300 episodes

Interviews with Scholars of the Middle East about their New Books

New Books in Middle Eastern Studies New Books Network

    • Society & Culture

Interviews with Scholars of the Middle East about their New Books

    Todd Shepard, "Sex, France, and Arab Men, 1962-1979" (U Chicago Press, 2017)

    Todd Shepard, "Sex, France, and Arab Men, 1962-1979" (U Chicago Press, 2017)

    Departing from the bold and compelling claim that we cannot fully understand the histories of decolonization and the so-called “sexual revolution” apart from one another, Todd Shepard’s Sex, France, and Arab Men, 1962-1979 (University of Chicago Press, 2017) is a complex analysis of the lasting impact of the Algerian Revolution through the cultural politics of sex, gender, and power in France. Shepard tracks the figure of the “Arab” man from Algerian independence to the Iranian Revolution. Just as the “Arab” man’s pathologized sexuality played a key role in discussions of French defeat in Algeria as a “failure” of French masculinity on the political “Right,” so too did he become a “heroic” figure for the post-decolonization “Left.” From gay liberation to feminism, debates about sexual norms, prostitution, and rape, the “Arab” man appeared again and again in forms that replayed and riffed off of the sexual orientalism of the colonial period.
    Drawing attention to the ways the “erotics of Algerian difference” shaped the terrain of what could and couldn’t be thought in terms of sex post-1962, the book highlights the ideas and work of a number of authors from North Africa and elsewhere, voices that have been written out of histories that understand the sexual revolution as a strictly trans-Atlantic phenomenon. The “vanilla” narratives that have resulted have left out sites such as North Africa, failing to see the role of anti-colonialism in the history of the sexual revolution. At the same time, conventional histories have also regularly refused to deal with sex itself, eliding the significance of discussions of sex acts (like sodomy) as sites of politics and power. As Shepard shows, the Arab man and the legacies of the Algerian Revolution were all over the field of “sex talk” in France through the 1960s and 70s. During this period, then, the war did not vanish from view as other histories have suggested. And the end of this era that was linked to the Iranian Revolution brought a shoring up of Western notions of sexual liberation in response to the oppression and violence (of women and homosexuals in particular) deemed inherent to Arab/Muslim societies. A book that brings together an impressive research corpus with killer historical and political analysis, Sex, France, and Arab Men will captivate readers interested in the (global) history of sex, as well as anyone seeking to better understand the cultural and political landscape of post-decolonization France.
    Roxanne Panchasi is an Associate Professor of History at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, Canada who specializes in twentieth and twenty-first century France and its empire. She is the author of Future Tense: The Culture of Anticipation in France Between the Wars (2009). Her current research focuses on the history of French nuclear weapons and testing since 1945. Her most recent article, '"No Hiroshima in Africa": The Algerian War and the Question of French Nuclear Tests in the Sahara' appeared in the Spring 2019 issue of History of the Present. She lives and reads in Vancouver, Canada. If you have a recent title to suggest for the podcast, please send her an email (panchasi@sfu.ca).
     
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    • 1 hr 3 min
    Julian Bolleter, "Desert Paradises: Surveying the Landscapes of Dubai’s Urban Model" (Routledge, 2019)

    Julian Bolleter, "Desert Paradises: Surveying the Landscapes of Dubai’s Urban Model" (Routledge, 2019)

    Desert Paradises: Surveying the Landscapes of Dubai’s Urban Model (Routledge, 2019) explores how designed landscapes can play a vital role in constructing a city’s global image and legitimizing its socio-political hierarchy. Using the case study of Dubai, Julian Bolleter explores how Dubai’s rulers employ a paradisiacal image of greening the desert, in part, as a tool for political legitimization. Bolleter also evaluates the designed landscapes of Dubai against the principles of the United Nations and the International Federation of Landscape Architects and argues that what is happening in Dubai represents a significant discrepancy between theory and practice. This book offers a new perspective on landscape design that has until now been unexplored. It would be beneficial to academics and students of geography, landscape architecture, urban design and urban planning – particularly those with an interest in Dubai or the many cities in the region that are experiencing Dubaiification.
    Julian Bolleter is the Deputy Director at the Australian Urban Design Research Centre (AUDRC) at the University of Western Australia. He is a Landscape Architect and Urban Designer.
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    • 50 min
    Ayelet Hoffman Libson, "Law and Self-Knowledge in the Talmud" (Cambridge UP, 2018)

    Ayelet Hoffman Libson, "Law and Self-Knowledge in the Talmud" (Cambridge UP, 2018)

    Law and Self-Knowledge in the Talmud (Cambridge UP, 2018) examines the emergence of self-knowledge as a determining legal consideration among the rabbis of Late Antiquity, from the third to the seventh centuries CE. Based on close readings of rabbinic texts from Palestine and Babylonia, Ayelet Hoffman Libson highlights a unique and surprising development in Talmudic jurisprudence, whereby legal decision-making incorporated personal and subjective information, a process that included the rabbis’ willingness to limit their own power.
    Hoffman examines the central legal role accorded to individuals' knowledge of their bodies and mental states in areas of law as diverse as purity laws, family law and the laws of Sabbath. By focusing on subjectivity and self-reflection, the Babylonian rabbis transformed earlier legal practices in a way that cohered with the cultural concerns of other religious groups in Late Antiquity. They developed sophisticated ideas about the inner self and incorporated these notions into their distinctive discourse of law.
    Renee Garfinkel is a clinical psychologist, writer, and Middle East commentator for The Armstrong Williams Show. Write her at r.garfinkel@yahoo.com or tweet @embracingwisdom
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    • 50 min
    Jonathan A. C. Brown, "Slavery and Islam" (Oneworld Academic, 2019)

