by SHERALI TAREEN for NEW BOOKS IN ISLAMIC STUDIES on JULY 3, 2015: 

Ebrahim Moosa
Ebrahim Moosa

Recent years have witnessed a spate of journalistic and popular writings on the looming threat to civilization that lurks in traditional Islamic seminaries or madrasas that litter the physical and intellectual landscape of the Muslim world. In his riveting new book What is a Madrasa? (University of North Carolina Press, 2015), Ebrahim Moosa, Professor of History and Islamic Studies at the University of Notre Dame, challenges such sensationalist stereotypical narratives by providing a nuanced and richly textured account of the place and importance of Madrasas in Islam both historically and in the contemporary moment.

519B98pnpSL._SX326_BO1,204,203,200_Rather than approaching madrasas from a policy studies viewpoint as institutions requiring reform and modernization, this book instead examines madrasas on their own terms with a view of highlighting their internal complexities and tensions. Focused primarily on the madrasas of South Asia, what makes this book particularly remarkable is the way it brings together the intellectual histories and traditions that define madrasa education and the everyday practices in madrasa life today.

The reader of this book travels through an arcade of the seminal texts, scholars, and sites that have shaped the madrasa as an institution and its curricula over the last several centuries. But moreover, this book also provides readers intimate portraits of daily life at madrasas through the eyes of students who study there, thus bringing into view the rhythms of everyday practices that punctuate the lives of madrasa students, and the hopes, anxieties, and aspirations that irrigate their religious and social imaginaries.

In our conversation, in addition to discussing these themes, we also talked about Professor Moosa’s own journey as a teenager in the madrasas of South Asia to the corridors of the American academy. Written in an exceptionally lucid fashion, this book is essential reading for anyone interested in understanding the complexities of Muslim traditions of knowledge and education. It will also be particularly well suited for undergraduate and graduate seminars on Muslim intellectual thought, education, and Islam in South Asia.

LISTEN to interview with MOOSA

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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.

 

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EDITOR’S NOTE: In a previous piece, Mustafa Tuna, Andrew W. Mellon Assistant Professor of Russian and Central Eurasian History and Culture at Duke, discussed his new book “Imperial Russia’s Muslims: Empire, Islam, and European Modernity 1788-1914″ (Cambridge University Press, June 2015) with ISLAMiCommentary — carrying his insights about the opportunity costs of Islamophobia for imperial Russia to a broader and contemporary context. Below, Tuna shares an adaptation of a talk he gave in November 2013; based primarily on the themes of the last two chapters of his book. His presentation was part of a  workshop called “Life on the Peripheries: Muslims and Jews in Poland, Imperial Russia, and the Soviet Union.” The 2013 workshop was part of Duke University’s Center for European Studies’ initiative on “Jews & Muslims: Histories, Diasporas, and the Meaning of the European.” (Supported by a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and the Duke University Office of the Provost, the workshop was sponsored by the Center for European Studies, the Kenan Institute for Ethics, the Duke Center for Jewish Studies, and the Duke Department of Slavic and Eurasian Studies.)

The version below has been updated to include additional passages from the book, with permission from the publisher. Re-prints of this particular article are not allowed without permission of the publisher, Cambridge University Press.

 

by MUSTAFA TUNA for ISLAMiCommentary and TIRN on JUNE 26, 2015:

Mustafa Tuna
Mustafa Tuna

In his seminal work on empires, Dominic Lieven suggests that the great empires of the second half of the long nineteenth century (1789-1914) found themselves facing a dilemma. The emerging nation-states, or the empires that could function as nation-states at least at the metropole level, mobilized their material and human resources more efficiently than the conventional empires that governed their subjects through a variety of categories, such as estates, confessions, and increasingly, ethnicities.

Efficiency called for uniformity or at least it seemed so to the imperial statesmen of the late-nineteenth century. And uniformity called for merging long-established categories into some form of a homogenous whole. However, not only was the nature of that homogenous whole unclear, but also attempting such mergers carried the strong potential of agitating the empires’ subjects. Moreover, agitated subjects could in turn agitate imperial agents, therefore leading to a state of mutual hostility.

