Carool Kersten (Haelen, 28 June 1964) is Dutch historian of Islam and the author and editor of eleven books. Trained as an Arabist, Southeast Asianist and scholar of religion, he currently works as a Reader in the Study of Islam and the Muslim World at King's College London, teaching in the Department of Theology and Religious Studies, as well as at the Department of Middle Eastern Studies, where he was also acting head of department in 2017. In his research he focuses on the contemporary Muslim world, in particular intellectual history and current developments in both regional and global contexts. In addition to that, he is interested in Southeast Asian history and Islam, and in developments in the Middle East.
Carool Kersten studied Arabic Language and Culture at the then still existing Institute for the Study of the Languages and Cultures of the Middle East at Radboud University Nijmegen in the Netherlands. He specialized in modern Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies, with minors in International Law, International Relations and Indonesian. In 1987, he earned the academic title of doctorandus (equivalent of an MA) in Arabic and Islamic Studies with distinction, on the basis of a dissertation on the theory and practice of the Islamic law of treaties. After graduation he went to Egypt, where he attended the International Language Institute in Cairo. In 1988, he was admitted as a Sworn Translator by the Netherlands District Court in Arnhem. He returned to Nijmegen during a sabbatical (1995-1996) to do graduate work in philosophy. Taking another sabbatical year in 2001, he studied at Payap University in Chiang Mai, Thailand, where he obtained a Certificate in Thai and Southeast Asian Studies. In 2005, he moved to England in order to conduct postgraduate research at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) and was awarded a PhD in the Study of Religions in 2009. In his thesis, written under the supervision of Professor Christopher Shackle and entitled 'Occupants of the Third Space: New Muslim Intellectuals and the Study of Islam', he dealt with the work of three contemporary Muslim scholars, (Nurcholish Madjid, Hasan Hanafi, Mohammed Arkoun). It has since been published as Cosmopolitans and Heretics by Hurst and Oxford University Press
Except for a sabbatical year (1995–96), from 1988 until 2000, Carool Kersten worked for the Dutch construction and engineering company Ballast Nedam Group. In 1989 he was transferred to Saudi Arabia to provide support for the company's operations in the Middle East, where he held a number of staff and project positions, including that of personnel and general services manager for the company's Middle East operations (1996–2000). From 2002 until 2007, he taught Asian history and religions at the Center for International and Graduate Studies (now known as the Institute of South East Asian Studies, SEAIGS) of Payap University in Chiang Mai, Thailand. In 2007, he joined King's College London as Lecturer in the Study of Islam & the Muslim World, becoming a Senior Lecturer in 2012, and Reader in 2017. Since 2014, he has also been a Research Associate at the Institute for Philosophical Studies in Koper (Slovenia)
Carool Kersten is founding editor of the book series Contemporary Thought in the Islamic World, published by Routledge.He is also a founding member of the British Association for Islamic Studies, serving on the council and advisory board. In 2008, he was admitted as a Member of the Chartered Institute of Linguists. He has been a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (HEA) since 2011. Kersten also makes regular media appearances as an analyst and commentator on developments in the Muslim world.
- Contemporary Thought in the Muslim World: Trends, Themes, and Issues (Routledge, 2019)
- The Fatwa As an Islamic Legal Instrument: Concept, Historical Role, Contemporary Relevance (Gerlach Press, 2018)
- The Poesis of Peace: Narratives, Cultures and Philosophies (Routledge, 2017), with Klaus-Gerd Giesen and Lenart Skof
- A History of Islam in Indonesia: Unity in Diversity (Edinburgh University Press and Oxford University Press, 2017). Indonesian translation: Mengislamkan Indonesia: Sejarah Peradaban Islam di Nusantara (Penerbit Baca, 2018)
- Islam in Indonesia: The Contest for Society, Ideas and Values (Hurst and Oxford University Press, 2015). Indonesian Translation: Berebut Wacana: Pergulatan Wacana Umat Islam Indonesia Era Reformasi (Mizan, 2018).
- The Caliphate and Islamic Statehood (Gerlach Press, 2015)
- Alternative Islamic Discourses and Religious Authority (Routledge, 2013), with Susanne Olsson
- Demystifying the Caliphate (Hurst and Oxford University Press, 2013), with Madawi al-Rasheed and Marat Shterin
- Cosmopolitans and Heretics (Hurst and Oxford University Press, 2011)
- Dr Muller's Asian-Journey: Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam and Yunnan (White Lotus Press 2004)
- Strange Events in the Kingdoms of Cambodia and Laos(White Lotus Press, 2003)
Kersten also has contributed almost dozens of chapters, articles and reviews to edited volumes and academic journals. In addition, he writes a blog on alternative Islamic discourses under the title Critical Muslims, and used to contribute book and music reviews for the 'Rambles.net' website.