by SHERALI TAREEN for NEW BOOKS IN ISLAMIC STUDIES on MAY 16, 2016: 

Dana Sajdi
Dana Sajdi

41mqa7HhOdL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_In her stunning new book The Barber of Damascus: Nouveau Literacy in the Eighteenth-Century Ottoman Levant (Stanford University Press, 2012), Dana Sajdi, Associate Professor of History at Boston College, presents a riveting narrative of the intersection of literature, religion, and history in early modern Muslim societies. She does so by focusing on the chronicle of a common Barber in 18th-century Damascus Shihab al-Din Ahmad Ibn Budayr. Through a close reading of the intellectual and political conditions that gave rise to such forms of nouveau literature and by carefully interrogating the themes, tensions, and reception of this text, Sajdi’s analysis provides a fascinating window into the complexity and diversity of knowledge traditions in the early modern context. Most importantly, this book serves the immensely important task of bringing into central view non-Ulama archives and imaginaries of history and history writing. In our conversation we discussed the key themes of this book such as the concept of nouveau literacy, the literary and political disorders in 18th century Damascus, Ibn Budayr’s biography and intellectual milieu, the emergence of non-‘ulama’ chronicle writers, and the later reception and reworking of Ibn Budayr’s chronicle. This nicely paced book should work very well in undergraduate and graduate courses on Muslim intellectual history, historiography, early modern Islam, and in surveys of Middle Eastern history. Continue reading

by SHERALI TAREEN for NEW BOOKS IN ISLAMIC STUDIES on APRIL 27, 2016:

Adeeb Khalid
Adeeb Khalid

61w6trAWvlL._SX327_BO1,204,203,200_In what promises to become a classic, Adeeb Khalid’s (Professor of History, Carleton College), Making Uzbekistan: Nation, Empire, and Revolution in the Early USSR (Cornell University Press, 2015) examines the interaction of nationalism and religious reform in 20th-century Muslim Central Asia. How does the desire and anticipation of revolution generate new ways of imagining Islam, politics, and the nation? While addressing this question in the context of Muslim modernist voices and movements in Tsarist and eventually Soviet Russia, Khalid presents an intimidatingly dense yet deliciously rich narrative of how the Bolshevik revolution transformed Islam and Muslims in Central Asia. With a focus on the religious and intellectual careers of scholars attached to the modernist Jadid movement, Khalid explores ways in which they imagined the idea of a modern religious and political order through appeals to what they understood as authentically national sources and roots. Brimming with nuance and insight, this book is both painstakingly researched and lucidly written. It will also make an excellent reading for both upper level undergraduate and graduate seminars on historiography and its methods, Islam and modernity, Islam in Central Asia, and on Religion and Colonialism.

LISTEN TO INTERVIEW WITH KHALID

SherAli Tareen is Assistant Professor of Religious Studies at Franklin and Marshall College. His research focuses on Muslim intellectual traditions and debates in early modern and modern South Asia. His academic publications are available at https://fandm.academia.edu/SheraliTareen/. He can be reached at (stareen@fandm.edu). Listener feedback is most welcome.

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 APRIL 8, 2016:

Seth Kimmel
Seth Kimmel

51M7Ob7M8gL._SL160_In his path clearing new book, Parables of Coercion: Conversion and Knowledge at the End of Islamic Spain (University of Chicago Press, 2015), Seth Kimmel, Assistant Professor of Latin American and Iberian Cultures at Columbia University, presents a fascinating account of how conversion from Islam to Christianity was imagined, debated, and contested in early modern Spain. Shifting focus from the experiences of converts to intellectual discussions and disputes on matters such as coercion and assimilation, Kimmel demonstrates that such discussions were intimately tied to not only questions of religious reform but also to the demarcation of varied scholarly disciplines within Christianity. It is this nexus of knowledge, religious reform, and conversion that this book brilliantly explores and uncovers.

