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Beth Sorensen
Office of Communications


Steven Wasserstrom, Moe and Izetta Tonkon Associate Professor of Judaic Studies and Humanities at Reed College, recently won an award for excellence in religious studies in the category of historical studies for his book Between Muslim and Jew: The Problem of Symbiosis (Princeton University Press, 1995) from the American Academy of Religion (AAR). The award will be presented to Wasserstrom at the AAR annual meeting, which will be held in New Orleans the end of November.

Steven Wasserstrom holds a Ph.D. in religious studies from the University of Toronto and has taught at Reed College since 1986. In April of 1990, Wasserstrom was appointed Reed s first Moe and Izetta Tonkon Associate Professor. The recipient of many academic honors, Wasserstrom earned the first annual Marshall G.S. Hodgson memorial prize in Islamic studies from the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Chicago in 1984. Most recently, Wasserstrom presented a lecture on From Ahriman to the Zionist Occupation Government: the Jews as Planetary Antagonist in Archetype and Stereotype at an international antisemitism conference in October of 1996.

In Between Muslim and Jew: The Problem of Symbiosis under Early Islam, Wasserstrom analyzes the symbiosis between Jewish and Muslim religious thought in the eight through tenth centuries.

In Part I of three, "Trajectories," he explores early Jewish-Muslim interactions, studying messianism, professions, authority, and class structure and shows how they were reshaped during the first centuries of Islam.

Part II, "Constructions," looks at influences of Judaism on the development of the emerging Shi'ite community. This ties into the wider issue of the early Muslim conception of "the Jew."

In Part III, "Intimacies," Wasserstrom tackles the complex esoteric symbiosis between Muslim and Jewish theologies. An investigation of the milieu in which Jews and Muslims interacted sheds new light on their shared religious beliefs. Throughout, Wasserstrom expands on the work of social and political historians to include symbolic and conceptual aspects of interreligious symbiosis.

The American Academy of Religion is a learned society and professional association of scholars and teachers in the field of religion. The awards for excellence in religious studies are given annually for books that offer a significant new approach to a topic or field in religious studies. The awards are given in three categories: analytic-descriptive, constructive-reflective, and historical, as well as an award for the best first book in the history of religions.