Ousmane Kane Named Alwaleed Professor of Contemporary Islamic Religion and Society at Harvard Divinity School

Ousmane Kane

Ousmane Kane, a renowned scholar of Islamic studies and comparative and Islamic politics, has been appointed as the first Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Professor of Contemporary Islamic Religion and Society at Harvard Divinity School. He will take up the new position July 1, 2012, and will begin teaching in the spring 2013 term.    

Kane comes to HDS from Columbia University, where he has been associate professor of international and public affairs at the university’s School of International and Public Affairs since 2002.

"The Alwaleed Chair of Contemporary Islamic Religion and Society established at Harvard Divinity School is further recognition of the important yet longtime neglected fields of African studies and Islamic studies," Kane said. "The professorship will give greater visibility to the study of Islam in Africa and bring it further into larger debates about Islam and politics, Islam and modernity, and Islam in international affairs. I am thrilled to join the distinguished faculty at the Divinity School, and I look forward to contributing to the School and to enriching my own work through exposure to a variety of approaches and methods in the scientific study of religion."

Kane studied at the Institut national des langues et civilisations orientales (National Institute of Oriental Languages and Civilizations) in Paris, where he obtained an advanced degree in Islamic studies, a BA in classical Arabic, and a BA in colloquial Arabic. He has an MA in translation and documentation from the École supérieure d’interprètes et de traducteurs (Graduate School of Interpreters and Translators), and he received an MPhil and a PhD in political science from the Institut d’études politiques de Paris (Paris Institute of Political Studies).

After earning his PhD, Kane was appointed senior lecturer in the Department of Political Science at the Université de Saint-Louis in Senegal, where he worked from 1993 to 2002. He has held academic appointments at the University of Kansas, the School of African and Oriental Studies in London, Yale University, and the Institute for Advanced Study in Berlin.

"Professor Kane is a distinguished historian and interpreter of Islamic religion and practice in West Africa, as well as a discerning analyst of transnational connections between African immigrant communities and their West African homeland," said William A. Graham, Harvard University Distinguished Service Professor (HDS Dean 2002-12). "He will be a major new resource for both the Divinity School and the wider University in the study of African religion and society and transnational Islam."

Kane is a member of various professional organizations, including the African Studies Association of North America and the Council for the Development of Social and Economic Research in Africa, a leading African social science consortium.

His books include Muslim Modernity in Postcolonial Nigeria (Brill, 2003), which examines the transformation of Islamic identities in Nigeria during the postcolonial period; The Homeland Is the Arena: Religion, Transnationalism and the Integration of Senegalese Immigrants in America (Oxford University Press, 2010); and Timbuktu and Beyond: Rethinking African Intellectual History, forthcoming from Harvard University Press.

He has published articles in numerous journals, including the Harvard International Review, Politique étrangère, Afrique contemporaine, and African Journal of International Affairs. He has been awarded grants and fellowships from, among others, the Rockefeller Foundation, the United States Institute of Peace, Columbia University, Northwestern University, and the Gerda Henkel Foundation, which has provided support of his two-year research project, "The Rise of Islamic Institutions of Higher learning in Sub-Saharan Africa."

Kane studies the history of Islamic religious institutions and organizations since the eighteenth century, and he is engaged in the attempt to document the intellectual history of Islam in Africa. Increasingly, he has focused on the phenomenon of Muslim globalization. His Homeland Is the Arena looks at the community of Senegalese immigrants to the United States in New York and the importance these immigrants assign to their religious communities for the organization of their lives.