Questioning binaries such as tolerance/intolerance and religious/secular, Kimmel highlights the complex material, intellectual, and political conditions and considerations that informed scholarly engagements with the questions and puzzles of religious conversion in early Modern Spain. In our conversation, we talked about the major themes and arguments of the book and its striking relevance to discourses on religious tolerance in the present. Parables of Coercion is at once beautifully written and unusually multilayered for a first book. It will also make an excellent choice for courses on Muslim-Christian relations, early modern religion, religious conversion, secularism, and Islamic Spain.

LISTEN TO INTERVIEW WITH KIMMEL

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.

via JOHN HOPE FRANKLIN CENTER on APRIL 12, 2016: 

Professor Abdul Sattar Jawad recently presented, “The Arabian Nights in America” during his Wednesdays at the Center lecture at the John Hope Franklin Center at Duke University.

The Thousand and One Nights [alf Layla wa Layla] is the most popular world literature in the West. These Oriental Frame Tales captured the imagination of generations of Western readers and prominent writers in presenting fairy tales, romances, fables, legends, parables, anecdotes, erotica, debates, and exotic adventures. Ali Baba, Sindbad, and Aladdin and his Magic Lamp, hooked the attention of young and adults readers all over the world. The Nights, in their rich and exotic imagination, inspired poets, writers, and artists from medieval European Literature to Postmodernism. Professor Abdul Sattar Jawad explored how the Arabian Nights inspired leading American writers like Edgar Allen Poe, Mark Twain, and Herman Melville as well as folklore artists.

Shrine of Cheikh Moussa Kamara. (photo by Mbaye Lo)
Shrine of Cheikh Moussa Kamara. (photo by Mbaye Lo)

a Scholar’s Notebook feature 

by MBAYE LO for ISLAMiCommentary on APRIL 19, 2016:

Professor Mbaye Lo (far right) with some acquaintances in Fuuta Toro
Professor Mbaye Lo (far right) with some acquaintances in Fuuta Toro (photo courtesy of Mbaye Lo)

After 15 hours of traveling by buses, taxis and horse-drawn carriages, I finally arrived at a border village on the bank of the river that divides Senegal and Mauritania. The village of Ganguel Soulé is located in Fuuta Toro, a West African region of cultural influence, learning and resilience. This is the land that produced the family of *Cheikh Usman dan Fodio, the 18th century leader of Nigeria’s Islamic revival movement and the founder the Sokoto Caliphate in Northern Nigeria. (henceforth the French spelling of Sheikh – Cheikh – will be used)

From this land also came Abdoul Kader Kane (d.1807), founder of the Almamate dynasty that sought to put an end to the Atlantic slave trade by imposing martial control of European ships passing through their territories. Cheikh el-Hadji Omar Tall, the last leader of the jihad movements against the French West Africa Federation project in 1850s also hailed from here. Fuuta Toro is also likely to be the birthplace of Omar Ibn Said, the Muslim American slave whose Arabic autobiography serves as a valuable sourcebook for antebellum black writing and history.

My visit here had both an academic and personal purpose. My mother’s side of the family is from Fuuta, and it was never clear to us growing-up why my ancestral great-great-grandfather left this region of Fuuta Toro in the early nineteenth century to move to the most western region known as Kajoor. Most aspects of family oral history talk about the devastation caused by Kane’s resistance against the trans-Atlantic Slave Trade. However, these issues are considered long-gone memories that people are neither interested nor comfortable remembering. Only a few Senegalese academics, for example Ibrahima Seck, are spending their lives looking at the local and cross-continental intricacies of the trans-Atlantic Slave Trade.

My host, Cernoo Kamara, wasn’t interested in yesterday’s questions either. He is a marabou (a sufi religious leader) who has become accustomed to silence, and people around him are also used to him speaking only in time of extreme need.

“Welcome home,” he murmured when his personal driver picked me up at the bank of the river. (“Birds also go home when is dark-out there,” were his last few words as we parted later that night.)

“This is a house of service: reading and writing,” he told me early the next day as he walked me through the compound of his esteemed grandfather Cheikh Moussa Kamara. There were books, clusters of old papers, and manuscripts everywhere. Kids from the neighborhood were up at dawn rehearsing the sacred text at the compound’s Quranic school before breakfast and regular schooling. Continue reading