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

Mary and Jesus in Persian miniature (courtesy Wikimedia Commons)
Mary and Jesus in Persian miniature (courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

compiled by JULIE POUCHER HARBIN, EDITOR, ISLAMiCommentary on DECEMBER 22, 2015: 

Zeki Saritoprak
Zeki Saritoprak

41JOC1bsy7L._SL160_Islam’s Jesus (Interview with Zeki Saritoprak by Elliott Bazzano, New Books in Islamic Studies, December 17, 2015)In Islam’s Jesus (University of Florida Press, 2015), Zeki Saritoprak explores an old topic from a fresh perspective. The status of Jesus in Islam has been of interest for centuries, and relates to both Christianity and Islam, but the level of synthesis that Professor Saritoprak’s monograph offers is remarkable.

He draws on a variety of Islamic literature, including commentaries on the Qur’an, works of theology, and collections of prophetic sayings. Moreover, he surveys not only the vast Arabic sources on his topic but also Turkish sources, and his research covers multiple schools of thought and time periods. Another hallmark of the monograph is the attention it gives to Jesus’ role in Islamic eschatology. Notably, Saritoprak demonstrates how mainstream as well as lesser known Islamic discourses on eschatology encompass numerous hermeneutical strategies; some, for example, understand the descent of Jesus as a physical phenomenon while others understand it as a non-material, spiritual phenomenon. The book highlights a number of other competing discourses as well, which are likely to challenge and even surprise the reader. The author’s clear writing style, combined with meticulous attention to scholarly rigor and textual engagement, makes the text accessible to a range of readers, which should render it useful to general audiences, as well as scholars of eschatology, Christian-Muslim relations, and Qur’anic studies. LISTEN TO INTERVIEW HERE

In September 2014 the Duke Islamic Studies Center (which manages the Transcultural Islam Project, which includes TIRN and ISLAMiCommentary), 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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05-110Jesus in the Quran: Pious, Obedient, Favored Servant of God (Francis X. Clooney, American Magazine, December 21, 2015): EXCERPT: Then God will say, “O Jesus son of Mary! Remember My Blessing upon thee, and upon thy mother, when I strengthened thee with the Holy Spirit, that you mightest speak to people in the cradle and in maturity; and when I taught thee the Book, the Wisdom, the Torah, and the Gospel;” and how thou wouldst create out of clay the shape of a bird, by My Leave; and how though wouldst breathe into it, and it would become a bird, by My Leave; and thou wouldst heal the blind and the leper, by My Leave; and thou wouldst bring forth the dead, by My Leave; and how I restrained the Children of Israel from thee, when thou didst bring the clear proofs, and those disbelieved among them said, “This is naught but manifest sorcery.” And when I inspired the apostles to believe in Me and in My messenger, they said, “We believe. Bear witness that we are submitters.” (5:110-111) KEEP READING

Francis X. Clooney, S.J., is the Parkman Professor of Divinity at Harvard Divinity School, where he has taught since 2005, after teaching for 21 years at Boston College. Since 2010 he is the Director of Harvard’s Center for the Study of World Religions. Continue reading

by JULIE POUCHER HARBIN, EDITOR, ISLAMiCommentary on DECEMBER 17, 2015: 

We at the Duke Islamic Studies Center are pleased to announce that the work of the Carnegie Corporation of New York-supported Transcultural Islam Project (ISLAMiCommentary and TIRN) has been highlighted in a new report by the Social Science Research Council — “Religion, Media and the Digital Turn.” The report surveyed 160 digital projects and documents the effects that digital modes of research and publication have on the study of religion.

“While our primary goal is to chronicle emerging forms of intellectual production shaping the study of religion, we hope that a greater awareness of this new work will generate more recognition of the high quality and innovative work that already exists,” report authors Chris Cantwell (University of Missouri) and Hussein Rashid (New York University) write, explaining that “the most innovative digital projects are often those that creatively combine a number of these models or genres.”

ISLAMiCommentary was mentioned at the top of several subsections, for this reason, and a lengthy case study of ISLAMiCommentary and TIRN has been included in the report (in Appendix 1) because, as the report authors told us, they find the project “exemplary.” Other projects highlighted with lengthy case studies (in Appendix 1) include the Center for the Study of Material and Visual Cultures of Religion (MAVCOR) at Yale, the Jesuit Libraries Provenance Project at the University of Loyola; and Mapping Ararat — a project of York University, the University of Toronto and Emerson College.

Appendix 2 lists the 160 projects surveyed.

The report can be downloaded HERE.