Aaron W. Hughes holds the Philip S. Bernstein Chair of Jewish Studies in the Department of Religion and Classics at the University of Rochester. Previously, he was the Gordon and Gretchen Gross Professor in the Institute of Jewish Thought and Heritage at the University at Buffalo, State University of New York from 2009-2012, and, from 2001-2009, Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Calgary, Alberta, Canada.
The first-born son of William (1927–2013) and Sadie (née Alley, 1936– ) Hughes, Aaron was born on August 15, 1968, at the University Hospital in Edmonton, AB. His father is a native of Glasgow, Scotland and his mother was born in Fort Simpson, NWT. He also has a young brother, Cameron (1972– ). A first-generation college student, Hughes received a BA (hons) in Religious Studies at the University of Alberta in 1993. He worked primarily there with Francis Landy, a respected literary theorist who works on the Hebrew Bible. Following this, he went to the Department of Religious Studies at Indiana University in Bloomington, where he received an MA in 1995 and a PhD in 2000 for a dissertation entitled "Philosophy's Mythos: Aesthetics, the Imagination, and the Philosophical Novel on Medieval Jewish and Islamic Thought. This was subsequently published as The Texture of the Divine: Imagination in Medieval Islamic and Jewish Thought (Indiana University Press, 2004), and which was one of three finalist for a Koret Jewish Book Award in the Thought/Philosophy category. His dissertation advisor was Hava Tirosh-Samuelson (now at ASU). In addition to his coursework at Indiana University, Hughes also spent a year, 1996-1997, at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and a year, 1999-2000, at the University of Oxford.
Hughes is a scholar of three distinct fields of research: Jewish philosophy, Islamic Studies and Theory and Method in the Academic Study of Religion. In terms of Jewish philosophy, Hughes has traditionally worked on medieval Jewish and Islamic Neo-Platonists, Avicenna, Abraham Ibn Ezra, and Ibn Tufayl. His work is particularly noted for its ability to discuss both the Hebrew and Islamic philosophers of the Jewish-Islamic symbiosis of medieval al-Andalus. His work on Abraham Ibn Ezra is especially noted. More recently Hughes has turned his attention away from a strict historicism to a hermeneutic that attempts to read premodern Jewish Philosophers in the light of modern ones (as can be seen, for example in his The Invention of Jewish Identity).
In terms of Islamic Studies, Hughes has primarily been interested in critiquing what he regards as the overly apologetical and ecumenical approach to the field. This can be witnessed, for example in his two books that take aim at the field (Situating Islam and Theorizing Islam). However rather than just critique, Hughes has also attempted a corrective with his Muslim Identities, which is meant to be an attempt to provide an introduction to Islam in ways that eschews the more irenic approaches of people like Fred Denny and John Esposito. Writing in the Journal of Islamic Studies, Murad Wilfried Hofmann describes Hughes' Muslim Identities as "the very best introduction currently available in English for non-Muslims seeking a sound approach to Islam."
Hughes is also the editor-in-chief of Method and Theory in the Study of Religion (MTSR), the leading journal devoted to the subject. In addition, he is the Editor of the Academy Series, published by Oxford University Press for the American Academy of Religion, and co-editor for the Library of Contemporary Jewish Philosophers.
Public dispute with Omid Safi
In the 2012 book Theorizing Islam, Hughes had written critically about the scholarship of Omid Safi, a professor of Islamic studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and other scholars in the academic study of Islam. In January 2014, Safi published a piece on the ezine Jadaliyya presenting his "impressions about the state of Islamic studies in the North American academy." In the course of the article, in which he expressed his concern regarding unreconstructed orthodox Muslim voices entering the American academy, he stated that Hughes and two other scholars had written "pieces attacking and critiquing the prominence of Muslim scholars in the Study of Islam Section." Specifically, he described Hughes book as "grossly polemical and simplistic." In response, Hughes demanded that he "do what the Western tradition of scholarly discourse demands and respond to my ideas in print as opposed to engaging in innuendo and identity politics." He further suggested that Safi may have been motivated by Hughes' position in Jewish studies, adding sarcastically, "[w]e all know that Jews are the arch-enemy of Islam."
Written by Hughes
- Jacob Neusner on Religion: The Example of Judaism. New York and London: Routledge. 2016.
- Islam and the Tyranny of Authenticity: An Inquiry into Disciplinary Apologetics and Self-Deception. Sheffield: Equinox, 2015.
- Rethinking Jewish Philosophy: Beyond Particularism and Universalism. New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014.
- The Study of Judaism: Identity, Authenticity, Scholarship. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 2013.
- Muslim Identities: An Introduction. New York, NY: Columbia University Press, 2013.
- Abrahamic Religions: On the Uses and Abuses of History. New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012.
- Theorizing Islam: Disciplinary Deconstruction and Reconstruction. London: Equinox, 2012.
