UW to launch radio, Web programs on Islam and Muslims in the world

April 23, 2008

by Masarah Van Eyck

Nine area and international studies programs at the University of Wisconsin-Madison received a grant from the national Social Science Research Council (SSRC) to create an interactive program that will support public dissemination of scholarship on the topic of Islam.

The grant is part of SSRC's project, "Academia in the Public Sphere."

UW-Madison's eight Title VI National Resource Centers, along with the Middle Eastern Studies Program, will host a 12-month project titled "Inside Islam: Dialogues and Debates." Wisconsin Public Radio (WPR) and the UW-Madison Division of Information Technology (DoIT) are lead partners in the project.

Spearheaded by Global Studies, the grant will allow for the production of eight to ten one-hour, call-in radio shows with local and international scholars on Islam, hosted by WPR's Jean Feraca. Topics may include such subjects as "Islam and Music" and "Women and Islam," and will address the diversity of Muslim communities throughout the world. These broadcasts will be followed by real-time chats and a blog on the WPR Web site. In addition, they will produce "insideislam.wisc.edu," a Web site hosted by DoIT.

The live radio broadcasts will reach WPR's 400,000 listeners around the state through Feraca's "Here on Earth: Radio without Borders" program. Intended to spark a worldwide conversation, listeners around the globe will be able to stream the radio show and post their own comments and podcasts on the Web site.

"This forum is designed precisely for public access to knowledge and dialogue," says B. Venkat Mani, interim director of Global Studies and associate professor in the Department of German. "This is not only outreach to the community — it is a way of building inroads into the university." Mani is most recently the author of "Cosmopolitical Claims: Turkish German Literatures from Nadolny to Pamuk" (University of Iowa Press, 2007).

"Wisconsin is a natural home for such a collaborative, interregional effort," says Gilles Bousquet, dean of the Division of International Studies. "In addition to their strong history of research and teaching, UW-Madison's area and international studies programs consistently generate innovative ways of helping us to better understand our world."

Ten universities received SSRC funding to support projects intended to influence public discourse on Islam. Funding was provided by the Carnegie Corporation of New York.

UW-Madison's eight Title VI National Resource Centers include: Global Studies; the African Studies Program; the Center for South Asia; the Center for South East Asian Studies; the Center for European Studies; the Center for Russia, East Europe and Central Asia; Latin American, Caribbean, and Iberian Studies; and the Center for East Asian Studies.