Vanessa DeGifis

Vanessa DeGifis

Associate Professor and Department Chair


487 Manoogian
906 West Warren
Detroit, MI 48201


Classical and Modern Languages, Literatures and Cultures

Vanessa DeGifis

Professor DeGifis is an expert in Islamic intellectual culture and textual traditions, specializing in the historical reception and interpretation of Islam's foundational scripture, the Qur’an. Her research focuses on questions related to how Muslims apply the Qur'an to "real-world" situations and decision making. Her book, "Shaping a Qurʾānic Worldview," is the first sustained examination of references to the Qur’an in the politics of the Caliphate in light of classical Arabic rhetorical theories, stimulating broader considerations of the practical impact of scriptural themes in public life. With a sustained interest in the practical dimensions of religious thought, some of her more recent work has also explored the intersections of religion and health care.

Her current book project explores the range and function of Qur’anic language in medieval Islamic state letters through a critical study of the famous and massive chancery manual of al-Qalqashandi (fl. 1389-1418), who worked in the Secretariat of the Mamluk Sultanate in Egypt. A related article project focuses specifically on the Qur'anic linguistic register of Abbasid caliphal investiture documents from the Mamluk period. This research will help us better understand the nature, meaning, and purpose of the Caliphate in relation to more secular domains of power and the ways in which Islamic state bureaucracies encode religious character and significance in the language of political regime.

Professor DeGifis serves on the editorial board of the "Mamluk Studies Review," the Publications and Research Committee of the International Qur’anic Studies Association (IQSA), and is founding co-editor of the peer-reviewed "Journal of the International Qur'anic Studies Association (JIQSA)."

Research interest(s)/area of expertise

Islamic text traditions; Qur'an and Tafsir; Arabic-Islamic rhetoric; the Abbasid Caliphate; the Mamluk Sultanate


  • Ph.D. with honors, Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations, University of Chicago, 2008
  • M.A., University of Chicago, 2001
  • B.A., University of California, Santa Barbara, 1999

Awards and grants

  •  Provost's Fellowship for Student Success, WSU, 2016 
  •  Excellence in Teaching Award, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, WSU, 2015

Courses taught by Vanessa DeGifis

Winter Term 2024