Dr Kalmbach's research to date has fallen under the following themes:
Scholarly interest in Islamic authority has been sustained and growing, especially given the significant, twentieth-century expansion of individuals who successfully claim to speak for Islam. Dr Kalmbach first researched this topic through the lens of female Islamic leadership while on a year-long Fulbright Fellowship in Damascus, Syria. An article based on this research -- a case study of the Damascene mosque instructor Houda al-Habash, focusing especially on her authority as a religious leader -- won the 2007 British Society for Middle Eastern Studies (BRISMES) Graduate Article Prize.
In October 2009, Dr Kalmbach co-organized a conference at St Antony's College that brought together scholars studying female Islamic authority in countries around the world. Twenty papers from this conference have since been published by Brill under the title Women, Leadership, and Mosques: Changes in Contemporary Islamic Authority, the first publication to bring together analysis of examples of female Islamic authority from multiple places. (For more information, see below.) Dr Kalmbach's sole-authored introduction to this volume, first, lays out the major themes in the study of Islamic authority and, second, explains how a study focused on female Islamic authority can contribute significantly to scholarship on Islam and Muslim women.
Dr Kalmbach continues to contribute to scholarly activity on Islamic authority. She runs a research network that connects scholars interested in female Islamic leadership. (See here for information about joining.) She is also the organizer of an ongoing 'thematic conversation' held at the annual meeting of the Middle East Studies Association (MESA) starting in 2011.
-- BRISMES Graduate Article Prize in Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies, 2007
-- Fulbright Fellowship, Damascus, Syria, 2004-2005, Project title: Women, Modernity and Sufism: Islamic Discourse and Social Tensions in Syria
-- Women, Leadership and Mosques: Changes in Contemporary Islamic Authority, co-edited with Masooda Bano (Leiden: Brill, 2012). [22 chapter volume based on papers from 2009 conference]
-- "Islamic Authority and the Study of Female Religious Leaders," single-authored introduction to Women, Leadership and Mosques: Change in Contemporary Islamic Authority (Leiden: Brill, 2012).
-- "Sur le chemin de Damas: Enquête sur l'authorité des femmes prêcheurs dans les mosquées en Syrie," Travail, genre et sociétés, 27 (2012), 73-89.
-- "Social and Religious Change in Damascus: One Case of Female Islamic Religious Authority," British Journal of Middle Eastern Studies, 35.1 (2008), 37-57.
-- Organizer of ongoing thematic conversation on Islamic Authority held at the MESA Annual Meeting:
---- 2011: Mapping Change in Islamic Authority: Shifting Cultures of Knowledge, Learning, and Practice, with presentations from Gudrun Krämer (Free U, Berlin), Mirjam Künkler (Princeton), Martijn de Koning (Radboud U, Nijmegen), and Thomas Pierret (Edinburgh)
---- 2012: Spaces, Networks, Institutions: Men, Women, and Islamic Authority in the Twentieth Century (on program)
-- Lead organizer for international conference section of co-coordinated project, Women, Leaderships, and Mosques: Changes in Contemporary Islamic Authority, St Antony’s College, Oxford, October 2009.
-- “Religious Authority for Muslim Women? Historical and Contemporary Dynamics of a Significant Phenomenon,” International Gender Studies Centre Seminar, University of Oxford, June 2011
-- “Preaching, Speaking, Leading: Preliminary Thoughts about Female Islamic Leadership in Britain” as an invited presenter at a seminar, Encouraging Muslim Women Into Higher Education Through Partnerships and Collaborative Pathways, Higher Education Academy Islamic Studies Network Project, February 2011
-- “Female Islamic Leadership in Context” as an invited guest presenter at a seminar, Women as Scholars and Leaders: Theological Debates in Islam, University of Birmingham (UK), June 2010
-- "Female Leadership and Activism in Conservative Islamic Communities: An Islamic Form of Feminism?" Engaging Islam Fall Institute, UMass Boston, September 2007
-- “Female Islamic Religious Authority in Contemporary Damascus,” BRISMES Postgraduate Conference, Oxford, UK, July 2007
Women, Leadership, and Mosques: Changes in Contemporary Islamic Authority investigates the diverse range of female religious leadership present in contemporary Muslim communities in South, East and Central Asia, the Middle East, Africa, Europe, and North America. Its chapters discuss the emergence of female Islamic authority, the limitations placed upon it, and its wider impact, as well as the physical and virtual spaces used by women to establish and consolidate their authority. It highlights how the acceptance of female leadership in mosques and madrassas is a significant change from much historical practice, signaling the mainstream acceptance of some form of female Islamic authority in many places.
