Column » ‘By the Book’ with Joseph Preville

51ieCQxz8HL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_by JOSEPH RICHARD PREVILLE and JULIE POUCHER HARBIN  for ISLAMiCommentary on JANUARY 7, 2016: 

Ibn Khaldun (1332-1406) was a colossus among Muslim scholars.  Stephen Frederic Dale gives us a portrait of this extraordinary man in his new intellectual biography, The Orange Trees of Marrakesh: Ibn Khaldun and the Science of Man (Harvard University Press, 2015).  “Ibn Khaldun,” he writes, “created the world’s first known example of historical sociology, a philosophically inspired discipline commonly thought to have originated in Western Europe.”

Dale’s book stands out in the large library of books and studies about Ibn Khaldun for its sharp focus on the philosophical foundations of his work.  Philosophy is at the heart of Ibn Khaldun’s method, according to Dale.  He states that Ibn Khaldun “forcefully and repeatedly indicates he has adopted Greco-Islamic philosophical ideas and methodology to revolutionize historical research, which he then employs to produce a comprehensive study of North African Muslims in his era.” Continue reading

by SHERALI TAREEN for NEW BOOKS IN ISLAMIC STUDIES on DECEMBER 30, 2015: 

Afsaneh Najmabadi
Afsaneh Najmabadi

41ZmP2xEtnL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_In her fascinating new book Professing Selves: Transsexuality and Same-Sex Desire in Contemporary Iran (Duke University Press, 2015), Afsaneh Najmabadi, Professor of History and of Studies of Women, Gender, and Sexuality at Harvard University, explores shifting meanings of transsexuality in contemporary Iran. By brilliantly combining historical and ethnographic inquiry, Najmabadi highlights the complex ways in which biomedical, psychiatric, and Islamic jurisprudential discourses and institutions conjoin to generate particular notions of acceptable and unacceptable sexuality. Moreover, she also shows some of the paradoxical ways in which state regulation enables certain possibilities and spaces for nonheteronormative sexuality in Iran. Continue reading

by SHERALI TAREEN for NEW BOOKS IN ISLAMIC STUDIES on DECEMBER 7, 2015:

Saba Mahmood
Saba Mahmood

51nf7rEROzL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_It is commonly thought that violence, injustice, and discrimination against religious minorities, especially in the Middle East, are a product of religious fundamentalism and myopia. Concomitantly, it is often argued, that more of secularism and less of religion represents the solution to this problem.

In her stunning new book Religious Difference in a Secular Age: A Minority Report (Princeton University Press, 2015), Saba Mahmood, Professor of Anthropology at the University of California at Berkeley, brings such a celebratory view of secularism into fatal doubt. Through a careful and brilliant analysis, Mahmood convincingly shows that far from a solution to the problem of interreligious strife, political secularism and modern secular governance are in fact intimately entwined to the exacerbation of religious tensions in the Middle East. Focusing on Egypt and the experience of Egyptian Copts and Bahais, Mahmood explores multiple conceptual and discursive registers to highlight the paradoxical qualities of political secularism, arguing that majority/minority conflict in Egypt is less a reflection of the failure of secularism and more a product of secular discourses and politics, both within and outside the country. Continue reading

by JASON SCHUMAN for NEW BOOKS IN ISLAMIC STUDIES on DECEMBER 11, 2015:  

maud-s-mandel51k+7IPXoFL._SX321_BO1,204,203,200_In Muslims and Jews in France: History of a Conflict (Princeton University Press, 2014), Maud S. Mandel, Dean of the College at Brown University, challenges the view that rising anti-Semitism in France is rooted solely in the Israel-Palestine conflict. Instead, Mandel argues that the Muslim-Jewish conflict in France has been shaped by local, national, and international forces, including the decolonization of French North Africa. Looking at key moments, from Israel’s War of Independence in 1948, to the 1968 student riots, to France’s experiments with multiculturalism in the 1980s, Mandel poses a challenge to the reductionist narrative of Muslim-Jewish polarization.

LISTEN TO INTERVIEW WITH MANDEL 

Continue reading

by CARLA NAPPI for NEW BOOKS IN ISLAMIC STUDIES on NOVEMBER 29, 2015:

41gAoQHIZML._SX310_BO1,204,203,200_Jorg Matthias Determann‘s new book looks at the history of modern biology in the Arab Gulf monarchies, focusing on the treatment of evolution and related concepts in the publications of biologists who worked in the Gulf states. Researching Biology and Evolution in the Gulf States: Networks of Science in the Middle East (I. B. Tauris, 2015) begins by describing a fatwa against Pokemon and opens out into an introduction of the sensitive nature of discussions related to evolution and creation in the Gulf. The ensuing chapters approach and answer a major question: given this sensitivity, what enabled scientists to nevertheless employ evolution in the political, religious, social, and natural environments of the Gulf? At least part of the answer lies in the importance of networks between scientists, plants, princes, local tribes, European businesses, animals, and other historical actors. The history of those networks – and the botanical, zoological, ornithological, and paleontological research they enabled – is a transnational and transregional one, and looks carefully at concerns with conservation, climate change, and economies at multiple levels. Determann’s book avoids telling this story in terms of the common tropes of decline and stagnation, and seeks instead to “go beyond the wholesale and often negative views of scientific production in the contemporary Arab world.” Enjoy!

LISTEN TO INTERVIEW WITH DETERMANN

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.