    Jonathan A. C. Brown, "Slavery and Islam" (Oneworld Academic, 2019)

    In his majestic and encyclopedic new book Slavery and Islam (Oneworld Academic, 2019), Jonathan A. C. Brown presents a sweeping analysis of Muslim intellectual, political, and social entanglements with slavery, and some of the thorniest conceptual and ethical problems involved in defining and writing about slavery. Self-reflective and bold, Slavery and Islam also offers a remarkable combination of intellectual and social history, anchored in layers of complex yet eminently accessible textual analysis. What makes talking about slavery so difficult? What are the dominant discourses on and attitudes about slavery that have dominated Muslim history? What are some of the major points of overlap and fissure between Western and Muslim understandings of slavery? And how must one confront the ethical and interpretive challenges brought by the presence of slavery in Islam? These are among the questions Brown explores and addresses in this monumental work of scholarship that is sure to spark many conversations and debates, within and outside Islamic Studies.
    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 academic publications are available here. He can be reached at sherali.tareen@fandm.edu. Listener feedback is most welcome.
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    • 1 hr 11 min
    Alex Dika Seggerman, "Modernism on the Nile: Art in Egypt between the Islamic and the Contemporary" (UNC Press, 2019)

    Alex Dika Seggerman, "Modernism on the Nile: Art in Egypt between the Islamic and the Contemporary" (UNC Press, 2019)

    With scholarship in the discipline of history witnessing a shift toward global approaches to local historical processes, new questions are being raised about how to identify commensurate theoretical methods and conceptual frameworks for analysis – with art history being no less part of this scholarly shift. How do we strike a balance between acknowledging distinctly local historical transformations with related global ones? In what ways can we conceptualize intertwined global networks that gave rise to local phenomena without erasing local agency and uniqueness? Where do we account for power in our analyses of local and global historical developments?
    Modernism on the Nile: Art in Egypt between the Islamic and the Contemporary (UNC Press, 2019) by Alex Dika Seggerman deftly takes up the challenge posed by these and other questions by punctuating its mark both in the field of global modernism and in modern Arab and Islamic art history, offering the commensurate theories and frameworks necessary to help move these conversations forward. Through research conducted in Egypt, Europe, and the United States, Seggerman analyzes Egypt’s modernist art movement from the late-nineteenth century up until the 1960s, demonstrating the interconnectedness of this movement with a constellation of artistic production outside of Egypt.
    By examining the work of a range of characters like the satirical cartoonist Ya’qub Sanua, the nationalist sculptor Mahmoud Mukhtar, the enigmatic religious teacher Muhammad ‘Abduh and more, Seggerman argues that Egyptian modernism was neither “transnational” nor “global,” but manifested itself in a constellational network operating within a finite field that was wide enough to encompass an array of modernisms. Furthermore, by tracing and identifying “the Islamic” in modern Arab art, Seggerman also challenges the conventional periodization of Islamic art that heavily centers the premodern. She argues that we ought to pay more attention to the subtle inflections of Islam – not merely as a faith and doctrine but as a lived experience and cultural heritage – in the diverse work of major Egyptian artists of the time. This book is a welcome addition to the study of Middle Eastern, Muslim, and global modernisms.
    Asad Dandia is a graduate student of Islamic Studies at Columbia University.
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    • 42 min
    Penny Sinanoglou, "Partitioning Palestine: British Policymaking at the End of Empire" (U Chicago Press, 2019)

    Penny Sinanoglou, "Partitioning Palestine: British Policymaking at the End of Empire" (U Chicago Press, 2019)

    Partitioning Palestine: British Policymaking at the End of the Empire (University of Chicago Press, 2019) is the first history of the ideological and political forces that led to the idea of partition—that is, a division of territory and sovereignty—in British mandate Palestine in the first half of the twentieth century. Inverting the spate of narratives that focus on how the idea contributed to, or hindered, the development of future Israeli and Palestinian states, Penny Sinanoglou asks instead what drove and constrained British policymaking around partition, and why partition was simultaneously so appealing to British policymakers yet ultimately proved so difficult for them to enact. Taking a broad view not only of local and regional factors, but also of Palestine’s place in the British empire and its status as a League of Nations mandate, Sinanoglou deftly recasts the story of partition in Palestine as a struggle to maintain imperial control. After all, British partition plans imagined space both for a Zionist state indebted to Britain and for continued British control over key geostrategic assets, depending in large part on the forced movement of Arab populations. With her detailed look at the development of the idea of partition from its origins in the 1920s, Sinanoglou makes a bold contribution to our understanding of the complex interplay between internationalism and imperialism at the end of the British empire and reveals the legacies of British partitionist thinking in the broader history of decolonization in the modern Middle East.
    Penny Sinanoglou is an associate professor of history at Wake Forest University, where she teaches British and European imperial and international history.
    Steven Seegel is Professor of History at the University of Northern Colorado.
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    • 56 min

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