In addition to 20 chapters exploring specific examples of female leadership, the volume includes an introduction that lays out main themes in the study of Islamic authority (male or female), three section introductions that bring out thematic links between chapters, and a conclusion presenting a case study of a major Pakistani madrasa. It is invaluable as a reference text, as it is the first to bring together analysis of female Islamic leadership in geographically and ideologically-diverse Muslim communities worldwide.
Dr Kalmbach's interest in the changing place of religion in Middle Eastern culture and society led her to pursue a doctoral project centred on Cairo's Dar al-'Ulum teacher training school.
Dar al-'Ulum is understudied and often misunderstood despite its centrality to the reform of Egyptian education and language. The school, founded in 1872 to train teachers with strong Arabic skills, occupied an unusual in-between position within Egyptian education because it enabled top students from religious schools to obtain a diploma from a government-run civil school. In 1946 it became a faculty of Cairo University specializing in Arabic and Islam.
The dissertation not only updates the institutional history of the school, but also uses it as a prism through which to view the modernisation of Egyptian society and culture, providing insight into the continuing importance of past heritage -- specifically Arabic and Islam -- in Egypt during a period of European-inspired modernisation. It explores how its graduates -- such as Hasan Tawfiq al-'Adl, Hifni Nasif, 'Ali al-Jarim, Tantawi Jawhari, Taki al-Din al-Nabhani of Hizb al-Tahrir, and Hassan al-Banna and Sayyid Qutb of the Muslim Brotherhood -- used the hybrid civil-religious cultural capital provided by the school to cross sociocultural boundaries and shape the development of Egyptian culture, language, and religion with lasting significance. The full abstract is below.
Dr Kalmbach is in the process of publishing several articles and a chapter presenting the dissertation's key insights into Dar al-'Ulum's institutional history, as well as some of the theoretical framework used in the dissertation.
Dar al-'Ulum and its graduates also feature strongly in her book manuscript, which investigates the formation of national culture in Egypt in the first half of the twentieth century and its subsequent spread within the region through transnational ties.
-- From Turban to Tarboush? Dar al-‘Ulum and Social, Linguistic, and Religious Change in Early Twentieth Century Egypt
Supervisor: Walter Armbrust
Examiners (at various stages): Eugene Rogan, James McDougall, Gudrun Krämer, Michael Willis
-- Clarendon Fund Bursary, 2005 - 2008, scholarship and stipend covering fee-paying years of graduate studies at Oxford
-- Overseas Research Student Fellowship, 2006 - 2008, scholarship (fee reduction) to University of Oxford
-- British Society for Middle Eastern Studies (BRISMES) Research Student Award, 2008 - 2009
-- Colin Matthew Fund, Travel Award for Historical Research, 2008 - 2009
-- Oriental Studies Faculty Research Grant, Near and Middle Eastern Studies, 2008 - 2009
-- “Dar al-‘ulum”, Encyclopaedia of Islam, 3rd edition, (2012).
-- “Training Teachers How to Teach: Transnational Exchange the the Introduction of Social-Scientific Pedagogy in 1890s Egypt,” under revision for inclusion in the volume resulting from the CASAW workshop Long 1890s in Egypt: Colonial Quiescence, Subterranean Resistance?, to be published with Edinburgh University Press.
A monograph and several journal articles are in preparation.