- The Invention of Jewish Identity: Bible, Philosophy, and the Art of Translation. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2010.
- Situating Islam; The Past and Future of an Academic Discipline. Equinox Publishing, 2008.
- The Art of Dialogue in Jewish Philosophy. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2007.
- Jewish Philosophy A-Z. Edinburgh UP, 2005.
- The Texture of the Divine: Imagination in Medieval Islamic and Jewish Thought (Indiana UP 2004)
Edited by Hughes
- Encountering the Medieval in Modern Jewish Thought (with James A. Diamond). Leiden: Brill, 2012.
- New Directions in Jewish Philosophy (with Elliot R. Wolfson). Indiana University Press, 2009.
- Defining Judaism: A Reader. Equinox Publishing, 2009.
- Guest editor of two special issues of the Journal of Jewish Thought and Philosophy (JJTP).
Honors and awards
Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC), Standard Research Grant, 2008–2011
Fellow, Calgary Institute of the Humanities, University of Calgary, 2008–2009
Schreiber Visiting Professor of Jewish Studies, McMaster University, Winter 2008
Killam Residential Fellowship, University of Calgary, Fall 2007
Lady Davis Fellowship, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, 2004–2005
Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC), Standard Research Grant, 2004-2007.
Ruth and Mark Luckens Prize in Jewish Thought, University of Kentucky, 2004
- With Craig Martin, Bulletin for the Study of Religion.
- With Matt Sheedy, Bulletin for the Study of Religion.
- "MyJewishBooks Online".
- The Texture of the Divine, Jonathn P. Decter, Jewish Quarterly Review 97.3 (2007) e82-e84
- Abraham Ibn Ezra, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/ibn-ezra/
- Schwartz, Stephen (1 March 2009). "Review of Situating Islam".
- Wilfried Hofmann, Murad (June 19, 2014). "Muslim Identities: An Introduction to Islam By AARON W. HUGHES". Journal of Islamic Studies (Advance Access). doi:10.1093/jis/etu049.
- "Method & Theory in the Study of Religion - Brill".
- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2013-06-07. Retrieved 2013-05-26.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
- "Library of Contemporary Jewish Philosophers - Brill".
- Hughes, Aaron. "When Bad Scholarship Is Just Bad Scholarship: A Response to Omid Safi". Bulletin for the Study of Religion Blog. Equinox publishing. Retrieved 14 March 2014.
- Safi, Omid. "Reflections on the State of Islamic Studies". Jadaliyya.com. Retrieved 14 March 2014.
- Hughes, Aaron W. (19 November 2015). "Jacob Neusner on Religion: The Example of Judaism". Routledge – via Amazon.
- Hughes, Aaron W. (3 February 2014). "Rethinking Jewish Philosophy: Beyond Particularism and Universalism". Oxford University Press – via Amazon.
- Hughes, Philip S. Bernstein Chair of Jewish Studies Aaron W. (1 October 2013). "The Study of Judaism: Authenticity, Identity, Scholarship". State University of New York Press – via Amazon.
- Hughes, Aaron W. (23 April 2013). "Muslim Identities: An Introduction to Islam". Columbia University Press – via Amazon.
- Hughes, Aaron W. (15 November 2012). "Abrahamic Religions: On the Uses and Abuses of History". Oxford University Press – via Amazon.
- Hughes, Aaron W. (8 August 2014). "Theorizing Islam: Disciplinary Deconstruction and Reconstruction". Routledge – via Amazon.
- Hughes, Aaron W. (29 October 2010). "The Invention of Jewish Identity: Bible, Philosophy, and the Art of Translation". Indiana University Press – via Amazon.
- Hughes, Aaron (15 January 2008). "Situating Islam". Equinox Publishing – via Amazon.
- Hughes, Aaron W. (17 December 2007). "The Art of Dialogue in Jewish Philosophy". Indiana University Press – via Amazon.
- Hughes, Aaron W. (1 January 2005). "Jewish Philosophy A-Z". Edinburgh University Press – via Amazon.
- Hughes, Aaron W. (18 November 2003). "The Texture of the Divine: Imagination in Medieval Islamic and Jewish Thought". Indiana University Press – via Amazon.
- Diamond, Professor James A.; Hughes, Philip S. Bernstein Chair of Jewish Studies Aaron W., eds. (1 August 2012). "Encountering the Medieval in Modern Jewish Thought". Brill – via Amazon.
- Hughes, Aaron W.; Wolfson, Elliot R., eds. (22 December 2009). "New Directions in Jewish Philosophy". Indiana University Press – via Amazon.
- "The Journal of Jewish Thought and Philosophy".
- "Situating Islam: An Interview with Aaron W. Hughes". 5 October 2010.
- "Method and Theory in the Study of Religion: An Interview with Aaron Hughes (Part 1)". 15 May 2013.
- Reference 1 http://www.myjewishbooks.com/awards04.html