Barbara Stowasser: Teaching and Leading
Professor Barbara Stowasser is not an unfamiliar face around Georgetown – or to the role of director at SFS’ Center for Contemporary Arab Studies. She has been teaching at GU since 1966, and at the beginning of the 2010-11 academic year, she took on the role of CCAS director for the third time. She held the position from 1993 to 2003, then again from 2006 to 2007.
Our investment has to be in the students whom we teach to understand the world
Stowasser instituted the study of Islam and gender into the curriculum at Georgetown and has published many works and given many talks on the topic, making her a pioneer in the topic in the West. Her best known and most popular publication is Women in the Qur’an: Traditions and Interpretation.
Most popular among her recent courses have been the two-semester senior seminar on Arabic culture, a one-semester course on the Islamic city and a graduate seminar on women in the Qur’an. Though she still teaches about what she has come to be known for – Islam and women – she is now focusing her research on the idea of cultural manipulations of time, calendars and the contemporary role of apocalyptic ideas.
Stowasser feels that education is paramount to promoting more dialogue among civilizations. “Our investment has to be in the students whom we teach to understand the world and whom we train to put their energies into the pursuit of these goals. Their numbers are critical — the more of them that exist, the better the chances of global tolerance and cooperation,” Stowasser says.
The caliber of SFS students fosters her desire to accomplish this goal. “Teaching is much more effective than travel because prejudice and hatred are based on ignorance and only knowledge can overcome this ignorance. In the present cultural atmosphere in the United States, marked by a spirit of Islamophobia that I do not remember to have existed before, it is especially important for me to teach a critical mass of elite students who will be influential in a few years’ time, be it in politics, the economy, NGOs, or academia,” Stowasser says.