I recently attended the Workshop on Economic and Political Institutions of Islam: Past and Present, an event hosted by Princeton in association with the Association for Analytic Learning about Islam and Muslim Societies (AALIMS). For those not familiar with AALIMS, the organization
seeks to broaden contacts among economists, historians, legal scholars, political scientists, and sociologists working on the Muslim world. It reaches out also to humanists, especially specialists on Islam or a part of the Muslim world, who share an appreciation of applying empirical and theoretical methods of the social sciences to the social, political, historical, or economic study of Muslim societies.
I am a member of the AALIMS Board of Directors, and I greatly value the interdisciplinary conversations spanning topics from early Nile irrigation (PDF) to “mirrors for princes” (PDF) to economic theories of religious revivalism (PDF) to economic governance in Java (PDF). As I think about the next generation of AALIMS research, though, I hope that our next growth area will be in South and Southeast Asia.
This cartogram—created using ScapeToad and MapTools in R, using data from the Pew report on The Future of the Global Muslim Population—helps to visualize just how important Asian Islam should be in conversations about Global Islam.
By population, Indonesia, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and India far outstrip any country in the Middle East. Also notable are the light-green portions of the Muslim world: these represent countries with large Muslim populations but large non-Muslim populations too, including Southeast Asia but also sub-Saharan Africa. My hope is that in future AALIMS meetings I am joined by Southeast Asianists who study Islam and share in AALIMS’s mission. If that describes you, let me know.