Kurzman, Charles 1963-

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Kurzman, Charles 1963-


Born November 6, 1963. Education: Harvard University, B.A., 1986; University of California, Berkeley, M.A., 1987, Ph.D., 1992.


Office—Department of Sociology, CB #3210, 155 Hamilton Hall, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC 27599-3210. E-mail—[email protected].


Sociologist, educator, writer, and editor. University of California, Berkeley, postdoctoral fellow, 1993; Georgia State University, Atlanta, assistant professor of sociology, 1994-97; University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, assistant professor of sociology, 1998-2004, associate professor of sociology, 2004—, Carolina Center for the Study of the Middle East and Muslim Civilizations, associate director, 2003-06, board member, 2006—. Also visiting member at the Institute for Advanced Study, School of Historical Studies, Princeton, NJ, 2002-03. Work-related activities include Center for Iranian Research and Analysis, executive board member, 1997-2003, and American Institute for Iranian Studies, trustee-at-large, 2007-10.


American Sociological Association, International Society for Iranian Studies, Middle East Studies Association (social science dissertation award committee, 2004-2005; nominating committee, 2006; program committee, 2008), Southern Sociological Society, Phi Beta Kappa.


Spivack Award in Applied Sociology, American Sociological Association, 1997, for "The Effects of Welfare Reform on the Homeless Population of Atlanta"; Fulbright-Hays Travel-Study Fellowship, U.S. Department of Education, 1997; Spray-Randleigh Fellowship, 2004-05. Recipient of scholarships and grants, including a National Merit Scholarship, 1982. American Council of Learned Societies Dissertation Fellowship, Jacob K. Javits Graduate Fellowship (U.S. Department of Education), National Science Foundation, and Social Science Research Council International Dissertation Research Fellowship.


(Editor) Liberal Islam: A Source Book, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 1998.

(Editor) Modernist Islam, 1840-1940: A Sourcebook, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 2002.

(Editor and contributor, with Michaelle Browers) An Islamic Reformation?, Lexington Books (Lanham, MD), 2004.

The Unthinkable Revolution in Iran, Harvard University Press (Cambridge, MA), 2004.

Democracy Denied, 1905-1915: Intellectuals and the Fate of Democracy, Harvard University Press (Cambridge, MA), 2008.

Contributor to books, including Ethnography Unbound: Power and Resistance in the Modern Metropolis, edited by Michael Burawoy and others, University of California Press, 1991; Social Movements: Readings on their Emergence, Mobilization, and Dynamics, edited by Doug McAdam and David A. Snow, Roxbury, 1997; Islamic Activism: A Social Movement Theory Approach, edited by Quintan Wiktorowicz, Indiana University Press, 2004; Rethinking Social Movements, edited by Jeff Goodwin and James Jasper, Rowman & Littlefield, 2004; and Elections for Sale: The Causes and Consequences of Vote Buying, edited by Frederic Charles Schaffer, Lynne Rienner Publishers, 2007.

Contributor of articles and book reviews to periodicals and journals, including Christian Science Monitor, Contexts, Middle East Review of International Affairs, National Post, Anthropological Quarterly, Sociological Theory, International Political Science Review, Berkeley Journal of Sociology, Philosophy of the Social Sciences, Journal of Iranian Studies, Mobilization, Sociological Analysis, Journal of South Asian and Middle Eastern Studies, Studies in ComparativeInternational Development, Annual Review of Sociology, Philosophy of the Social Sciences, Theory and Society, International Political Science Review, and the Iranian.

Editorial board member of the Encyclopedia of Politics and Religion, 2nd edition, edited by Robert Wuthnow Congressional Quarterly Press, 2007; editor of "Special Section on Social Scientific Analyses of Terrorism," Social Forces, June 2006. Editorial board member of the Berkeley Journal of Sociology, 1986-88; Social Forces, 1997—; Muslim World Journal of Human Rights, 2004—; Contexts, 2005-07; and the American Journal of Sociology, 2007-09. Reviewer, American Association for the Advancement of Science.


