386 episodes

Interviews with Scholars of Islam about their New Books

New Books in Islamic Studies New Books Network

    • Islam
    • 4.3 • 3 Ratings

Interviews with Scholars of Islam about their New Books

    Bruce B. Lawrence, "The Bruce B. Lawrence Reader: Islam Beyond Borders" (Duke UP, 2021)

    Bruce B. Lawrence, "The Bruce B. Lawrence Reader: Islam Beyond Borders" (Duke UP, 2021)

    For more than four decades, Bruce Lawrence’s multivalent and fulsomely prolific scholarship has influenced and imprinted the Western study of Islam and Religious Studies more broadly in singularly profound ways. The Bruce B. Lawrence Reader: Islam Beyond Borders (Duke UP, 2021) edited and executed by Ali Altaf Mian brings together major texts and fragments from Lawrence’s intellectual oeuvre in a manner at once eminently accessible and pedagogically fertile. The Reader also includes a brilliant and extensive introduction by Ali Mian that presents a useful conceptual framing for approaching and benefiting from Bruce Lawrence’s intimidatingly diverse scholarship that ranges from medieval Muslim views on Hindu thought and practice, South Asian Sufism, modern fundamentalism, the Qur’an, and Islamicate art and aesthetics. A moving and intellectually enriching interview between Mian and Lawrence that explores the theoretical underpinnings and political manifesto of Lawrence’s illustrious career, and an equally moving and productive Afterword by historian Yasmin Saikia caps this treasure trove of a volume. The Bruce B. Lawrence Reader is sure to delight, captivate, and intellectually nourish scholars of Islam, religion, and indeed non-academics. It will also make a tremendous text to teach in various undergraduate and graduate courses.
    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.
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    • 1 hr 9 min
    Niloofar Haeri, "Say What Your Longing Heart Desires: Women, Prayer and Poetry in Iran" (Stanford UP, 2020)

    Niloofar Haeri, "Say What Your Longing Heart Desires: Women, Prayer and Poetry in Iran" (Stanford UP, 2020)

    Say What Your Longing Heart Desires: Women, Prayer & Poetry in Iran (Stanford University Press, 2020) by Niloofar Haeri is a stunning and absorbing ethnography of the lived ritual experiences of contemporary Iranian women. The place of Persian poetry, especially in the tradition of erfan or mysticism, is central to many features of Iranian life, be it in school curriculum for children, who learn to recite these poems when they are young, or at family gatherings over meal. Poetry, particularly, informs other aspects of ritual life, namely prayer or namaz, and do’a (supplication). By capturing conversations that unfold during Qur’an and poetry classes, Haeri showcases how a group of educated, middle-class women encounter, engage, and embody the lived legacies of classical poetry of Rumi, Hafez, Saadi and many more in their day to day lives. In highlighting these intimate moments of conversation with God (do’a) or through the use of prayers composed by the Imams, Haeri highlights how prayer and ritual acts ebb and flow through affective moments of life while being subjected to intellectual challenges by its supplicant. Ritual life for these Iranian women is not rote or stale, but rather richly complex, deliberate, and emotive, challenging how we approach religious debates that are seemingly persistent in the landscape of Iranian society while further disrupting the use of simple binaries of secular-sacred or private-public when discussing gendered Muslim piety. This book will be of interest to those who think and write about ritual life in Islam, ethnography, Iran, Shi‘ism, gender, and much more.
    Shobhana Xavier is an Assistant Professor of Religious Studies at Queen’s University. 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 3 min
    Marina Rustow, "The Lost Archive: Traces of a Caliphate in a Cairo Synagogue" (Princeton UP, 2020)

    Marina Rustow, "The Lost Archive: Traces of a Caliphate in a Cairo Synagogue" (Princeton UP, 2020)

