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 HEATH BROWN for NEW BOOKS IN ISLAMIC STUDIES on DECEMBER 16, 2015:

Alice Kang
Alice Kang

513+gYfAy7L._SX321_BO1,204,203,200_Alice J. Kang has written Bargaining for Women’s Rights: Activism in an Aspiring Muslim Democracy (University of Minnesota Press, 2015). Kang is assistant professor of political science and ethnic studies at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Much attention is paid to Muslim-majority countries across the Middle East, especially the contentious role of women’s rights in those countries. Less attention has been paid to Muslim democracies in Africa. Kang’s book focuses on the politics of women’s rights in one such country: Niger. Women’s rights activists in Niger have fought to participate in democratic governance, but haven’t won every recent battle. Kang highlights several successes as well as policy areas where women’s organizations have failed to win policy victories. The book has much to say about social movements and also the evolving way Muslim majority democracies grapple with human rights.

LISTEN TO INTERVIEW WITH KANG

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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 

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