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Religious Studies

Paul Powers

Associate Professor and Core Curriculum Director

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J.R. Howard Hall

Paul Powers teaches a range of courses about Islam and Religious Studies. His courses include “Islamic Origins,” “Islam in the Modern World,” “Religious Fundamentalism,” “Sufism: Islamic Mysticism,” and a seminar on Islamic law. Many of these courses explore theoretical and methodological questions about the nature and study of religion, as well as gender-related issues and questions about the nature of “modernity.”


Fall 2015: On Sabbatical 

Fall 2014 Courses:

RELS 274 Islam in the Modern World
The religious, social, and political dynamics of the Islamic world, circa 1300 C.E. to present, especially the 19th-21st centuries. Earlier developments (e.g., the Qur’an, Muhammad, Muslim dynasties) considered in relation to the modern context. European colonialism, postcolonial change, reform and “fundamentalist” movements, Sufism, Muslim views of “modernity,” and changing understandings of politics, gender, and relations with non-Muslims.

RELS 376 Religious Fundamentalism
The perceptions and realities of religious resurgence in a supposedly secularizing world.
Focus on the historical, theological, social, and political aspects of Christian and Islamic
fundamentalism. Themes include secularization theories and their critics; changing
understandings of religion and modernity; connections among religion, politics, violence,
sexuality/gender, and identity.


Prof. Powers’ research interests focus on pre-modern Islam, especially Islamic law. He has published articles in the Journal of the American Academy of Religion and Islamic Law and Society, as well as a book, Intent in Islamic law: Motive and Meaning in Medieval Sunni Fiqh (Brill, 2006). A central question of his research has been how Islamic law deals with human subjective states. He is currently undertaking a new project examining Islamic law in its cultural contexts, both pre-modern and modern; this project seeks to improve our understanding of how Muslims not formally educated in Islamic law have understood Islamic legal ideas, institutions, and representative persons (such as judges and legal scholars). He has traveled extensively in the Muslim world, including Yemen, Jordan, Syria, Egypt, Morocco, and India.

Academic Credentials

Ph.D. 2001 University of Chicago Divinity School, History of Religions/Islamic Studies

M.A. 1992 University of Chicago Divinity School, B.A. 1990 Carleton College

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Religious Studies


Paul Powers’s office is located in room 222 of John R. Howard Hall.


voice 503-768-7289

Paul Powers Associate Professor and Core Curriculum Director

Religious Studies Lewis & Clark 0615 S.W. Palatine Hill Road MSC 45 Portland OR 97219 USA

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