377 episodes

Interviews with Scholars of Islam about their New Books

New Books in Islamic Studies New Books Network

    • Islam
    • 4.7 • 20 Ratings

Interviews with Scholars of Islam about their New Books

    Diana Darke, "Stealing from the Saracens: How Islamic Architecture Shaped Europe" (Hurst, 2020)

    Diana Darke, "Stealing from the Saracens: How Islamic Architecture Shaped Europe" (Hurst, 2020)

    Visitors around the world have travelled to Europe to see the tall spires and stained glass windows of the continent’s Gothic cathedrals: in Cologne, Chartres, Milan, Florence, York and Paris. The trappings of Gothic architecture have become shorthand for “medieval Europe”.
    Yet in Stealing from the Saracens: How Islamic Architecture Shaped Europe (Hurst: 2020), Diana Darke investigates the Islamic origins of Gothic architecture, tracing its history through pre-Islamic Syria through the Islamic empires to the tall European cathedrals between the 12th and 17th centuries. The book sold out on its first day of sale, in part due to its review in The Guardian, which called the book "an exhilarating, meticulously researched book that sheds light on centuries of borrowing."
    In this interivew, Diana Darke and I talk about the origins of what we consider to be “Gothic architecture”, how those styles came to Europe, how this history of cultural and intellectual exchange may have gotten lost, and what we miss when we code something as fully “European”, fully “Islamic”, or fully any kind of culture.
    Diana Darke is an Arabist and cultural expert who has lived and worked in the Middle East for over thirty years. Among her better-known books are The Merchant of Syria: A History of Survival and My House in Damascus: An Inside View of the Syrian Crisis.
    You can find more reviews, excerpts, interviews, and essays at The Asian Review of Books, where you can find its review of Stealing from the Saracens. Follow on Facebook or on Twitter at @BookReviewsAsia.
    Nicholas Gordon is a reviewer for the Asian Review of Books. In his day job, he’s a researcher and writer for a think tank in economic and sustainable development. He is also a print and broadcast commentator on local and regional politics. He can be found on Twitter at @nickrigordon.
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    • 37 min
    Anne K. Bang, "Islamic Sufi Networks in the Western Indian Ocean (c.1880-1940): Ripples of Reform" (Brill, 2014)

    Anne K. Bang, "Islamic Sufi Networks in the Western Indian Ocean (c.1880-1940): Ripples of Reform" (Brill, 2014)

    In the period c. 1880-1940, organized Sufism spread rapidly in the western Indian Ocean. New communities turned to Islam, and Muslim communities turned to new texts, practices, and religious leaders. On the East African coast, the orders were both a vehicle for conversion to Islam and for reform of Islamic practice. The impact of Sufism on local communities is here traced geographically as a ripple reaching beyond the Swahili cultural zone southwards to Mozambique, Madagascar, and Cape Town. Through an investigation of the texts, ritual practices, and scholarly networks that went alongside Sufi expansion, Anne K. Bang's Islamic Sufi Networks in the Western Indian Ocean (c.1880-1940): Ripples of Reform (Brill, 2014) places religious change in the western Indian Ocean within the wider framework of Islamic reform.
    Ahmed Yaqoub AlMaazmi is a Ph.D. candidate at Princeton University. His research focuses on the intersection of law and the environment across the Western Indian Ocean. He can be reached by email at almaazmi@princeton.edu or on Twitter @Ahmed_Yaqoub. Listeners’ feedback, questions, and book suggestions are most welcome.
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    • 1 hr 37 min
    Tabassum Fahim Ruby, "Muslim Women's Rights: Contesting Liberal-Secular Sensibilities in Canada" (Routledge, 2019)

    Tabassum Fahim Ruby, "Muslim Women's Rights: Contesting Liberal-Secular Sensibilities in Canada" (Routledge, 2019)

