447 episodes

Interviews with Scholars of the Middle East about their New Books
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    • Society & Culture

Interviews with Scholars of the Middle East about their New Books
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    Anjuli Fatima Raza Kolb, "Terror Epidemics: Islamophobia and the Disease Poetics of Empire" (U Chicago Press, 2021)

    Anjuli Fatima Raza Kolb, "Terror Epidemics: Islamophobia and the Disease Poetics of Empire" (U Chicago Press, 2021)

    Terrorism is a cancer, an infection, an epidemic, a plague. For more than a century, this metaphor has figured insurgent violence as contagion in order to contain its political energies. In Epidemic Empire: Colonialism, Contagion, and Terror, 1817–2020 (University of Chicago Press, 2021), Anjuli Fatima Raza Kolb, Associate Professor at the University of Toronto, shows that this trope began in responses to the Indian Mutiny of 1857 and tracks its tenacious hold through 9/11 and beyond. Raza Kolb assembles a diverse archive from colonial India, imperial Britain, French and independent Algeria, the postcolonial Islamic diaspora, and the neoimperial United States. Across literary, administrative, medical, and other non-literary sources, she reveals the tendency to imagine anticolonial rebellion, and Muslim insurgency specifically, as a virulent form of social contagion. In our conversation we discuss “imperial disease poetics,” British colonialism in South Asia, the 1857 rebellion, global cholera outbreaks, the Hajj pilgrimage, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, the struggle for Algerian independence, Albert Camus’ The Plague, the 1966 film The Battle of Algiers, Frantz Fanon, Djamila Boupacha, Salman Rushdie representation of radical Islamism, the 9/11 Commission Report, the Senate Intelligence Committee Report on Torture, and the Osama bin Laden mission.
    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 14 min
    Celene Ibrahim, "Women and Gender in the Qur'an" (Oxford UP, 2020)

    Celene Ibrahim, "Women and Gender in the Qur'an" (Oxford UP, 2020)

    In Women and Gender in the Qur’an (Oxford University Press in 2020), Celene Ibrahim explores key themes related to gender in the Qur’an, focusing on women, such as female sexuality, female kin and relations, and female figures in the sacred text. Among her findings is that there are no archetypal women in the Qur’an and instead, the Qur’an provides a wide-ranging depiction of women, who figure as negative and positive exemplars and ultimately serve the specific didactic aims of Qur’anic narratives. The Qur’an invokes their good and bad examples, Ibrahim notes, especially to construct a moral framework for its immediate audience, the early Muslim community, the emerging polity.
    In our discussion, she talks about the primary contributions of the book and its origins; she explains her choice to use a Qur’an-only approach to investigating the question of gender; and we discuss specific content from the book, such as the Qur’an’s portrayals of daughters and mothers, Prophet Yusuf’s harassment incident, women’s speech, Muhammad’s wives in the Qur’an, the concept – and the gender – of heavenly beings, such as the hoor, and a lot more.

    Shehnaz Haqqani is an Assistant Professor of Religion at Mercer University. She earned her PhD in Islamic Studies with a focus on gender from the University of Texas at Austin in 2018. Her dissertation research explored questions of change and tradition, specifically in the context of gender and sexuality, in Islam. She can be reached at haqqani_s@mercer.edu.
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    • 58 min
    Dina Danon, "The Jews of Ottoman Izmir: A Modern History" (Stanford UP, 2020)

    Dina Danon, "The Jews of Ottoman Izmir: A Modern History" (Stanford UP, 2020)

    Across Europe, Jews were often confronted with the notion that their religious and cultural distinctiveness was somehow incompatible with the modern age. Yet the view from Ottoman Izmir invites a different approach: what happens when Jewish difference is totally unremarkable?
    Drawing on previously untapped Ladino material that gives voice to both beggars on the street and mercantile elites, shoe-shiners and newspaper editors, rabbis and housewives, The Jews of Ottoman Izmir: A Modern History (Stanford University Press, 2020) argues that it was new attitudes to poverty and class, not Judaism, that most significantly framed this Sephardi community's encounter with the modern age.
    Dina Danon is an associate professor in the department of Judaic Studies at Binghamton University. Her research focuses on the eastern Sephardi diaspora during modern times. Danon is particularly interested in social history and how its tools help revise prevailing scholarship not only on the Sephardi world, but on Jewish modernity as a whole.
    Makena Mezistrano is the Assistant Director of the Sephardic Studies Program in the Stroum Center for Jewish Studies at the University of Washington. She holds an MA in Biblical and Talmudic studies from Yeshiva University.
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    • 50 min
    Augustin Jomier, "Islam, réforme et colonisation: une histoire de l'ibadisme en Algérie (1882-1962)" (Sorbonne, 2020)

