by SHERALI TAREEN for NEW BOOKS IN ISLAMIC STUDIES on AUGUST 1, 2015: 

Venkat Dhulipala
Venkat Dhulipala

In the historiography on South Asian Islam, the creation of Pakistan is often approached as the manifestation of a vague loosely formulated idea that accidentally emerged as a nation-state in 1947.

51MuVgYdVVL._SL160_In his magisterial new book Creating a New Medina: State Power, Islam, and the Quest for Pakistan in Late Colonial North India (Cambridge University Press, 2015), Venkat Dhulipala, Associate Professor of History at the University of North Carolina-Wilmington, thoroughly and convincingly debunks such a narrative. Creating a New Medina is an encyclopedic masterpiece. Through a careful reading of a range of sources, including the religious writings of important 20th-century Muslim scholars, Dhulipala shows ways in which Pakistan was crafted and imagined as “The New Medina” that was to represent the leader and protector of the global Muslim community. What emerges from this thorough examination is a nuanced and complicated picture of the interaction of nationalism, religion, and politics in modern South Asian Islam. In our conversation, we talked about a range of issues including the rise of Muslim nationalism in late colonial India, the contribution of B.R. Ambedkar to the public discussions and debates on Pakistan, ‘Ulama’ discourses and debates on Pakistan, and the partition and its afterlives. This wonderfully written and painstakingly researched book will be of tremendous interest to students and scholars of Muslim politics, nationalism and religion, and South Asian Islam.

LISTEN TO INTERVIEW WITH DHULIPALA

In September 2014 the Duke Islamic Studies Center (which manages the Transcultural Islam Project of which TIRN and ISLAMiCommentary 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.

by SHERALI TAREEN for NEW BOOKS IN ISLAMIC STUDIES on JUNE 23, 2015:

James W. Laine
James W. Laine

Most world religions textbooks follow a structure and conceptual framework that mirrors the modern discourse of world religions as distinct entities reducible to certain defining characteristics. In his provocative and brilliant new book Meta-Religion: Religion and Power in World History (University of California Press, 2015), James Laine, Professor of Religious Studies at Macalester College challenges this dominant paradigm of world religions textbooks by showcasing an approach that instead focuses on the interaction of religion and power across time and space.

51DJ88vQeOL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_At once ambitious and lucid, Meta-Religion narrates the story of the complex intersection of religion and politics in multiple moments, places, and traditions. A hallmark of this book is the way it engages the religious and political history of Islam and Muslim societies in conversation with other religious traditions. What emerges from this exercise is a rich and fascinating picture of the complicated and at times conflicting ways in which religiously diverse and plural societies have been managed through particular political arrangements and ideologies in different historical moments.

In our conversation we talked about the idea of meta-religion, different varieties of meta-religion in India, Rome, and China, the marginalization of Islam and Muslim history in Euro-American world historical periodizations, Meta-Religion in Muslim history, Akbar and his experimentation with meta-religion, and meta-religion in the modern and contemporary context. This book will be of great interest to specialists in Islamic Studies and other scholars of religion and religious history; it will also make an excellent text for courses on Islam and world history, Introduction to Religion, and on theories and methods in Religious Studies.

LISTEN TO INTERVIEW WITH LAINE

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.

“Caste Consciousness Among Muslims in North India and Pakistan” with Sara Singha from ACMCU on Vimeo.

SARA SINGHA speaks at the ALWALEED BIN TALAL CENTER FOR MUSLIM-CHRISTIAN UNDERSTANDING(at GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY) (recorded on February 25, 2015): 

The caste system is the Indian hierarchical classification of people into ranked groups called varnas. There are four varnas in the caste system, Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas, and Shudras that are organized by occupation and maintained through endogamy. While discussions of caste are primarily rooted within a Hindu framework, ‘caste consciousness’ is also noticeable among Indian Muslims. There are three distinct Muslim castes in India: the Ashraf (the noble), the Ajlaf (the lowly), and the Arzal (Dalit). While the Ashraf claim Arab or Persian ancestry, the Ajlaf and Arzal are largely low-caste and Dalit converts to Islam. Relationships between the Ashraf and Dalit Muslims are strained through endogamy and punctuated by commensal segregation. These ‘caste’ divisions create multiple theological, social, and political fissures in the Indian Muslim community as the Ashraf consider Dalit Muslims inherently inferior and ‘polluted.’

While caste is often considered an Indian phenomenon, it has also seeped across the border to Pakistan where it manifests in multiple ways. Though not as pronounced as in India, ‘caste consciousness’ in Pakistan is observable through an awareness of purity and pollution (pak and na-pak) and through endogamy within a particular biradari (brotherhood). Such occurrences of ‘caste consciousness’ in Pakistan highlight intra-Muslim divisions that are exacerbated by ethnic, linguistic, and tribal distinctions. Continue reading

by IAN COOK for NEW BOOKS IN SOUTH ASIAN STUDIES on FEBRUARY 18, 2015: 

Neilesh Bose
Neilesh Bose

[Cross-posted from New Books in South Asian Studies] In his new book Recasting the Region: Language, Culture, and Islam in Colonial Bengal (Oxford University Press, 2014), 513oer5lXQL._SL160_Neilesh Bose analyses the trajectories of Muslim Bengali politics in the first half of the twentieth century. The literary and cultural history of the region explored in the book reveal the pointedly Bengali ideas of Pakistan that arose as an empire ended and new countries were born.

Continue reading

by SHERALI TAREEN for NEW BOOKS IN ISLAMIC STUDIES on DECEMBER 24, 2014:

Kavita Datla
Kavita Datla

In her brilliant new book, The Language of Secular Islam: Urdu Nationalism and Colonial India (University of Hawaii Press, 2013), Kavita Datla, Associate Professor of History at Mount Holyoke College, explores the interaction of language, nationalism, and secularism by focusing on the religious and social imaginaries of important twentieth century Muslim scholars from the state of Hyderabad, especially those associated with the institution of Osmania University.

51RiLTl-qWL._SL160_How were Urdu and Arabic mobilized for projects of nationalism by the pioneers of Osmania University, and in what ways can a history of such intellectual and social projects complicate the religion/secular binary? This is among the central questions that anchor the conceptual stakes of this important book. By effortlessly weaving together a close reading of previously unexplored primary texts with nuanced historiographical analysis of the colonial context, Datla presents an intellectually rich and exciting examination of modern Indian Muslim understandings of and engagements with the question of nationalism. In our conversation, we talked about the problem of the religion/secular binary, Hyderabad and Osmania University, the role of language in the construction of religious and national identity, translation and nationalism, and Urdu’s relationship in colonial India with other languages. This book will be of great interest and benefit to scholars and students of modern Islam, nationalism, South Asia, and Muslim education.

LISTEN HERE: INTERVIEW WITH KAVITA DATLA

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.