Islamic Reform and Progressive Politics in the Age of Extremism and Neoliberalism


  • Date & Time: Thursday, 8 November, 2018, 15:00-16:30
  • Place: Room#406,  SNUAC(Bldg#101)
  • Speaker: Professor Siavash Saffari (Assistant Professor, Dept. of Asian Languages & Civilizations, Dept. of Political Science & Int’l Relations)
  • Host: SNUAC West Asia Center
  • Inquiry: Hanna Jang /

About the Speaker

Dr. Siavash Saffari is an assistant professor of West Asian Studies and Political Science at Seoul National University. His publications on Middle Eastern and Islamic politics have appeared in such journals as Contemporary Islam, Middle East Critique, and Sociology of Islam. He is the author of Beyond Shariati: Modernity, Cosmopolitanism, and Islam in Iranian Political Thought (2017) and a co-editor of Unsettling Colonial Modernity in Islamicate Contexts (2017). He studied comparative politics at Simon Fraser University, McMaster University, and the University of Alberta (Ph.D. 2013), followed by a postdoctoral fellowship at Columbia University.


SNUAC West Asia Center’s sixth colloquium, the last of 2018, invited Professor Siavash Saffari from the Department of Asian Languages and Civilizations at SNU and the title for his seminar was “Islamic Reform and Progressive Politics in the Age of Extremism and Neoliberalism.”

An incessant search for the “Martin Luther of Islam” is ongoing in Western media and academia alike. Propelling this search is the misapprehension that just as Luther ended the dark ages of Christianity, a courageous Muslim visionary must now usher in an era of Islamic reformation and enlightenment. Its historically and theologically-false equivalency aside, the plea for a “Martin Luther of Islam” wholly ignores over a century of reformist efforts since the late-19th century al-Nahda (renaissance) movement. Far from lacking religious reformation, Muslim-majority societies have witnessed the rise and contestation of a wide range of religious reform initiatives, each with its own agents, methods, and objectives. The fallacious question of “who is the Martin Luther of Islam?”, therefore, must be relinquished in favor of more meaningful questions such as: what social, political, and economic visions are advanced by each of the existing Islamic reform projects? How do these projects respond to the present challenges of political authoritarianism, gender injustice, neoliberalism, and climate change? And which, if any, of these multivariate projects may ultimately contribute to the advancement of an emancipatory and progressive vision for our common future?