Ph.D. Ethnic Studies, University of California, Berkeley, 2009
M.A. Ethnic Studies, University of California, Berkeley, 2003
M.F.A. Creative Writing, Mills College, 2001
B.A. Double Major, English and Ethnic Studies (Honors), University of California, Berkeley, 1998


Research Interests

Critical Ethnic Studies, Transnational American Studies, Critical Muslim Studies, Asian American Literature and Culture, Third World Feminism, Islamic Feminism, Cultural Theory, Race and Religion.

Biographical Notes

Sylvia Chan-Malik is a scholar of American studies, Critical Race and Ethnic Studies, Women's and Gender Studies, and Religious Studies. Her research focuses on the history of Islam in the United States, specifically the lives of U.S. Muslim women and the rise of anti-Muslim racism in 20th-21st-century America. More broadly, she studies the intersections of race, gender, and religion, and how these categories interact in struggles for social justice. Sylvia is the Faculty Director of the WGS Social Justice Minor. 

She is the author of Being Muslim: A Cultural History of Women of Color and American Islam (NYU Press, 2018) which offers an alternative narrative of American Islam in the 20-21st century that centers the lives, subjectivities, and voices of women of color. In it, she brings together the stories of African American women and their engagements with Islam as social protest religion and spiritual practice; encounters between “Islam” and “feminism” in U.S. media and popular culture; the cultural production and political expressions of South Asian and Arab American Muslim women during the late-20th century; and finally, the diverse experiences of U.S. Muslim women in post-9/11 America. Through their stories, the book tracks Islam’s shifting meanings in women’s lives and in national political and cultural discourse, and situates issues of race and racialialization—and in particular, logics of anti-blackness, xenophobia, orientalism, and white nationalism—as critical determinants of women’s experiences of being Muslim in the U.S.

She speaks frequently on issues of U.S. Muslim politics and culture, Islam and gender, and racial and gender politics in the U.S., and her commentary and writing has appeared in venues such as NPR, Slate NewsThe InterceptMiddle East EyeDaily BeastPRI, Huffington Post, Patheos, Religion News Service, and more.. 

Dr. Chan-Malik teaches courses on race and ethnicity in the United States, Islam in/and America, social justice movements, Islam and gender, feminist methodologies, multiethnic literature and culture in the U.S., and 20-21st century U.S. history. She is also a core faculty member in the American Studies department, and is affiliate graduate faculty for the Department of Religion. 

Her next two projects examine histories of Sufism and whiteness in the United States and the role of religion and spirituality in Ethnic Studies discourse and U.S.-based social justice activism.

She holds a Ph.D. in Ethnic Studies from the University of California, Berkeley (2009) and an M.F.A. from Mills College in Creative Writing.

For more information on Dr. Chan-Malik’s research, teaching, and speaking engagements, please visit:

Awards, Fellowships, Grants

  • University of California President’s Postdoctoral Fellowship, 2009-2011
  • Ethnic Studies Department Block Grant Fellowship, University of California, Berkeley, 2008
  • Outstanding Graduate Student Instructor Award, University of California, Berkeley, 2008
  • Ford Foundation Diversity Fellowship, Dissertation-Year Award, 2006-2007
  • Graduate Opportunity Dissertation-Year Fellowship, University of California, Berkeley, 2005-2006
  • Graduate Division Conference Travel Grant, University of California, Berkeley, 2005
  • Ethnic Studies Department Block Grant Fellowship, University of California, Berkeley, 2005
  • Dean’s Normative Time Fellowship, University of California, Berkeley, 2004-2005
  • Graduate Opportunity Program (GOP) Fellowship, University of California, Berkeley, 2000-2004
  • The Place for Writers Fellowship, Mills College, 1999-2001
  • Dean’s Honor List, University of California, Berkeley, 1994-1996

Selected Publications

  • “Common Cause: On the Black-Immigrant Debate and Constructing the Muslim American.” The Journal of Race, Ethnicity, and Religion 2, no. 8 (2011): 1-39.
  • “Chadors, Feminists, Terror: The Racial Politics of U.S. Media Representations of the 1979 Iranian Women’s Movement.” The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science (Special Issue on Race, Religion, and Democracy) 637, no. 1 (2011): 112-140.
  • "Race, orthodoxy, and ‘real’ Islam." May 4, 2011. The Immanent Frame. Last accessed 5 May. 2011 at:
  • “Muslim Women, Hip Hop, and Rap.” In Press with The Encyclopedia of Women and Islamic Cultures On Line Edition, ed. Suad Joseph. Forthcoming September 2011.
  • “Cultural and Literary Production.” Solicited essay under contract for The Cambridge Companion to American Islam, ed. Omid Safi and Juliane Hammer. Cambridge University Press. Forthcoming 2012.
  • “Islam in the Arts in the USA.” Solicited essay under contract for The Routledge Handbook of Islam in the West, ed. Roberto Tottoli. Taylor and Francis/Routledge Press. Forthcoming 2013.
  • “A Tribe Called Quest” and “Mos Def.” The Encyclopedia of Muslim-American History, Ed. Edward E. Curtis IV. Facts on File, Inc., 2010.
  • “A Part of Islam”: Race, Gender, and the Making of Muslim America, 1965-Present. Manuscript in progress.