This situation has been documented quite well in the context of the late-Russian empire and especially with regard to its Muslim subjects in the Volga-Ural region. The works of Ayşe Azade-Rorlich, Robert Geraci, Paul Werth, and Elena Campbell, for instance, stand out in this regard. One can add several Russian and Tatar-language sources to the list too. Although these scholars approach the matter with many different and sometimes contradicting agendas, the overall consensus seems to be that the assimilationist policies of the tsarist state in late-imperial Russia lay at the foundation of the bitterness that characterized the tsarist central state establishment’s relations with the Volga-Ural Muslims and especially with their elites.

In this presentation I would like to look at the same phenomenon using the microeconomic concept of “opportunity cost” and suggest that yes, hasty attempts to forge a nation-state out of a multiconfessional, multilingual, and multiethnic empire cost Russia its existing and functional imperial model. This model was founded by Catherine the Great in the late-eighteenth century, it seems to have worked well at least until the 1860s or so, and the late-nineteenth-century attempts for achieving uniformity destroyed it. But, what was also lost in the process were opportunities for actually improving that model further without attempting the impossible task of homogenizing the empire. Continue reading

“The overall consensus seems to be that the assimilationist policies of the tsarist state in late imperial Russia lay at the foundation of the bitterness that characterized the tsarist central state establishment’s relations with the Volga-Ural Muslims, and especially their elites… Hasty attempts to forge a nation-state out of a multiconfessional, multilingual, and multiethnic empire cost Russia its existing and functional imperial model.” – Mustafa Tuna, speaking on the theme of his manuscript “Imperial Russia’s Muslims: Islam, Empire and European Modernity, 1788-1914” (Cambridge University Press, June 2015) at a Mellon-grant supported workshop on Muslim and Jewish diasporas, held at Duke University.

by JULIE POUCHER HARBIN, EDITOR, ISLAMiCommentary and TIRN with MUSTAFA TUNA on JUNE 16, 2015:

UnknownWith the commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the start of World War I last year and the 100th anniversary of the hashing out and signing of the Sykes-Picot agreement beginning this Fall, historians have been getting a lot of attention. They are being asked to explain, for example, how the conditions of that period — including the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, the re-drawing of borders, and the displacement of people — shaped the modern Middle East with all its current challenges and conflicts.

The treatment and “management” of minorities during that period is instructive and essential to understanding the geopolitics of a very wide region today.

In his new book “Imperial Russia’s Muslims: Empire, Islam, and European Modernity 1788-1914” (Cambridge University Press, June 2015), Andrew W. Mellon Assistant Professor of Russian and Central Eurasian History and Culture at Duke Mustafa Tuna explores how another empire, tsarist Russia, sought to “manage” its minorities — specifically the Muslim communities of the Volga-Ural region. Looking at the period from the late 18th century through to the outbreak of World War I — a slightly earlier period — he “reveals how the Russian state sought to manage Muslim communities, the ways in which the state and Muslim society were transformed by European modernity, and the extent to which the long nineteenth century either fused Russia’s Muslims and the tsarist state or drew them apart.”

His book “ raises questions about imperial governance, diversity, minorities, and Islamic reform and in doing so proposes a new theoretical model for the study of imperial situations.”

In this interview, Tuna carries his insights about the opportunity costs of Islamophobia for imperial Russia to a broader and contemporary context. Continue reading

via FREEDOM FROM THE FORBIDDEN (BLOG): 

Below is a list of books that I highly recommend to anyone interested in understanding re-interpretations of Islam, alternative readings to the traditionalist ones that are largely patriarchal in nature, or otherwise scholarship that complicate simplified ideas of Islam, women, gender, and sexuality. These books may be a response to western, orientalist images of gender issues in Islam and Muslim societies, or they may be a response to traditionalist, patriarchal Islam’s problematic assumptions and teachings of women, gender, and sexuality — or both, as is often the case.  Either way, the following are breaths of fresh air, I promise.

Needless to say, the list is not comprehensive and not intended to be such.  I invite – and will appreciate – any and all additions.

In addition to the following scholarship, another great resource is the Religion and Feminism blog where Kecia Ali, Laury Silvers, Amina Wadud, and other Muslims write frequently on Islamic feminism and related themes. Please click these links to reach the writings of the respective authors: Kecia Ali | Laury Silvers | Amina Wadud | Vanessa Rivera de la Fuente | Jameelah X. Medina | And let me do some shameless self-promotion or whatevz and link y’all to my article over at the same blog titled Why I am an Islamic Feminist.

Islamic Feminism, Feminist/Progressive/Gender-Egalitarian Interpretations of Islam

Listed in order of author’s last name. KEEP READING FOR THE LIST

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