    Muslim Women’s Rights: Contesting Liberal-Secular Sensibilities in Canada (Routledge 2019) By Tabassum Fahim Ruby follows the legal debates and public discussions that surrounded the proposed shari‘ah tribunals in Canada from 2003 to 2006. In her close readings and discourse analysis of the public and media scrutiny that followed this discussion, Ruby found that these debates existed at the nexus of complex assumptions about human rights discourses, liberal-secular sensibilities, and law, which all hinged on narratives of western modernity and progress and were set against notions of Muslim women’s rights and agency, or lack thereof. By tracing discourses surrounding Islamic family law and practices of faith-based arbitration in Canada, the study problematizes conceptions of multiculturalism, secularism, and human rights discourses, while further contributing to discussion of contemporary Islam and gender by drawing on postcolonial, antiracist, and transnational feminist studies by focusing on Muslim women’s rights. This book will be of interest to scholars who think and write about women and gender in Islam, especially in Canada, the United States and western Europe, along with those who are interested in human rights and Islamic law. It will also be a great text to include in courses on Islam and gender, and contemporary Islam. 
    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 (Bloomsury 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
    David Rundell, "Vision or Mirage: Saudi Arabia at the Crossroads" (I. B. Tauris, 2020)

    David Rundell, "Vision or Mirage: Saudi Arabia at the Crossroads" (I. B. Tauris, 2020)

    David Rundell brings to his book, Vision or Mirage: Saudi Arabia at the Crossroads (I. B. Tauris, 2020), a granular analysis and insider’s understanding of the inner workings of the kingdom garnered as a US foreign service officer who served a total of 15 years in the country.
    Rundell skilfully weaves history into a multi-layered portrait of the transformation for good and bad that Saudi Arabia is experiencing under King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
    The former diplomat illustrates Salman’s long-standing focus on combatting corruption with the picture he paints of his governing of the Saudi capital Riyadh for nearly five decades before ascending to the throne.
    Anti-corruption has played a dramatic role since Salman became king in solidifying and concentrating power in the kingdom and breaking with a past of slow and gradual change, introducing instead rapid reforms with little consultation.
    To do so, Salman picked his son, Mohammed, as crown prince because he saw in him a bulldozer with the needed ambition, drive, and ruthlessness to undermine traditional pillars of support of the Saudi system like elite cohesion and the maintenance of rival armed forces.
    Elite cohesion was disrupted by disenfranchising or subjugating key elements of the Saudi power structure, including included significant segments of the bloated ruling Al Saud family and the religious establishment, who would have likely slowed down or opposed reforms that would enable economic diversification and a reduction of the kingdom’s dependence on oil exports.
    In doing so, Rundell argues that Salman may have made Saudi Arabia less stable particular in a country in which absolute political and military power has been concentrated in the hands of one man and a population that is in majority young and aspires for greater transparency and accountability.
    Identifying a defeat in the war in Yemen or a failure to make good on promises of job creation as potential catalysts of resistance to the rule of the Salmans, Rundell warns that any organized opposition would be cloaked in the mantle of religious ultra-conservatism rather than concepts of secularism or democracy.
    In the ultimate analysis, Rundell has produced one of the most historically grounded and informed evaluations of the significant change Saudi Arabia is experiencing and the prospects and pitfalls of far-reaching of social and economic reforms while severely curtailing political rights.
    The curtailing, mass arrests of religious and more secular activists, and the killing in 2018 of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul have already cost the kingdom dearly in terms of its reputation, complicating its diplomatic relations with the West at a time of a global economic downturn.
    Rundell’s book constitutes a major contribution to a mushrooming literature on Saudi Arabia, a country that has long been and in many ways still is cloaked in secrecy.
    Dr. James M. Dorsey is an award-winning journalist, senior fellow at Nanyang Technological University’s S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore and the National University of Singapore’s Middle East Institute, and the author of the syndicated column and blog, The Turbulent World of Middle East Soccer
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    • 1 hr 14 min
    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

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4.7 out of 5
20 Ratings

20 Ratings

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