Podcasting “Muslims of the Heartland”

In addition to hitting the road for a multi-stop Heartland Muslim book tour in 2022, I really enjoyed spending time talking with other professors about the book on a variety of podcasts this year.

I wrote Muslims of the Heartland for public, Midwestern audiences, the people who, like me, are descendants of the first Arabic-speaking people who settled here before World War I and for Midwesterners who care about that history. I avoided academic jargon and the kind of dense theoretical language and academic conventions that make reading monographs difficult outside academic circles. But in doing that, I was a bit worried about how the book would be received among my professional colleagues. As a whole, the academy is still devoted to its disciplinary canons, and public-facing work is not as always valued as research conceived for and written for academic audiences.

No matter what the reviews end up saying, the podcasts that I did with my colleagues this year showed me that many of us do value writing for audiences outside the academy. I felt grateful and humbled that these colleagues took the time to read my work and then to formulate thoughtful questions for me. I enjoyed the feeling of connection that these lengthy conversations cultivated.

The year began with Prof. Camden Burd on the Heartland History Podcast, giving us both a chance to think about the implications of Arab American Muslim history for the study of the Midwestern past more generally. Prof. Tazeen Ali, a specialist in Muslim American studies, and I then pondered the history of Arab American Muslims for the story of Islam in America more generally in a podcast featured by Maydan. Dr. Joseph Stuart, another scholar of American religious history, including African American Islam, and I discussed the book in terms of its meaning for the study of religion and race in the United States on a New Books Network podcast. Finally, I recorded an interview with Riada Asimovic Akyol on the Wider Angle program produced by New Lines Magazine. That interview is available as a podcast and as a YouTube video.