An Interview with Duke’s new Turkish lecturing fellow, Didem Havlioglu

by JULIE POUCHER HARBIN, EDITOR, ISLAMiCommentary on OCTOBER 30, 2015: 

Didem Havlioglu
Didem Havlioglu

Didem Havlioglu, a new Turkish Lecturing Fellow in the Department of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies at Duke University, did her MA and PhD at the University of Washington, Seattle in Near and Middle East Studies. Her research focuses on Ottoman and Modern Turkish language and literature — in particular, gender and women in literature.

She’s been teaching Modern and Ottoman Turkish language for 15 years, and comes to Duke as a Turkish lecturing fellow, after having taught at Istanbul Sehir University (a new private school in Istanbul) for the past five years. During her tenure at Sehir, she helped start the Turkish language and literature department and the Turkish for International students program.

QUESTION: Which courses are you teaching this semester and next semester?

HAVLIOGLU: I am teaching Elementary and Intermediate Turkish this year at Duke and UNC-Chapel Hill. My students are interested in Turkish because they want to study Middle East history and culture. They usually go to a study abroad program at Bogazici University in Istanbul or through the Duke in Istanbul program. Upon their return, they take second or third year Turkish. They are all very good students who like thinking outside of the box. For this reason, the classes are fast paced and very enjoyable for all of us.

QUESTION: Do you think interest from students is picking up for learning Turkish?

HAVLIOGLU: I am very happy to find that more students are interested in Turkish language and culture every day. The study abroad and Duke in Istanbul programs are the initiators of this growing interest. After living in Turkey briefly, the students come back to Duke with a good understanding of what they want to do next. For instance, they want to continue exploring, if not expand their initial immersion in Turkish language and culture.

QUESTION: Why should students learn Turkish?

HAVLIOGLU: I have always found it odd when I hear people talking about teaching language, teaching culture, and teaching literature as three distinct areas. For me, language is culture, and literary and other texts are tools that offer insights into the target community’s minds and souls. Carefully chosen texts draw the learners in and awaken them to perspectives that they never knew they had, not only of the other, but also of themselves and their own culture. Likewise, language learning consists not only of learning linguistic structures but also of understanding how meaning, mentality, and worldview vary in different communities that use similar words.

Therefore, I believe, learning Turkish, just like any other language and culture can be instrumental in students’ ability to become world citizens where there are more differences than similarities. We live in a time now where the question is, “How will the world be different because I lived in it?” and I believe my students are the people who will change the way we think about borders that make people apart. Continue reading

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

Debra Majeed
Debra Majeed

41oiBmodSwL._SL160_In her wonderful new book Polygyny: What it Means When African American Muslim Women Share Their Husbands (University Press of Florida, 2015), Debra Majeed, Professor of Religious Studies at Beloit College, provides an analytically robust and moving account of the aspirations, paradoxes, and problems attached to polygyny in the African American Muslim community.

By combining ethnography, history, and performance studies, Majeed seamlessly weaves together the theological, legal, and sociological dynamics of living polygyny. Readers of this book are treated to a riveting and incredibly lucid portrayal of a complicated phenomenon that brings together intimate individual stories and the broader historical and societal conditions that generate those stories in a remarkably effective fashion. In our conversation, we talked about the idea of Muslim Womanism, the methodology of dialogical performance, the Qur’an and polygyny, the paradoxes of polygyny, Imam W.D Mohammed’s teachings on polygyny, and the emotional and psychological impact of polygyny on children and women. This is among those rare books that are at once methodologically exciting and complex and yet astonishingly accessible and well written. Polygyny should also make an excellent reading in courses on gender and Islam, Islamic law, American Islam, and American Religion more broadly.

LISTEN TO INTERVIEW WITH MAJEED

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.

by SHERALI TAREEN for NEW BOOKS IN ISLAMIC STUDIES on SEPTEMBER 9, 2015:

Aysha Hidayatullah
Aysha Hidayatullah

41iF6F65GsL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_What are some of the key features and characteristics of the Muslim feminist Qur’an exegetical tradition and what are some of the tensions and ambiguities found in that tradition? Those are the central questions addressed by Aysha Hidayatullah, Associate Professor of Religious Studies and Theology at the University of San Francisco, in her path clearing new book, Feminist Edges of the Qur’an (Oxford University Press, 2014). In this shining book, Hidayatullah presents a detailed and nuanced explanation of the varied paradigms of Muslim feminist Qur’an exegeses, primarily though not exclusively focusing on the work of scholars in the US. She also considers and highlights some of the limitations of such feminist exegetical projects, concluding that perhaps patriarchal readings of the Qur’an cannot be entirely or conclusively dismissed as impossible. In this book, Hidayatullah seamlessly and brilliantly combines intellectual history, discursive analysis, and critical theological reflections. Written with exemplary clarity, Feminist Edges of the Qur’an introduces non-specialists to the fascinating yet complicated terrain of feminist and indeed modernist Qur’an exegesis while offering specialists more familiar with this terrain groundbreaking conceptual interventions and new avenues of thought and research. This incredibly lucid book should also work splendidly in undergraduate and graduate courses on the Qur’an, gender, feminist thought, Muslim modernism, and Islam in America.