Charles Kurzman is a sociologist whose primary interests are the political sociology, social movements, Middle East and Islamic studies, international development, comparative and historical social theory, the social bases of democracy, liberal Islamic movements, the Iranian evolution of 1979, and civil society and its discontents. He has written or edited several books and numerous articles focusing on these topics.

Kurzman is the editor of both Liberal Islam: A Source Book and Modernist Islam, 1840-1940: A Sourcebook. Liberal Islam features thirty-two Muslim essayists writing about what many see as traditionally Western liberal doctrines, such as democracy, women's rights, and freedom of speech. "It is important to know that there are such Muslim thinkers," wrote a contributor to First Things: A Monthly Journal of Religion and Public Life.

In Modernist Islam, 1840-1940, a variety of scholars from various areas of specialization discuss when the Modernist Islamic movement of the early twentieth century first became prominent in much of the Islamic world and, in the process, caused a tremendous intellectual debate focused on reconciling Islamic faith with modern ideals. Contributors also discuss how this debate has resurfaced in the twenty-first century. The book includes thirty-two texts by Islamic authors and presents an alternative view to the popular view of a permanent clash of civilizations between Islam and the West. Noting that "the range of contributors span the globe and several of the writings have never before been either published or translated into English," Journal of Church and State contributor Charles M. Ramsey went on to write in the same review that Kurzman "does a splendid job of compiling sources of great breadth."

In addition to being a contributor, Kurzman is the editor, with Michaelle Brower, of An Islamic Reformation? In the book, contributors offer a counterview to the popular notion that, in the early twenty-first century, Islamic fundamentalism represents a threat to the values of secularism and democracy. Based on this view, most scholars have stated that a clash between the East and West, and Islam and Christianity, is not only inevitable but has already started. However, the essays in An Islamic Reformation? offer another interpretation based on the work of contemporary Muslim intellectuals, namely that what is occurring, within Islamic contexts, is essentially a reformation.

The Western social scientists who contribute to An Islamic Reformation? explore the analogy of the Christian Reformation used by Muslim authors and Western observers of Islamic movements since the nineteenth century. In the process, they attempt to evaluate the claim of an Islamic reformation and question the impact of various reformist trends throughout the Middle East, primarily considering the most significant transformations and developments in the contemporary Middle East. They examine reformist and individual movements in terms of whether or not they constitute a reformation of Islamic societies and discuss to what extent changes or prospects in Muslim societies bear similarities to the Christian Reformation.

"This book is a passionate appeal for reforming traditional notions of religion, particularly insofar as they impact on such sensitive issues as women's rights, secularism, pluralism and democracy," wrote Yoginder Sikand in the Journal of Muslim Minority Affairs. "It takes note of the fierce resistance that demands for such reform encounter from various quarters, including, but not only, from sections of the traditionalist 'ulama and Islamist groups."

In his 2004 book The Unthinkable Revolution in Iran, Kurzman examines the Iranian Revolution of 1979, which resulted in the overthrow of the Shah of Iran, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, and the installation of an Islamic-based government headed by Imam Ruhollah Khomeini. In his book, the author points out that a top-secret CIA analysis had come to the conclusion that the shah would be on the throne for many years to come. However, the shah was overthrown a mere one hundred days after the report was issued and, despite his massive military and fearsome security police, and the fact that the shah's government was supported by superpowers like the United States. In his report, Kurzman points out that the United States was not the only country which failed to foresee the shah's fall. In fact, according to Kurzman, most Iranian people did not believe the shah could be replaced by a popular and largely peaceful revolution.

Writing in the book's preface, the author notes that he sees the revolution in Iran as a "deviant" occurrence. Kurzman writes: "It imposed the first Islamic republic in recent times, and it remains the only instance of a mass Islamic revolt. Indeed, the Iranian Revolution was one of the most popular upheavals in world history: ten percent or more of the Iranian population participated in the demonstrations and the general strikes that toppled Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. By comparison, less than two percent of the population participated in the French Revolution, and less than one percent participated in the overthrow of Soviet communism." The author added: "The Iranian Revolution is deviant in an academic sense as well. According to social-scientific explanation for revolution, it shouldn't have happened when it did, or at all."