    What does it mean that our single greatest source of medieval Islamic government documents comes from the attic of a Jewish synagogue in Cairo?
    This is the seeming paradox that Marina Rustow, director of the renowned Geniza Lab at Princeton University, has been trying to make sense of for years. In 1896, twin sisters and Scottish philologists Agnes Lewis and Margaret Gibson transported fragments from the geniza (or worn text repository) of the Ben Ezra Synagogue in Old Cairo to their dear friend Solomon Schecter, a Talmud scholar at Cambridge University. The Hebrew-language fragments of the Cairo Geniza would go on to revolutionize the study of medieval Jewry: in 1970, German-Jewish Arabist Shelomo Dov Goitein dubbed the Cairo Geniza “the Living Sea Scrolls” for its remarkable insight into the social world of medieval Jews.
    But flip the documents over, and the world of the Geniza is hardly just a Jewish one. In her new book, The Lost Archive: Traces of a Caliphate in a Cairo Synagogue (Princeton University Press, 2020), Rustow examines the previously neglected lines of Arabic found on some of the Geniza’s Hebrew-language documents: Fatimid-era petitions and decrees that defy the adage that the dynasties of the Islamic Middle East produced few documents and preserved even fewer.
    No Fatimid state archive exists in the Middle East today. But the Cairo Geniza’s fragments—which passed through the hands of tax collector and chancery secretary, paper pusher and vizier alike—force us to reconsider the longstanding but mistaken consensus that the pre-Ottoman Middle East was defined by weak or informal institutions. Rustow argues that the problem of archives in the medieval Middle East lies not with the region’s administrative culture, but with our failure to fully understand it.
    Listen in to learn more—and stick around to the end to hear Marina’s favorite fact about daily life in medieval Cairo!
    Notably mentioned in this episode:

    Adina Hoffman and Peter Cole, Sacred Trash: The Lost and Found World of the Cairo Geniza (Schocken Books, 2011)

    Marina Rustow, Heresy and the Politics of Community: The Jews of the Fatimid Caliphate (Cornell University Press, 2008)

    Nathan Hofer, The Popularisation of Sufism in Ayyubid and Mamluk Egypt, 1173-1325 (Edinburgh University Press, 2015)

    Shelomo Dov Goitein, A Mediterranean Society: The Jewish Communities of the Arab World as Portrayed in the Documents of the Cairo Geniza, Volumes I-VI (republished with University of California Press, 2000)

    S. M. Stern, Fāṭimid Decrees: Original Documents from the Fāṭimid Chancery (Faber & Faber, 1964)

    Geoffrey Khan, Arabic Legal and Administrative Documents from the Cambridge Genizah Collections (Cambridge University Press, 1993)


    Marina Rustow is the Khedouri A. Zilkha Professor of Jewish Civilization in the Near East at Princeton University, and the director of the Princeton Geniza Lab.
    Nancy Ko is a PhD student in History at Columbia University, where she works at the intersection of Jewish and Middle East Studies.
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    • 1 hr 17 min
    Adina Hoffman, "Till We Have Built Jerusalem: Architects of a New City" (FSG, 2017)

    Adina Hoffman, "Till We Have Built Jerusalem: Architects of a New City" (FSG, 2017)

