M. A. MUJEEB KHAN portrait
  • Assistant Professor, World Languages and Cultures

Research Summary

See my publications and presentations for recent published and presented work. My work takes the Islamicate world and East Asia as case studies, comparatively and independently, to examine science, religion, law, culture, and representation, in the modern and pre-modern worlds, specifically the medieval period and late early modern periods. I also pursue research on perceptions and reception that ranges from late antiquity to the contemporary period.


  • PhD, Asian and Middle Eastern Studies, University of Cambridge
  • M.S., History and Philosophy of Science, University of Tokyo
  • A.M. (M.A.), Regional Studies - East Asia, Harvard University
  • B.S., Physics (Honors College, minors in Japanese and Biology), Stony Brook University


A native of New York, I began my career with a B.S. in Physics from Stony Brook University, where I was a member of the Honors College and also minored in Japanese and Biology. Following this, I received an A.M. (M.A. equivalent) in Regional Studies - East Asia from Harvard, then an M.S. in the History and Philosophy of Science from the University of Tokyo, and finally a Ph.D. in Asian and Middle Eastern Studies from Cambridge. Between and during these degrees, I studied Arabic, Japanese, and Chinese intensively abroad and, as a result of this and my graduate work, have been trained in multiple countries and educational systemsj across the world. Perhaps as a result of my own multicultural and cross-cultural background, research across disciplines and between cultures has been a natural inclination. I am interested in supporting theoretically sound research projects, from helping students interested in pursuing research to collaborating with fellow academics (roundtables, edited volumes, conferences, etc.).
My earlier (and currently) pursued projects investigate the reception of the ancient world within West and East Asia, through the lenses of the Islamicate and Japanese worlds. In the former, the Greco-Roman intellectual tradition was translated into Arabic (Hellenization) and, in the latter), the Japanese adopted the Chinese writing system and imported the Sino-Korean intellectual tradition (Sinicization). See my comparative studies for more details on the comparative aspect of these processes. My focus has been on Tanba no Yasuyori (d. 995), Ibn Sīnā (d. 1037), and Abū Bakr al-Rāzī (d. ca. 925/932).
Investigating these developments and connections has led to various new interests. One is the encounter of these civilizations with Western European tradition in the nineteenth century, especially as observed in the works of the modernist thinkers Muḥammad ᶜAbduh (d.1905) of Egypt and Fukuzawa Yukichi (d. 1901) of Japan, and their interlocutors. Another is cross-cultural exchange and perception in Asia, such as the Yuan Dynasty text Hui hui yao fang [Muslim Formularies], Chinese and Japanese Islam, and Japanese perceptions of Islam.
Perhaps, most prominently, investigating the negotiation of tradition in the premodern world has led me consider the importance of intersectionality, cultural moments, and context. For example, Ibn Sīnā famously stated that his predecessor Rāzī should not have attempted to reach beyond the discipline of medicine when the former criticized the latter's philosophy. Yasuyori was a medical bureaucrat in early Japan and many Islamicate intellectuals were indebted to some form of patronage. Seeing traditions, whether modern or premodern, linearly is necessary in consideration of trajectory. However, without a consideration for intersectionality and particular cultural moments that broadens our understanding of what particular individuals and the societies within which they operated were actually doing (e.g., Newton's work on the occult). Therefore, adding science more broadly and other subjects, such as law, culture, and religion, I hope to enhance my examination of particular cultural moments. My long-term study of Yasuyori's work, in particular, explores his work from these multiple perspectives.
Contemporary impact continues to be of interest to my work because how we approach the past affects our work just as much as the facts we identify in our investigation of the past. In this, I am perhaps greatly indebted to the work of Geoffrey Lloyd (Cambridge). In regard to integrating the multiple contexts of a cultural moment, especially with regard to the multicultural nature of intellectual culture in premodern Japan, I am indebted to Peter Kornicki (Cambridge). With respect to the border-crossing, decolonized views of Asia, I am indebted to Sugita Hideaki (Tokyo) and the writings of the late Maejima Shinji (Keio). I would be remiss not to mention my initial encounter with deeply context-based comparative approaches early in my career through Shigehisa Kuriyama (Harvard) and the world of early modern Japanese medicine through Sakai Shidu (Juntendo).
In my teaching, I try to embody what I have gleaned from the works of or learned directly from these individuals. The range of my teaching rests on one principle: critical engagement for deeper understanding. Rather than surveying assumptions, most courses I teach focus on context, language, and self-reflection. While the exact word might differ between people, self-reflection is a concept and approach to teaching that I have 'creatively borrowed' from my colleagues at the University of Utah's Department of World Languages and Cultures. It is an approach that constantly asks us to reflect on our own perspective and biases when considering the cultural context of others, even if our identities overlap. In doing so, it allows a deeper understanding of these contexts and facilitates conversations that would have otherwise been difficult to have with students from diverse backgrounds. For example, "Reading Manga" is a course where students with advanced Japanese language skills explore the reasons 'why' or 'how' individuals perform or react to particular situations. Similarly, in "Asian Medicine," a course surveying the Chinese, Indian, and Greco-Islamic medical literary traditions, is always a comparative conversation across these traditions but, surprisingly for most students, is also a critical engagement with our own assumptions about the body, health, truth, and perspectives on medicine in our own modern context. In "Cultural Moments in Japan," all modern assumptions about Japan are questioned in order to shift from our conceptualization of how "we see Japan" to how individuals in particular sociohistorical cultural moments "experienced Japan." In "Visions of Islam," perhaps building on WIlliam Chitick and Sachiko Murata's "Vision of Islam," complicates our understanding of Islam by first studying what Islam was at its earliest moments, in the various ways this can be explored, to then exploring historical developments and modern manifestations or receptions of the tradition. For more information on my courses, please write to me but it is hoped that this introduction demonstrates that my research work on tradition is directly applied in my teaching to facilitate students' deeper engagement of tradition, in its many manifestations, for particular contexts, to enhance students' linguistic and cultural competencies.