forms and expressions, highlighting specifically how religious traditions interact with each other, as well as their relevance to contemporary politics. I am particularly interested in teaching about the relationship between religion and modern science. At San José State University, I very much enjoy teaching first generation college students and students interested in applying the critical thinking skills they learn in the classroom to their lives outside the classroom. Students should walk out of my classroom with a sense of how and why the humanities matter. 

My research explores the modern history of Islamic ethical and theological traditions focusing specifically on their relationship to science and politics in contemporary Egypt, a center of Islamic political activity for the past two centuries. My research deals broadly with questions of enchantment and disenchantment in the modern world, and in how piety is lived and embodied in everyday life. 

I'm currently working on a book titled, Islamic Politics and Devotional Practice in Contemporary Egypt, 1947-1967, which is based on my dissertation.  It is a social and intellectual history of Islamic devotional practices. Although scholars understand the development of the reformist ideological wellspring from which modern Islamic movements emerged in terms of a reorientation of Islamic discourses away from otherworldly impulses toward a more rationalized, this-worldly orientation, my study demonstrates that this narrative rests on the untenable assumptions that modernity and Islamic reformism are disenchanted. In it, I examine how affiliates of one of the world’s most influential Islamic movements, the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, understood and explicated Islamic devotional techniques. Such issues were perennial concerns for them, though their writing on these matters remain underexplored. By highlighting how ascetic practices, mystical sensibilities, material mediations of the divine, and commitments to the supernatural were as fundamental to their political thinking as allegiances to reason, science and progress, my study provides a framework for moving beyond the familiar binary mode of thinking that assumes modernizing projects of reform are invariably hostile to enchantment.

My published work has appeared in Comparative Studies in Society History (2019) and I have a forthcoming article in The Journal of the American Academy of Religion (2021). My research has been supported by the Charlotte W. Newcombe Foundation and the Institute for Religion, Culture, and Public Life at Columbia University, as well as by Arabic language training from the Center for Arabic Studies Abroad in Cairo, Egypt.


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