Tahir Andrabi stands with arms crossed. A bookcase full of books in the background.

Pomona College Economics Professor Tahir Andrabi has been busy over the past few months working to bring to campus some of the country’s top economists and political scientists researching Muslim societies. Andrabi is the main organizer of the annual AALIMS-Pomona Conference on the Political Economy of the Muslim World which will be held April 21-22.

The Association for Analytic Learning about Islam and Muslim Societies (AALIMS) conference will provide a forum for established scholars and graduate students from across the country to present their papers and dissertations on Islam or the Muslim world, get feedback and meet other scholars in the field.

“It’s very important [to do this work] especially in this climate with the discussions being had on Islam,” says Andrabi, who is organizing the conference at Pomona and is part of AALIMS’s board of directors.

With the topic being so highly politicized, Andrabi says “people need intellectual space to do serious analytical and empirical work, and for that work to bear in on debates on Islam.”

The presenters are coming from top institutions, such as Harvard, Duke, Princeton, Rice, Stanford, Columbia and NYU Abu Dhabi, among others. Topics range from Boko Haram, police integration in Iraq, female employment under Islamist rule, censorship in state media in the Middle East and the Christian-Muslim education gap in Africa. Pomona College Assistant Professor of Economics Manisha Goel will be presenting “The Business of Religion and Caste in India.”

In the past, AALIMS conferences have been held at Princeton, Stanford and Harvard universities, so bringing the conference to Pomona will be the first time it’s held at an undergraduate liberal arts campus. Pomona students and faculty across different fields, including economics, international relations, politics and history, will be attending.

“It’s a very intense group but it’s a very friendly group and it’s good for our students to see serious debate and commentary on papers,” says Andrabi. “It’s good for undergraduate students to see how scholarship develops, what the whole process is like from when the paper is written and how it is revised.”

AALIMS’ board chair Timur Kuran, professor at Duke University, says, “AALIMS has been providing a platform for completely open and honest scientific exchanges on Islam and Muslim societies. And among our goals is to give young scholars an intellectual home where they receive rigorous feedback and thoughtful professional guidance. We’re grateful to Pomona College for hosting us this year as our mission continues.”

Andrabi, who also sits on the board of directors of AALIMS, points to the need for groups and conferences that help develop young scholars working on Islam and Muslim communities.

“We wanted to create a group that would be very analytically-minded in terms of methods and theory. The methods and technical level of scholarship being done is really high quality; itdeepens the institutional knowledge of Muslim societies and helps us test innovative hypotheses in these fields,” says Andrabi. “These people doing work on Muslim societies are doing defining work in their own disciplines. AALIMS is very committed to developing this body of rigorous work and community of scholars.”