Training Scholars to Study Non-Scholarly Life


In the scholastic fallacy, the researcher explains the actions of people in non-scholarly situations by projecting scholarly thinking onto them. After introducing the concept and discussing a recent example from Islamic studies, I suggest that certain social structures may make this error more likely. Focusing on the case of research in Egypt, I argue that degree programs are not designed to enable students to learn Arabic as a second language well enough to do research that involves talking with people there. Egyptian state institutions also restrict both ethnographic and archival research. These obstacles are likely to deter research on ordinary social practices, on vernacular cultural production, and on archival materials, and to favor research on canonical texts. Moreover, in a field such as Islamic studies, in which researchers can produce work that responds to the demands of non-specialist audiences, students may be tempted to overgeneralize from these texts, e.g. by relying on them to draw conclusions about Islam in general. I suggest ways for universities and faculty to help students avoid these pitfalls.

Teaching Islamic Studies in the Age of ISIS, Islamophobia, and the Internet
Benjamin Geer
Benjamin Geer
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