Jamal J. Elias specializes in Islamic thought, literature, and history in Western, Central, and South Asia, with a focus on Sufism and Visual Culture. He regularly teaches courses in his areas of specialization, on Islam and modernity and on comparative religion, as well as advanced graduate courses in Qur'anic Studies as well as Persian and Turkish religious literature. A recipient of many grants and awards from the Guggenheim Foundation, the American Council of Learned Societies, and the Social Science Research Council (among others), he has lectured and published broadly on history, religion, literature, and material and visual culture in the medieval and modern Islamic world. His most recent books are On Wings of Diesel: Trucks, Identity and Culture in Pakistan (Oxford 2011), Aisha's Cushion: Religious Art, Perception and Practice in Islam (Cambridge, 2012), and Alef is for Allah: Childhood, Emotion and Visual Culture in Islamic Societies (Berkeley, 2018). He serves as Director of the Penn Forum for Global Islamic Studies. At present, he is writing a book on the history of the Mevlevi order (Rumi's followers) from shortly after Rumi's death until the advent of modernity, focusing on the role of interpersonal relationships and the impact of social changes on the use of language.
- Islamic Thought and Metaphysics
- Religion and Visual Culture
- Popular Culture in Western and South Asia
- Sufi Literature
- Qur'anic Studies