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Nerina Rustomji

Associate Professor, Director of Graduate Studies
Ph.D., Columbia University

Educational Background
Ph.D., 2003, Columbia University, History
M.Phil., 1998, Columbia University, History
M.A., 1997, Columbia University, History
B.A., 1995, University of Texas, Austin, History and Middle Eastern Studies

Nerina Rustomji specializes in the intellectual and cultural formation of Islamic societies and the Middle East. Since joining St. John's University in 2006, she has offered both undergraduate and graduate courses in medieval Islamic, modern Middle East, and Iranian history. Additionally, she is interested in America's relationship with the Muslim World, prophetic biography as a historical genre, gendered configurations in Islamic societies, and the history of secularism.

While trained as a medievalist, Rustomji's research seeks to collapse medieval and modern disciplinary categories. Her first book The Garden and the Fire: Heaven and Hell in Islamic Culture (Columbia University Press, 2009) narrates a history of heaven and hell in Islamic texts, material cultures, and book arts from the seventh century C.E. The book demonstrates that even otherworldly realms have histories that are shaped by Muslims’ ethical formulations, aesthetic sensibilities, religious reform, and unending impulse to contemplate the everlasting future.

She is currently completing her second book, The Beauty of the Houri; Heavenly Virgins, Earthly Jihad, and the Feminine Models of Islam, which examines how contemporary Muslims, American media, and European intellectuals represent one of the most sensational tropes about Islam: pure female companions or houris in Islamic Paradise. The project, which has received fellowship support from the American Council of Learned Societies (2007-2008) and the American Center of Oriental Research in Amman, Jordan (2008), seeks to show how varying religious and political interpretations use medieval tropes and reconfigure them for battles about Islamic religion and society in the twenty-first century.