Sarah Bowen Savant, Associate Professor at the Institute for the Study of Muslim Civilisations at the Aga Khan University in London, addresses important questions about conversion among Persian peoples from the ninth to eleventh century CE in her work The New Muslims of Post-Conquest Iran: Tradition, Memory, and Conversion (Cambridge University Press, 2013). Memory is the centerpiece of her study. In the first half of her work, Savant’s analysis of memory, known as mnemohistory, coalesces around certain “sites of memory” which can include people, such as Salmān al-Fārisī, places, and events, with particular attention paid to conquest (futūḥ) narratives. These cases demonstrate how Persian identity was woven into the framework of pre-Islamic history and early Islam. However, remembering is not the only aspect that helped shape Persian, Muslim identity; forgetting is an equally important element according to Savant. Forgetting allowed irreconcilable features of Persian identity and history to be limited. The second half of her work highlights important strategies of forgetting, such as the replacing one past with an alternative account or the use of unfavorable elements of pre-Islamic Persia. Savant’s exploration of memory and its impact upon Persian, Muslim identify helps to answer important questions about conversion in early Islam. Readers, both scholars of Islam and historians in general, will find Savant’s work illuminating.
In September 2014 the Duke Islamic Studies Center (which manages the Transcultural Islam Project of which TIRN is a part), announced its official institutional affiliation with New Books in Islamic Studies — a bi-weekly audio podcast featuring hour long conversations with authors of exciting new research. For an archive see HERE.
Mahmoud A. El-Gamal, an economist who hadn’t lived in Egypt for almost 30 years, says his interest in becoming provost of the American University in Cairo surprised even himself. But “if I’m going to contribute to any improvement in Egypt, it will be within that little crucible of AUC,” he says. “It’s an opportunity to give back to my alma mater and my homeland.”
Mr. El-Gamal, who is 51, left his native country for the United States in 1985 to study at Stanford University and then Northwestern. Since 1998 he has been a professor of economics and statistics at Rice University, and he chaired its department of economics from 2008 to 2011. He has also worked at the California Institute of Technology, the International Monetary Fund, and the U.S. Treasury Department. He is an expert in Islamic finance, the growing field of banking and financial instruments that accommodate Islamic law’s ban on charging interest.
CALL FOR PAPERS | SYMPOSIA IRANICA
SECOND BIENNIAL IRANIAN STUDIES CONFERENCE
Hosted by the University of Cambridge, 8-9 April 2015
***Deadline: 15 November 2014***
Applications are warmly invited for papers that relate to any aspect of Iranian studies in any discipline within the humanities and social sciences. This includes but is by no means limited to: ancient through to contemporary history and historiography; anthropology; archaeology; cultural heritage and conservation; social and political theory; Diaspora and area studies; ecology and the environment; economics; historical geography; history of medicine; art and architecture history; education; international relations and political science; epigraphy, languages, literature, linguistics and philology; new media and communication studies; philosophy; religions and theology; classical studies; sociology; film studies and the performing arts. Comparative themes and interdisciplinary approaches are also very welcome. Continue reading →
What can the past tell us about the present? This question, once the bedrock of historical enquiry, faded from the academic imagination after the post-structural turn. As utilitarian and deterministic understandings of the past came under attack for ossifying ‘traditions’, a new periodization took shape–now familiar to anthropologists and historians alike–of a post-colonial present separated from its ‘authentic’ past by the unbridgeable gulf of European imperialism and colonial modernity. The workshop aims to probe the limits of this approach by bringing together anthropologists and historians interested in exploring the manifold relationships various pasts have with the present day world.
The workshop will focus on Muslim societies as the primary context to conceptualize the interplay between historical inquiry and analysis of emergent social forms*. Our interest in Muslims societies is driven by the recent academic work on Muslim empires and networks (see Bibliography section). The emergent scholarship on networks and empires, venture beyond both postcolonial and textual approaches to Islam to highlight the complicated relationship of Muslim societies with the cultural geography of Eurasia, Africa, and the Indian Ocean. However, despite employing anthropological categories of analysis, this scholarship has yet to engage with ethnographic work on present day Muslim societies. To initiate a conversation between these ships passing in the night, we hope to press historians of Muslim empires and networks to speak about the past’s resonances with the discourses, practices, and structures explored in ethnographies. Conversely, we encourage anthropologists working on emerging social networks and political struggles in the broader Muslim world to focus, not only on the conditions of postmodernity, neoliberalism, and globalization, but also on regionally specific histories and memories, no matter how layered, distorted, or uneven. Continue reading →
ISLAMiCommentary/TIRN editor’s note: There seems to be no end to controversies and misunderstandings surrounding veiling. Here is a Q & A with Islamic studies professor Sahar Amer on her new book “What is Veiling” followed by an op-ed she wrote for the online journal “The Conversation” on debates on veiling in Australia. Amer also did an interview with NPR’s “Here and Now” which you can listen to below as well.
Q&A with SAHAR AMER (by CAROLINE RUDOLPH) via UNC PRESS, FALL 2014:
Caroline Rudolph: What is Veiling? is the first in a series of books from UNC Press that will explain key aspects of Islam. Why might the topic of veiling be an appropriate starting point for such a series?
Sahar Amer: Veiling is one of the most visible signs of Islam as a religion and likely its most controversial and least understood tradition among non-Muslims, and perhaps surprisingly, among Muslims as well. Many non-Muslim and Muslim readers are often unfamiliar with the religious interpretations and debates over the Islamic prescription to wear the veil, the historical and political background to current anxieties surrounding the veil, or the range of meanings the veil continues to have for Muslim women around the world. In many ways, understanding the complex and often contradictory meanings of veiling is also understanding how Islam has come to mean so many different things to different peoples.