373 episodes

Interviews with Scholars of Islam about their New Books

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    • Islam

Interviews with Scholars of Islam about their New Books

    Antonia Bosanquet, "Minding their Place: Space and Religious Hierarchy in Ibn al-Qayyim’s Aḥkām ahl al-dhimma" (Brill, 2020)

    Antonia Bosanquet, "Minding their Place: Space and Religious Hierarchy in Ibn al-Qayyim’s Aḥkām ahl al-dhimma" (Brill, 2020)

    How was the relationship between Muslim and non-Muslim communities theologically and spatially imagined in the premodern world? How did religious hierarchies map onto notions of place and spatial distinction and hierarchies? In her dazzling new book Minding their Place: Space and Religious Hierarchy in Ibn al-Qayyim’s Aḥkām ahl al-Dhimma (Brill, 2020), Antonia Bosanquet addresses these questions through a detailed and theoretically charged reading of the famous and crucially important legal text/compendium Aḥkām ahl al-Dhimma by Ibn al-Qayyim al-Jawzīyah (d.1350). Bosanquet forcefully argues that one must approach this text not just as a legal compendium, but as a critical repository of premodern Muslim social imaginaries on the question of interreligious difference. In our conversation, we discuss a range of issues including literary precedents for Aḥkām ahl al-Dhimma, spatial mappings and religious hierarchies, “relational” space and everyday Muslim-non-Muslim encounters, and the eschatological status of non-Muslim children. This lucidly written and analytically exciting book will spark interest among specialists and non-specialists alike.
    SherAli Tareen is Associate Professor of Religious Studies at Franklin and Marshall College. His research focuses on Muslim intellectual traditions and debates in early modern and modern South Asia. His book Defending Muhammad in Modernity (University of Notre Dame Press, 2020) received the American Institute of Pakistan Studies 2020 Book Prize. His other academic publications are available here. He can be reached at sherali.tareen@fandm.edu. Listener feedback is most welcome.
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    • 59 min
    A. Kanna et al., "Beyond Exception: New Interpretations of the Arabian Peninsula" (Cornell UP, 2020)

    A. Kanna et al., "Beyond Exception: New Interpretations of the Arabian Peninsula" (Cornell UP, 2020)

    Over the nearly two decades that they have each been conducting fieldwork in the Arabian Peninsula, Ahmed Kanna, Amélie Le Renard, and Neha Vora have regularly encountered exoticizing and exceptionalist discourses about the region and its people, political systems, and prevalent cultural practices. These persistent encounters became the springboard for this book, a reflection on conducting fieldwork within a "field" that is marked by such representations. The three focus on deconstructing the exceptionalist representations that circulate about the Arabian Peninsula. They analyze what exceptionalism does, how it is used by various people, and how it helps shape power relations in the societies they study. They propose ways that this analysis of exceptionalism provides tools for rethinking the concepts that have become commonplace, structuring narratives and analytical frameworks within fieldwork in and on the Arabian Peninsula. They ask: What would not only Middle East studies, but studies of postcolonial societies and global capitalism in other parts of the world look like if the Arabian Peninsula was central rather than peripheral or exceptional to ongoing sociohistorical processes and representational practices? The authors explore how the exceptionalizing discourses that permeate Arabian Peninsula studies spring from colonialist discourses still operative in anthropology and sociology more generally, and suggest that de-exceptionalizing the region within their disciplines can offer opportunities for decolonized knowledge production.
    This interview is part of an NBN special series on “Mobilities and Methods.”
    Ahmed Kanna is Associate Professor of Anthropology at University of the Pacific. He is author of Dubai: The City as Corporation, and has published articles in peer-reviewed journals including Cultural Anthropology, International Journal of Middle East Studies and Journal of Urban Affairs.
    Amélie Le Renard is Sociologist and Researcher at the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, and author of A Society of Young Women.
    Neha Vora is Associate Professor of Sociology and Anthropology at Lafayette College, and is author of Impossible Citizens and Teach for Arabia. Follow her on Twitter @nativeinformant.
    Alize Arıcan is a PhD candidate in the department of Anthropology at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Her work focuses on urban renewal, futurity, care, and migration in Istanbul, Turkey. Her work has been featured on City & Society, entanglements: experiments in multimodal ethnography, and Anthropology News.
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    • 52 min
    Michel Boivin, "The Sufi Paradigm and the Makings of a Vernacular Knowledge in Colonial India" (Palgrave MacMillan, 2020)

    Michel Boivin, "The Sufi Paradigm and the Makings of a Vernacular Knowledge in Colonial India" (Palgrave MacMillan, 2020)

    The Sufi Paradigm and the Makings of a Vernacular Knowledge in Colonial India: The Case of Sindh (1851-1929) (Palgrave Macmillan, 2020) by Michel Boivin maps the construction of a vernacular knowledge (as opposed to colonial knowledge) of a complex Sufi paradigm in Sindh by both British Orientalists, such as Richard Burton, but also Sindhi intelligentsia, like Mirza Qalich Beg. Examining the historical period from 1851-1929 during the British colonial control of the Sindh, the book argues that though the British were not interested directly in Sufism, their investment in learning languages (Sindhi) and culture, for administrative purposes, led to consequential engagement with Sufi literary traditions, especially the Shah jo Risalo by the Sindhi Sufi poet Shah Abd al-Latif. In tracing the lives of Sufi textual and print materials written by both Orientalists and indigenous Sindhi literati, Boivin captures the complex ways in which a Sindhi Sufi paradigm was constructed but also vernacularized, and how it was informed by Hinduism, Ismailism, and Sikhism, but also the mediums of the printing presses, libraries and bookshops. The book’s rich textual and historical analysis provides productive insights to how we can think about the formation of Sufism as a devotional regime of knowledge and how notions of Sufism were informed not only by mystical philosophies and religious practices by Sufis themselves, but also by colonialism, literary practices and social and economic realities.
    Shobhana Xavier is an Assistant Professor of Religious Studies at Queen’s University. Her research areas are on contemporary Sufism in North America and South Asia. She is the author of Sacred Spaces and Transnational Networks in American Sufism (Bloombsury Press, 2018) and a co-author of Contemporary Sufism: Piety, Politics, and Popular Culture (Routledge, 2017). More details about her research and scholarship may be found here and here. She may be reached at shobhana.xavier@queensu.ca . You can follow her on Twitter via @shobhanaxavier
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    • 1 hr 12 min
    Michael M. Knight, "Muhammad's Body: Baraka Networks and the Prophetic Assemblage" (UNC Press, 2020)

