Malcolm H. Kerr Dissertation Awards

Cyril Uy II

Brown University, Religious Studies

2022 Co-Winner (Humanities)

Cyril Uy II

Cyril Uy II

“Lost in a Sea of Letters: Saʿd al-Dīn Ḥamūya (d. 1252) and the Plurality of Sufi Knowledge” 

Combining philological rigor, theoretical sophistication and limpid prose to a rare degree, Cyril Uy’s landmark study is not simply the first to retrieve a major but unstudied medieval Muslim occultist for the historiography of premodern Sufism, but uses him as prism for the comparative study of medieval and early modern Islamic intellectual, social and political history writ large—with implications for the (de)construction of Western modernity too. Uy’s choice to focus on Saʿd al-Dīn Ḥamūya is a daring one, given the exceptional difficulty and ever-shifting complexity of his writings, many of which remain in manuscript. Given his enduring influence as a Sufi lettrist author of equal caliber to Ibn al-ʿArabī himself, however, and one even more committed to embodying epistemology through boundless deconstructive play and radical experiential openness, Ḥamūya provides an unusually strategic window onto the relationship between knowledge and sociopolitical existence in a vast array of Islamic and Persianate societies over the last eight centuries. Uy, ideal jazz interpreter, reveals his jazz philosopher to be integral to any history and theory of religion, philosophy, science and language itself.


The dissertation was completed at Brown University in the Department of Religious Studies under the supervision of Shahzad Bashir.

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