LISTEN TO INTERVIEW WITH HIDAYATULLAH

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 KRISTIAN PETERSEN for NEW BOOKS IN ISLAMIC STUDIES on AUGUST 25, 2015:

Kecia Ali
Kecia Ali

Muhammad is remembered in a multitude of ways, by both Muslims and non-Muslims. And through each retelling we learn a great deal not only about Muhammad but about the social milieu of the authors. In The Lives of Muhammad (Harvard University Press, 2014), Kecia Ali, Associate Professor of Religion at Boston University, explores how several central components of the Muhammad biographical narrative are reframed by various authors within modern accounts.

Lives of MuhammadWe find that biographers’ notions of historicity changed over time, emphasis on the miraculous and supernatural events in Muhammad’s life are interpreted differently, and Muhammad’s network of relationships, including successors, companions, and family members gain wider interest during this period. We also find that from the nineteenth century onwards, Muhammad is often framed within the history of ‘great men,’ alongside figures like Jesus, Buddha, or Plato. Descriptions of Muhammad’s life cross a range of genres, such as hagiographical, polemical, political, or seeking to facilitate inter-religious dialogue. In our conversation we just begin to scratch the service of this rich book, including Ibn Ishaq, sexual ethics, revisionism, Muhammad’s first wife, Khadija, and young wife, Aisha, Orientalist William Muir, polygamy, attempts to counter perceived Western misinterpretations, marital ideals, and contemporary anti-Muslim animus.

LISTEN to interview with ALI

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 JULIE POUCHER HARBIN, EDITOR, ISLAMiCommentary and TIRN on JULY 20, 2015:

51HAWqC1GHL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_“One of the most visible public faces of the 2011 revolution in Egypt was Asmaʾ Mahfouz, a young woman who posted a video blog on Facebook calling for the January 25 protest in Tahrir Square “so that maybe we the country can become free, can become a country with justice, a country with dignity, a country in which a human can be truly human, not living like an animal.” 

She describes a stark imbalance of power: a lone girl standing against the security apparatus of the state. When she initially went out to demonstrate, only three other people came to join her. They were met with vans full of security forces, “tens of thugs” (balṭagiyyīn) that menaced the small band of protesters. Talking about her fear (ruʿb), she epitomizes the voice of righteous indignation against the Goliath of an abusive military regime.

“I am a girl,” she says, “and I went down.” The skinny, small, pale girl bundled up in her winter scarf and sweater speaks clearly and forcefully, despite a slight speech impediment, rallying a political community to action against tyrannical rule.

Mahfouz’s vlog is not necessarily famous for actually sparking the revolution, as some have claimed in the revolution’s aftermath. Rather, she visually embodies and vocally advocates what the Islamic activist Heba Raouf Ezzat calls “soft force,”al-­quwwa­ al-n­āʿima.” Raouf Ezzat uses the term to refer to nonviolent protest, or what she calls “women’s jihad,” wielded against “tyrannical government.” — beginning of the Introduction to “Soft Force: Women in Egypt’s Islamic Awakening” (Princeton University Press, May 2015)  by Ellen Anne McLarney

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In Soft Force: Women in Egypt’s Islamic Awakening Duke University professor Ellen McLarney argues against the misconception of Muslim women as “oppressed by Islam,” with her “in depth, nuanced, and careful” examination of the lives and activism of women who write about Islam as liberating them from sexual and political oppression, ignorance, exploitation, and dominance.

Focusing on writings spanning the last six decades in Egypt — and especially Egypt’s Islamic awakening — McLarney charts a genealogy of women’s writings on gender relationships in Islam. These popular religious texts have circulated widely in Egypt and reached audiences as far away as Saudi Arabia, Algeria, Indonesia, Malaysia, Turkey, and France through republication and translation.

These writers include scholars like Heba Raouf Ezzat and Bint al-Shati, preachers like Niʿmat Sidqi, television personalities like Kariman Hamza, actresses like Shams al-Barudi, activists like Zaynab al-Ghazali, cultural critics like Safinaz Kazim, and journalists like Iman Mustafa. Continue reading