    Michael M. Knight, "Muhammad's Body: Baraka Networks and the Prophetic Assemblage" (UNC Press, 2020)

    Muhammad's Body: Baraka Networks and the Prophetic Assemblage by Michael Muhammad Knight (UNC Press, 2020) joins the emerging subfield of literature in Islamic Studies exploring embodiment and materiality as concepts for making sense of the spatial and temporal developments of Muslim subjectivities. Knight’s monograph is the first to delve into these themes as it concerns the Prophet Muhammad’s body and its functions, relationships, representations, symbolism, and postmortem contestations within Islamic literature. Knight analyzes Sunni hadith and sira texts from the eighth through the eleventh centuries CE to understand how conceptions of the Prophet’s body—from its physical features to its metaphysical qualities—shaped constructions of masculinity, authority, and power for the Prophet’s Companions as well as for those who followed in the centuries after them. By foregrounding his analysis in the Islamic concept of baraka—a kind of beneficent force of divine origin—and drawing from contemporary theoretical insights, Knight illuminates how the Prophetic body functioned as a crucial site of legitimation for his followers from the Prophet’s time until the present day. Muhammad’s Body is a welcome addition to the subject of embodiment in Islamic Studies.
    Asad Dandia is a graduate student of Islamic Studies at Columbia University.
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    • 48 min
    Jon Hoover, "Ibn Taymiyya" (Oneworld, 2020)

    Jon Hoover, "Ibn Taymiyya" (Oneworld, 2020)

    Ibn Taymiyya is one of the most prolific and influential Islamic thinkers to date, and was even the only pre-modern Muslim author cited in the 9/11 Report. His supporters and detractors alike have engaged his scholarship extensively for hundreds of years, and Hoover’s monograph, Ibn Taymiyya (2020), in English, as part of Oneworld’s “Makers of the Muslim World” series therefore offers an invaluable contribution to existing literature on Ibn Taymiyya.
    In our interview, Professor Hoover and I discuss the reasons for Ibn Taymiyya’s popularity, including his time in prison and controversial views on marriage, interfaith relations, and mysticism. Hoover’s monograph goes beyond a simple introduction to Ibn Taymiyya’s life and works and instead explores the prolific thinker in great detail, in terms of his own scholarship as well as reception history. Unsurprisingly, Hoover’s previous scholarship on Ibn Taymiyya (including a monograph on theodicy, as well several articles that explore Ibn Taymiyya’s thought broadly) informs the current work by allowing the author to write from an already expert vantage point. The bibliography is extensive and complements Hoover’s extant bibliography of Taymiyyan studies scholarship, hosted on his personal website. The book is sure to appeal to a broad range of audiences, including journalists, political scientists, and religion scholars.
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    • 57 min
    John Tolan, "Faces of Muhammad: Western Perceptions of the Prophet of Islam from the Middle Ages to Today" (Princeton UP, 2019)

    John Tolan, "Faces of Muhammad: Western Perceptions of the Prophet of Islam from the Middle Ages to Today" (Princeton UP, 2019)

    John Tolan’s latest book Faces of Muhammad: Western Perceptions of the Prophet of Islam from the Middle Ages to Today (Princeton UP, 2019) is a fascinating and rich survey of the complex perceptions of Muhammad as understood by Christian Europeans. Using sources that range from art to literature to history to theater to religion, Tolan shows that portrayals of Muhammad are varied and complex – indeed contradictory – and reveal more about the context in which these images appear than about Muhammad or Islam. In other words, the non-Muslim European discourse on Muhammad reflects the writers’ own preoccupations at home. Views about Muhammad are varied and complex, Tolan argues, and not always negative as is often highlighted. Sure, Muhammad is a false prophet, a heretic, a trickster, an idol, in some cases, but he’s also a role model, a hero, a great leader in others, sometimes in the same time period. For instance, while during the Crusades, Muhammad is a false prophet and the primary opponent of the Christian writers, during the Protestant Reformation, the prophet of Islam is received more positively, although not consistently: he is instrumentalized in the polemics between the various Christian groups such that each group – specifically the Protestants, the Catholics, the Unitarians – hold differing views on Muhammad, and parallels are drawn between him and the writer’s contemporary heroes or opponents.
    In today’s discussion, Tolan shares with us the primary contributions and arguments of the book, including specific depictions of Muhammad and the contexts that shape them, legends associated with Muhammad involving bulls and doves and floating coffins, the Christian doctrine of Immaculate Conception and its relevance to Muhammad, Jewish authors’ perception of and relationship with Muhammad, and more. 

    Shehnaz Haqqani is an Assistant Professor of Religion at Mercer University. Her primary research areas include Islam, gender, and interreligious marriage. She has a YouTube channel called What the Patriarchy, where she vlogs about feminism and Islam in an effort to dismantle the patriarchy; the vlog is available at https://www.youtube.com/whatthepatriarchy. She can be reached at haqqani_s@mercer.edu.
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    • 56 min

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