Zarate, Arthur

Arthur S. Zárate

Lecturer, Humanities Department
Comparative Religious Studies Program



Office Hours

My advising hours are by appointment. To make one, please send me an email.


  • 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. I received a PhD in history from Columbia University in October 2018. Although I'm trained as a historian, my research and teaching are interdisciplinary in nature. I have lived and travelled extensively throughout the Middle East and speak Arabic. I'm currently a lecturer in the Comparative Religious Studies Program at San José State University, where I teach World Religions and Middle East Traditions. 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 contemporary politics. At San José State University, I particularly 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.

I'm currently working on a book titled, Islamic Politics and Devotional Practice in Contemporary Egypt, 1947-1967.  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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