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University professor to receive $100,000 for Islam book project

By : Rachel Coker


A Binghamton University professor will receive $100,000 to support his next book project through a prestigious and competitive fellowship program offered by the Carnegie Corporation of New York.

Ricardo René Larémont, professor of political science and sociology, is one of 21 Carnegie Scholars for 2007. Each will receive grants of up to $100,000 to pursue Islam-centered research themes during the next two years.

Larémont has written several chapters for a book to be titled Islamic Law and the State in Nigeria.

“What I am examining is the role of Islamic law in providing legitimacy for different governments, from the pre-colonial era to the post-colonial era,” he said. “I’m tracing the relevance of Islamic law, both in terms of social and political identity, especially in the north of Nigeria.”

Islamic law was the de facto law of northern Nigeria from about 1804 until about 1960, Larémont said, including the period when the country was a British colony.

The book will also examine what happens in a society divided roughly evenly between Muslims and Christians. “The interesting intellectual and political challenge,” Larémont said, “is how do you talk to and engage with the masses and with political elites so they can reconcile these two rather different philosophical and political orientations in terms of what the law should be in a society?”

Muslims, he noted, believe it’s impossible and possibly even heretical to divorce Islam from government. Christians often have a murkier view about the separation of church and state. “What we can learn in Nigeria may have applications for other societies and states that are similarly split on religious questions,” Larémont said.

He traces his interest in religion to 1989, when he met Ali A. Mazrui, the Albert Schweitzer chair in the humanities and director of the Institute of Global Cultural Studies. Mazrui and two other mentors had a profound impact on his thinking, said Larémont, who was associate director of the IGCS from 1997-2002.

“Progressive people in the various religious traditions, whether they be Christians or Muslims or Jews or Hindus or Buddhists, are actively working on advancing inter-religious and intercultural understanding, believing that it will contribute toward peace worldwide,” said Larémont, who has photographs of Martin Luther King Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi over his desk. “I personally am committed in terms of my scholarship and using my scholarship in the public policy arena to contribute to this dialogue.”

The Carnegie funding will allow him to spend several months in Nigeria during the next year. Larémont, who recently wrapped up five years as chair of the Sociology Department, plans to take a year of chair’s leave as well as a one-semester sabbatical to focus on the book project.

Candidates for the Carnegie Scholars Program are first identified by a distinguished group of nominators, then are evaluated and selected by a committee of Carnegie program leaders and external advisers. Larémont credits University President Lois B. DeFleur, Provost Mary Ann Swain and Harpur College Dean Jean-Pierre Mileur with support that allowed him to reach this point. Mazrui as well as Sociology Department faculty members Michael West and William Martin also provided good advice on his project proposal, Larémont said.

Larémont is author of Islam and the Politics of Resistance in Algeria, 1783-1992. He also edited Borders, Nationalism, and the African State and The Causes of War and the Consequences of Peacekeeping in Africa and co-edited three collections of Mazrui’s essays.

About Ricardo René Larémont
Ricardo René Larémont, 50, earned his doctorate in political science from Yale University in 1995, graduated from New York University’s law school in 1979 and did his undergraduate work at NYU. Larémont, who joined Binghamton’s faculty in 1997, was honored with the Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in teaching in 2002.
Larémont, who was born in Venezuela, grew up in Brooklyn. Before entering academia, his career included work as a lawyer and lobbyist. He also ran a radio station.
Larémont and his wife, Lisa Yun, an associate professor of English at Binghamton, live on Binghamton’s West Side with their two young daughters, Liana and Alina.

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Last Updated: 10/14/08