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Postdoctoral researcher begins project on science and religion in Islam

8 February 2013

Recent PhD graduate, Dr Caroline Tee, becomes postdoctoral researcher on project to study science and religion in Islam.

Dr Caroline Tee, who completed her PhD last year in the Departments of Archaeology and Anthropology and Religion and Theology, University of Bristol is the recipient of a postdoctoral award which will enable her to work on a project concerning science and religion in Islam. /religion/images/staffphotos/ct.jpgThe project, entitled, 'Cultural Contingency in the Science and Islam Debate: the case of the Gülen Movement in Turkey', is funded by the John Templeton Foundation. It will run for two years under the leadership of Dr David Shankland in the Department of Archaeology and Anthropology with Dr Caroline Tee as the postdoctoral researcher.

The project will address the influence of social, cultural and political factors on the development of a major discourse concerning science and religion in Islam. It will study the Gülen Movement, one of the most prominent socio-religious movements in the contemporary Muslim world. The project will explore the distinctively pro-active engagement with modern science in Gülenist thought (particularly through the doctrine of i'jaz, the 'scientific miracle' of the Qur'an), and interpret it according to the specifically Turkish cultural context of its emergence. As such, it will explore the relationship between the Gülen Movement's idiom of science and such local factors as Turkish and neo-Ottoman nationalism, secularism, economics and geo-politics.

The project will study five Gülen-inspired educational institutions (high schools and universities) in Turkey through regular periods of anthropological fieldwork over two years, using interviews, surveys and the practice of participant observation. It will investigate approaches in learning and teaching to the philosophy as well as the application of science, understandings of religious (particularly, Qur'anic) and scientific authority, and evidence of critical engagement with science in those educational communities. The major anticipated outputs of the project will be an ethnographic monograph on science and the Gülen movement, three peer-reviewed journal articles (two in the English-speaking world, one in the Middle East), a paper at a leading Turkish think-tank, two public lectures and a panel at a major national Science Festival in Britain.

The project has the potential to make an enduring impact by changing our understanding of the science and religion debate in the Islamic context, through exposing the formative role of historico-cultural norms. Its contribution of original ethnographic data will refine our understanding of the prospects of a critically minded 'culture of science' developing in the Muslim world.

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