The Unthinkable Revolution in Iran revisits the circumstances surrounding the fall of the shah with a focus on the nature and evolution of the Iranian revolution. Using both interviews and eyewitness accounts, declassified documents, and underground pamphlets, Kurzman details the sense of confusion that pervaded prerevolutionary Iran and that led to the major protest movements. He also examines the shortcomings of various analyses that make the Iranian revolution or any major protest movement seem inevitable in retrospect.

"Though Kurzman approaches his topic mostly from a sociologist's point of view, his analysis and personal interviews of Iranians make the text lucid and concise, as well as vitally important to an understanding of the causes of revolution, how revolutions grow, and what happened in Iran between 1977 and 1979 from both a historical and a sociological perspective," wrote John Jefferson in Domes. A contributor to the Journal of Third World Studies noted: "The author has presented a meticulous anatomy of the Iranian revolution and has dexterously treated the anomalies usually inherent in revolutions."



Kurzman, Charles, The Unthinkable Revolution in Iran, Harvard University Press (Cambridge, MA), 2004.


American Journal of Sociology, November, 2007, Ivan Ermakoff, review of The Unthinkable Revolution in Iran, p. 879.

Booklist, February 15, 2004, Brendan Driscoll, review of The Unthinkable Revolution in Iran, p. 1022.

Canadian Journal of History, autumn, 2006, Roger M. Savory, review of The Unthinkable Revolution in Iran, p. 415.

Choice: Current Reviews for Academic Libraries, December, 2004, N. Rassekh, review of The Unthinkable Revolution in Iran, p. 719.

Domes, spring, 2005, Nancy E. Gallagher, review of An Islamic Reformation?, p. 57, and John Jefferson, review of The Unthinkable Revolution in Iran, p. 109.

First Things: A Monthly Journal of Religion and Public Life, April, 1999, review of Liberal Islam: A Source Book, p. 70.

International Review of Social History, December, 2006, review of The Unthinkable Revolution in Iran, p. 521.

Journal of Church and State, spring, 2000, Charles M. Ramsey, review of Liberal Islam, p. 377.

Journal of Muslim Minority Affairs, December, 2006, Yoginder Sikand, review of An Islamic Reformation?, pp. 469-471.

Journal of Palestine Studies, winter, 2000, James Piscatori, review of Liberal Islam, p. 115.

Journal of Third World Studies, spring, 2006, Seyfi Tashan, review of The Unthinkable Revolution in Iran, p. 267.

Library Journal, February 1, 2004, Nader Entessar, review of The Unthinkable Revolution in Iran, p. 106.

Middle East Journal, summer, 1999, review of Liberal Islam, p. 510; summer, 2003, review of Modernist Islam, 1840-1940: A Sourcebook, p. 529.

Muslim World, April, 1999, Qamar-Ul Huda, review of Liberal Islam, p. 206.

Political Science Quarterly, spring, 2005, Mohsen Ashtiany, review of The Unthinkable Revolution in Iran, p. 177.

Reference & Research Book News, February, 2003, review of Modernist Islam, 1840-1940, p. 15; May, 2004, review of An Islamic Reformation?, p. 15.

Social Forces, June, 2005, John Foran, review of The Unthinkable Revolution in Iran, p. 1774.

Times Higher Education Supplement, November 5, 2004, Shusha Guppy, "The Improbable Revolt," review of The Unthinkable Revolution in Iran, p. 27.

USA Today, April, 2005, "The Unpredictability of Revolutions Is a Lesson That Never Makes Much of an Impression on Leaders Who Think That They Can Manipulate History through Force, Maintains Charles Kurzman, Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill," p. 3.


Charles Kurzman Home Page,http://www.unc.edu/~kurzman (May 15, 2008).

UNC—Chapel Hill Department of Sociology Web site,http://sociology.unc.edu/ (May 15, 2008), faculty profile of author.