    Augustin Jomier, "Islam, réforme et colonisation: une histoire de l'ibadisme en Algérie (1882-1962)" (Sorbonne, 2020)

    Islam, réforme et colonisation: une histoire de l'ibadisme en Algérie (1882-1962) by Augustin Jomier is an important study of colonial North Africa, Islamic reform, and Ibadi Islam. Jomier, a professor at France’s Institut national des langues et civilisations orientales in Paris, has reframed the history of colonial Algeria by examining it “from the south.” His focus is the Mzab, a region based around seven oasis towns in the northern Sahara 600 km away from the capital city. The Mzabis on whom Jomier concentrates are a linguistic and religious minority in Algeria, speaking a Berber language and practicing Ibadi Islam both of which distinguish them from the Arabic-speaking, Sunni majority. By grounding his study not only in colonial archives but also sources from the Mzab—where he conducted extensive fieldwork—Jomier intervenes in historiographical debates pertaining to the Mzab and far beyond. The book is not only a landmark study of reform outside of the Sunni perspective, it also elucidates the limits of reform, the opposition to reformists, and the role of orientalist discourses and an emergent public sphere.
    Julian Weideman is a Ph.D. Candidate in the Department of History at Princeton University.
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    • 1 hr 6 min
    Nathaniel Greenberg, "How Information Warfare Shaped the Arab Spring: The Politics of Narrative in Egypt and Tunisia" (Edinburgh UP, 2019)

    Nathaniel Greenberg, "How Information Warfare Shaped the Arab Spring: The Politics of Narrative in Egypt and Tunisia" (Edinburgh UP, 2019)

    On January 28 2011 WikiLeaks released documents from a cache of US State Department cables stolen the previous year. The Daily Telegraph in London published one of the memos with an article headlined 'Egypt protests: America's secret backing for rebel leaders behind uprising'. The effect of the revelation was immediate, helping set in motion an aggressive counter-narrative to the nascent story of the Arab Spring. The article featured a cluster of virulent commentators all pushing the same story: the CIA, George Soros and Hillary Clinton were attempting to take over Egypt. Many of these commentators were trolls, some of whom reappeared in 2016 to help elect Donald J. Trump as President of the United States. Nathaniel Greenberg's book How Information Warfare Shaped the Arab Spring: The Politics of Narrative in Egypt and Tunisia (Edinburgh UP, 2019) tells the story of how a proxy-communications war ignited and hijacked the Arab uprisings and how individuals on the ground, on air and online worked to shape history.
    Marci Mazzarotto is an Assistant Professor of Digital Communication at Georgian Court University in New Jersey. Her research interests center on the interdisciplinary intersection of academic theory and artistic practice with a focus on film and television studies.
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    • 1 hr 2 min
    Łukasz Stanek, "Architecture in Global Socialism: Eastern Europe, West Africa, and the Middle East in the Cold War" (Princeton UP, 2020)

    Łukasz Stanek, "Architecture in Global Socialism: Eastern Europe, West Africa, and the Middle East in the Cold War" (Princeton UP, 2020)

    In the course of the Cold War, architects, planners, and construction companies from socialist Eastern Europe engaged in a vibrant collaboration with those in West Africa and the Middle East in order to bring modernization to the developing world. Architecture in Global Socialism: Eastern Europe, West Africa, and the Middle East in the Cold War (Princeton UP, 2020) shows how their collaboration reshaped five cities in the Global South: Accra, Lagos, Baghdad, Abu Dhabi, and Kuwait City.

    Łukasz Stanek describes how local authorities and professionals in these cities drew on Soviet prefabrication systems, Hungarian and Polish planning methods, Yugoslav and Bulgarian construction materials, Romanian and East German standard designs, and manual laborers from across Eastern Europe. He explores how the socialist development path was adapted to tropical conditions in Ghana in the 1960s, and how Eastern European architectural traditions were given new life in 1970s Nigeria. He looks at how the differences between socialist foreign trade and the emerging global construction market were exploited in the Middle East in the closing decades of the Cold War. Stanek demonstrates how these and other practices of global cooperation by socialist countries—what he calls socialist worldmaking—left their enduring mark on urban landscapes in the postcolonial world.

    Featuring an extensive collection of previously unpublished images, Architecture in Global Socialism draws on original archival research on four continents and a wealth of in-depth interviews. This incisive book presents a new understanding of global urbanization and its architecture through the lens of socialist internationalism, challenging long-held notions about modernization and development in the Global South.
    If you are curious to see some of the architectural projects discussed in Stanek's award-winning book, please review some images here. 
    Sharika Crawford is an associate professor of history at the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis and the author of The Last Turtlemen of the Caribbean: Waterscapes of Labor, Conservation, and Boundary Making (University of North Carolina Press, 2020).
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    • 44 min

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