Dr. Denise Spellberg

spellbergKeynote speaker Dr. Denise Spellberg is a scholar of Islamic civilization and Islam in America and Europe.  She received her A.B. in History from Smith College and her M.A., M. Phil., and PhD from Columbia University in Middle Eastern History. Before coming to the University of Texas at Austin in 1990, as an assistant professor of History and Middle Eastern Studies, she held the position of Visiting Lecturer in Women’s Studies and the History of Religion at Harvard Divinity School (1989-90). She is now Associate Professor of History and Middle Eastern Studies, but will be promoted to Full Professor in September 2014.

At the University of Texas at Austin, Spellberg has served as Director of Religious Studies (1995-96) and Associate Director of Medieval Studies (2007-08). In 1995, at the Dean’s request, she helped create and taught in the Tracking Cultures Program (1995-2003), a study abroad thesis program for undergraduates, featuring faculty-supervised travel to Morocco, Spain, Mexico, and the American Southwest. She was chosen as one of four instructors for the Ford Foundation’s “Difficult Dialogs” Program (2006-2008), which garnered a $100,000 grant for UT. Nominated for many teaching awards, she has won three in University wide competition.

Spellberg was awarded a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship (1992-93) and the Carnegie Foundation Scholarship (2009-2010) in support of her research on Islam and the Founders.

Dr. Spellberg’s first book, Politics, Gender, and the Islamic Past: The Legacy of ‘A’isha bint Abi Bakr was published by Columbia University Press in 1994 has been described by The International Journal of Middle East Studies as “a rare treat,” which “approaches the study of Islamic biography from a fresh and engaging perspective.”  In 2009, the Women’s Cultural Association of Istanbul, Turkey awarded the book its Dost (Friend) Prize in recognition of its “universal contribution to Islamic Studies.”

Her most recent book, Thomas Jefferson’s Qur’an: Islam and the Founders, was published by Alfred A. Knopf in October 2013. Described in The Daily Beast as an “enlightening book,” “compelling, formidably documented,” and essential reading in these troubled times. The San Francisco Chronicle hailed the book as “wonderful,” and “a step toward inclusiveness in the ongoing construction of American history.” While The New York Times described Spellberg’s work as “fascinating” and “revelatory,” its “real achievement is in casting a coterie of founders – pre-eminently Jefferson, Madison, and Washington – in the unlikely role of radicals in their tolerance of Islam.”