Rodrigo Adem Alvarez, PhD
I am an intellectual and social historian of the Middle East. My work furthers our understanding of the dynamics of knowledge production and development of epistemological, historiographical, and cultural activity. I am assistant professor of Arabic and Islamic Studies at Georgetown University.
I am currently writing my first monograph, a comprehensive exposition of "the obligation to investigate" (wujūb al-naẓar), a unique intellectual thesis of the early Islamicate milieu. The intersection of "investigative" knowledge within the widely-influential Muslim practice of kalām parallels, intersects, and diverges with the Aristotelian concept of "theoretical" knowledge in its valorization of independent epistemic self-awareness. This book intends to be provide an alternative to the ahistorical manner in which "rationality" in classical Islamic thought is conceived.
Just as historians have deepened their understanding of the anthropological and ontological premises which "theoretical" knowledge encompasses, so too does "investigation" in classical Islamic thought reflect a subtle meeting point between epistemology, the constitution of the individual, and society. The historical contingencies of "investigative-theoretical rationality" and its valuation informed scholarly norms across numerous theological treatises, polemics, and personal correspondences spanning Central Asia to Iberia, and was responsible for reconstituting epistemic authority and practices of knowledge for posterity. In doing so, it wove a long winding thread in various contexts opposition to taqlīd or "emulative authority,"' an antithetical value to that of "investigation." Finally, the work aims to contemplate the meaningful parallelisms and divergences between Islamic ʿilm al-kalām, philosophia, "science," and "critical theory."
- Regional and urban histories of the premodern Middle East: Syria, Iraq, Iran.
- Arabic language and culture, Arabic historiography
- Intellectual history: Islamic Thought, Epistemology, Theology