Cuma Ozkan

PhD student

Cuma Ozkan is a fifth year PhD student in the Department of Religious Studies at the University of Iowa. He specializes in the history of Islam in China and comparative Chinese religions. He is currently writing his dissertation titled Contesting Sinicization: A New Approach to the Chinese Muslim Scholarship of Late Imperial China (the Han Kitab). As an adjunct instructor, he also teaches in the Department of Asian and Slavic Languages and Culture at the University of Iowa. In addition, he is a research fellow at Hancher Auditorium. This fellowship is a part of Building Bridges: Arts, Culture, and Identity Program  and is funded by the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art (DDFIA), an extension of the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation.

In his dissertation, Mr. Ozkan textually analyzes the writings of Chinese Muslims from the Late Imperial China (a.k.a. the Han Kitab), where Confucian and Neo-Confucian terms are used and the Chinese Classics are made reference to explain the beliefs and practices of Islam. Ozkan argues that a holistic analysis of the Han Kitab demonstrates that its authors and contributors were not primarily interested in bridging the gap between Islam and China, but rather sought to elevate Islam over Chinese religions. Relying on his textual analysis, the content of texts in the Han Kitab shows that they sought to convince their readers, be they Muslims or non-Muslims, that Islam is an orthodox tradition and that it does not deserve to be treated as dangerous to Chinese society. As a result of his contextualization of the Han Kitab, Ozkan makes the argument that one of leading reasons why the authors of the Han Kitab tended to draw on the terms and concepts of Chinese religions and philosophies was to demonstrate that the denunciation of Muslim practices and beliefs was unwarranted.

Mr. Ozkan earned his bachelor’s in Islamic theology at the Theology Faculty of Ankara University in 2007. He later worked for the Presidency of Religious Affairs in Turkey for one and half years. After his transition to academia, he earned his master’s in Chinese Religions at the University of Iowa with the completion of his master’s thesis “A Comparative Analysis: Buddhist Madhyamaka and Daoist Chongxuan (Twofold Mystery) in the Early Tang (618-720)” in 2013. When conducting archival work in China, Mr. Ozkan held a Confucius China Studies Program Joint Research Ph.D. Fellowship from September 2015 to June 2016. He also attended the graduate program at Nanjing University’s History Department and closely worked with Profesor Liu Yingsheng and joined his esearch group on Yuan Studies at Nanjing University. In addition, he conducted a close reading of Chinese Muslim writings with Professor Ji Fangtong at Nanjing University of Science and Technology.

Ozkan has presented his research at many venues, including the Center for Chinese Studies, University of Berkeley, the Columbia University Graduate Conference on East Asia, and the 2013 Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Religion. He has also conducted fieldwork and archival research in Taiwan and China with grants and fellowships from the Stanley Foundation; the Center for Asian and Pacific Studies; the Association for Asian Studies; the International Institute of Islamic Thought, Graduate College, University of Iowa, and the Confucius China Studies Program.

Selected Publications: 
  • Ozkan, Cuma. “The Convergence or Divergence of Pilgrimage and Tourism in Modern China.” International Journal of Social Inquiry 2013, Vol. 6 Issue 2, p118-138.
  • Ozkan, Cuma. “Review of Rectifying God’s Name: Liu Zhi’s Confucian Translation of Monotheism and Islamic Law by James D. Frankel” (Honolulu, University of Hawai’i Press, 2011), in Journal of Muslim Minority Affairs, 35:2, 2015.
Awards & Service: 
  • Graduate College Summer Fellowship (2017 Summer)
    Graduate College of University of Iowa.
  • The 2017 Barbara W. and Rex E. Montgomery Award, the Department of Religious Studies, the University of Iowa.
  • Confucius China Studies Program Joint Research Ph.D. Fellowship (2016 Fall)
    Hanban (Chinese National Office for Teaching Chinese as a Foreign Language), Beijing, China. (Unclaimed) 
  • T. Anne Cleary International Dissertation Research Fellowship (2016 Fall)
    Graduate College of University of Iowa. (Unclaimed) 
  • Summer Student Program Scholarship (2016 Summer)
    International Institute of Islamic Thought, Verdon, VA.
  • Graduate College Summer Fellowship (2016 Summer)
    Graduate College of University of Iowa.
  • Confucius China Studies Program Joint Research Ph.D. Fellowship (2015 Fall-2016 Spring)
    Hanban (Chinese National Office for Teaching Chinese as a Foreign Language), Beijing, China.
  • Research Grants for PhD Students (2015 Summer)
    International Institute of Islamic Thought, Verdon, VA.
  • Short Research Travel Grant (2015 Summer)
    The China and Inner Asia Council (CIAC) of the Association for Asian Studies, Ann Arbor, MI.
  • Stanley Graduate Awards for International Research (2013 Summer)
    The Stanley-University of Iowa Support Organization.
  • Graduate Dissertation Grant (2013 Summer)
    The Center for Asian and Pacific Studies, University of Iowa.
Teaching: 
  • Instructor, University of Iowa, Asian & Slavic Languages and Cultures (Spring 2017)
    Asian Humanities: China.” 
  • Instructor, University of Iowa, Department of Asian & Slavic Languages and Cultures (Fall 2016)
    Asian Humanities: China; Themes in Chinese Culture: Ethics, Nature, and Chinese Culture.”