Organized the following panels at the MESA Annual Meeting:
---- 2012: Looking Beyond National Borders and Cultural Boundaries: Transnational Connections and the Reform of Islamic Education, 1820-1950 (on program)
---- 2011: New Ideas, Institutions, and Adaptations: The Politics of Education Reform after the Nahda in Syria, Egypt, and Algeria
---- 2010: Change, Continuity, and the Modernization of Religious Authority in Twentieth-Century Syria and Egypt
---- 2009: Writing and Contesting History in Egypt and Syria in the Late-Nineteenth and Early-Twentieth Centuries
-- “The Transnational Reach of Cairo's Dar al-'Ulum, 1890-1950,” MESA Annual Meeting, Denver, November 2012 (on program)
-- “Being ‘Modern’ and Religious: Hybridity, Authenticity and Cairo’s Dar al-‘Ulum,” MESA Annual Meeting, Washington, D.C., December 2011
-- "Education, Social and Cultural Capital, and the Transformation of Modern Islamic Leadership: Challenging Scholarly Assumptions," BRISMES Conference, Exeter, June 2011
-- “Hybridized Education and the Emergence of Modern Islamic Authority: Dar al-‘Ulum, the Muslim Brotherhood and Hizb al-Tahrir,“ MESA Annual Meeting, San Diego, November 2010
-- “History as a Hobby in Interwar Egypt: Memoirs, Modernity and Muhammad ‘Abd al-Jawad’s Yearbook, Taqwim Dar al-‘Ulum,” MESA Annual Meeting, Boston, November 2009
-- “Changing Ideas about Teacher Training: Importing Social Scientific Approaches into 1890s Egypt,” Centre for Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies Workshop on The Long 1890s in Egypt: Colonial Quiescence, Subterranean Resistance, University of Edinburgh, May 2011
-- "Changing Pedagogies: Dar al-‘Ulum and the Impact of Social Scientific Thought", Harvard Center for Middle Eastern Studies Workshop on Historical and Critical Perspectives on the Social Sciences in Egypt, 1882-1952, Cambridge, April 2008
-- “Emotion versus Analysis: Contrasting Descriptions of the “Battle” to Wear the Tarboush at Dar al-‘Ulum”, Oriental Institute (Islamic World) Research In Progress Seminar, University of Oxford, December 2010
-- “Education Reform and the Emergence of Modern Islamic Authority: Dar al-'Ulum, the Muslim Brotherhood and Hizb al-Tahrir,” Religious History Seminar, University of Oxford, May 2010
-- “A Modern Islamic Education? Dar al-‘Ulum and Changing Authority of Knowledge in Early Twentieth Century Egypt”, Oriental Institute (Islamic World) Research in Progress Seminar, University of Oxford, June 2009
This dissertation uses the Dar al-'Ulum teacher-training school and its graduates as a prism through which to view sociocultural change in Egypt, 1900-1950. Founded in 1872 as part of Khedive Isma'il’s efforts to expand the Egyptian government’s civil-school system, the school trained top students from religious schools such as al-Azhar to be schoolteachers with strong Arabic skills. It became a faculty of Cairo University in 1946.
The dissertation as a whole presents a new vision of how modernisation and colonialisation affected colonised societies. It demonstrates that a major engine driving sociocultural change in interwar Egypt was the agency exercised by individuals who crossed boundaries and consciously mixed elements of local tradition and European-inspired modernity.
Dar al-'Ulum is best seen as a hybrid institution that not only bridged but also mixed elements of civil and religious education. Throughout its seventy-four years as a higher school, its curriculum combined the Arabic and Islamic disciplines that formed the core of religious tradition with basic instruction in the non-religious subjects – such as mathematics, science, geography, and history – taught in the European-influenced civil-school system.
The school represents a new type of religious education, as it taught religious subjects using the ocularcentric, concept-driven pedagogies of civil schools. It was an early contributor to the functionalisation of Islam, or the use of religious knowledge further specific sociocultural, religious, or political goals.
Dar al-'Ulum presented opportunities and challenges to its graduates. The mixed range of cultural capital it provided enabled graduates to cross and straddle sociocultural boundaries, such as the one drawn between the efendiyya and the 'ulama', which presented top students in religious schools with a chance at becoming an efendi professional.
The school and its graduates have often been incorrectly described as overly conservative, in part due to their in-between status. While the graduates generally maintained a strong connection with Egypt’s Arabic and Islamic traditions, their commitment to adapting these traditions to meet the needs of a rapidly modernising Egypt was equally strong. Graduates combining the authenticity gained from local Arabic and Islamic knowledge with the cachet of European-influenced practices to modernise Arabic or Islam include Hasan Tawfiq al-'Adl, Hifni Nasif, 'Ali al-Jarim, Tantawi Jawhari, Muhammad Madi Abu al-'Aza'im, Taki al-Din al-Nabhani, as well as Hasan al-Banna and Sayyid Qutb of the Muslim Brotherhood.
This work is based on examination of institutional records, alumni association and professional journals, historical reference works, newspaper coverage, and publications of key alumni, all primarily in Arabic and gathered during fieldwork trips to Cairo and major research libraries and archives in the United States.
Dr Kalmbach's future work continues her interest in boundary crossing, cultural borderlands, and Middle Eastern cultural and social change during the twentieth century, and especially the place of religion within this change. She is particularly interested in religious activities at the grassroots level as well as the transnational ties cultivated by religious groups in the twentieth century. She is also working on utilizing digital humanities tools such as those developed by the TEI into her work. Her next project focuses on a twentieth-century Egyptian religious group with transnational ties.
Her role as coordinator of the BRISMES Faith, Politics, and Society Research Network enables her to explore these interests with like-minded colleagues in Britain and further afield. (For more information, including joining instructions, see here.)