    A remarkable view of one of the world's most beloved and troubled cities, Adina Hoffman's Till We Have Built Jerusalem: Architects of a New City (FSG, 2017) is a gripping and intimate journey into the very different lives of three architects who helped shape modern Jerusalem.
    The book unfolds as an excavation. It opens with the 1934 arrival in Jerusalem of the celebrated Berlin architect Erich Mendelsohn, a refugee from Hitler's Germany who must reckon with a complex new Middle Eastern reality. Next we meet Austen St. Barbe Harrison, Palestine's chief government architect from 1922 to 1937. Steeped in the traditions of Byzantine and Islamic building, this "most private of public servants" finds himself working under the often stifling and violent conditions of British rule. And in the riveting final section, Hoffman herself sets out through the battered streets of today's Jerusalem searching for traces of a possibly Greek, possibly Arab architect named Spyro Houris. Once a fixture on the local scene, Houris is now utterly forgotten, though his grand Armenian-tile-clad buildings still stand, a ghostly testimony to the cultural fluidity that has historically characterized Jerusalem at its best.
    A beautifully written rumination on memory and forgetting, place and displacement, Till We Have Built Jerusalem uncovers the ramifying layers of one great city's buried history as it asks what it means, everywhere, to be foreign and to belong.
    Renee Garfinkel, Ph.D. is a psychologist, writer, Middle East television commentator and host of The New Books Network’s Van Leer Jerusalem Series on Ideas. Write her at r.garfinkel@yahoo.com.
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    • 54 min
    Sean Anthony, "Muhammad and the Empires of Faith: The Making of the Prophet of Islam" (U California Press, 2020)

    Sean Anthony, "Muhammad and the Empires of Faith: The Making of the Prophet of Islam" (U California Press, 2020)

    Contemporary historians have searched for the historical Muhammad along many paths. In Muhammad and the Empires of Faith: The Making of the Prophet of Islam (University of California Press, 2020), Sean Anthony, Professor of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures at Ohio State University, recommends employing non-Muslim and Muslim sources in tandem in order to view a fuller landscape of Late Antiquity. Anthony revisits the earliest Arabic materials, including the Qur’an, epigraphic and archeological evidence, as well as contemporaneous non-Muslim sources, and accounts preserved in the sira-maghazi literature. These make up the four cardinal sources for his historical and philological method. Anthony’s book both introduces a comprehensive portrait of the sources available for understanding Muhammad in his time period, as well as demonstrates how we can arrive at new insights through a “lateral” reading across the Late Antique period. In our conversation we discuss the earliest evidence mentioning Muhammad, non-Muslim testimonies, narratives of Muhammad under the Umayyads, reinvestigating Muhammad as a merchant, the role of the scholarly tradition in recording biographical accounts, the sira of Ibn Ishaq, how Abbasid imperial discourses shaped biographical narratives, literary conventions and cultural aesthetics of the late antique hagiographical writings, comparative readings across Late Antiquity, and future directions for historians.
    Kristian Petersen is an Assistant Professor of Philosophy & Religious Studies at Old Dominion University. You can find out more about his work on his website, follow him on Twitter @BabaKristian, or email him at kpeterse@odu.edu.
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    • 1 hr 8 min
    Kelly A. Hammond, "China's Muslims and Japan's Empire: Centering Islam in World War II" (UNC Press, 2020)

    Kelly A. Hammond, "China's Muslims and Japan's Empire: Centering Islam in World War II" (UNC Press, 2020)

    The 1930s-40s expansion of the Japanese empire was marked by significant interest among Japan-based scholars and policy-makers in China’s Muslim population and how best to write them into a new pan-Asian story. At the very same time, as Kelly Hammond shows in China's Muslims and Japan's Empire: Centering Islam in World War II (UNC Press, 2020), members of this longstanding community of Sino-Muslims were themselves engaged in numerous complex debates over culture and identity, and their place in an emerging post-dynastic China and a wider Islamic world. Choosing to reciprocate Japanese interest was thus just one possible path.
    Expertly navigating the multi-layered, transnational concerns which are brought into focus by the twentieth-century encounter between Japanese Empire, Chinese Nationalism and Sino-Muslims, Hammond reframes our understanding of wartime East Asia. From global developments stretching as far afield as Central Asia, Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany to the more intimate everyday experiences of Sino-Muslims caught between imperial spaces, the author offers a rich and little-told account of a particularly febrile period of recent history, as well as charting developments which continue to resonate in international relations and domestic minority policies to this day.
    Ed Pulford is a Lecturer in Chinese Studies at the University of Manchester. His research focuses on friendships and histories between the Chinese, Korean and Russian worlds, and northeast Asian indigenous groups.
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    • 59 min

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