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Religious Studies

Paul Powers

Department Chair and Associate Professor of Religious Studies

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,” “Religion and Violence,” “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.”


Spring 2020 Courses:

RELS 274: Islam in the Modern World
Paul Powers TTH 1:50PM - 3:20PM

The religious, social, and political dynamics of
the Islamic world, circa 1300 C.E. to present,
especially the 19th through 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.

Prerequisites: None.

RELS 490: Senior Thesis
Paul Powers TTH 9:40AM - 11:10AM

Advanced readings and major works in religion. In
consultation with faculty, selection of a thesis
topic and further reading in the discipline and
research in the topic area. Substantial written
document demonstrating mastery of theory and
methodology in the study of religion and the
ability to integrate these into the thesis topic.

Prerequisites: None.

Restrictions: Senior standing required.


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, the Journal of Religion and Violence, and Islamic Law and Society, and has contributed chapters to several volumes in Islamic legal studies. HIs first book, Intent in Islamic law: Motive and Meaning in Medieval Sunni Fiqh (Brill, 2006), explores how Islamic law deals with human subjective states. 

His latest article is “Territory is Not Map: Deterritorialisation, Mere Religion, and the Islamic State,” forthcoming in the Journal of Religion and Violence.

Prof. Powers is currently at work on a book tentatively titled Religion and Violence: A Religious Studies Approach. This project explores the relevance of classic religious studies theories for increasing our understanding of the relationship between religion and violence.

He has traveled extensively in the Muslim world, including Yemen, Jordan, Syria, Egypt, Morocco, and India. 

Academic Credentials

PhD 2001 University of Chicago Divinity School, History of Religions/Islamic Studies

M.A. 1992 University of Chicago Divinity School, BA 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 Department Chair and Associate Professor of Religious Studies

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