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by JOSEPH RICHARD PREVILLE for ISLAMiCommentary on MAY 12, 2014:

How much do we know about Turkey’s minority community of Alevi Muslims? What are their struggles and aspirations – past and present? And, how do they figure in Turkey’s vigorous debates about history, identity, citizenship, and pluralism? Kabir Tambar takes a close look at the Turkish Alevis in his impressive new book, The Reckoning of Pluralism: Political Belonging and the Demands of History in Turkey (Stanford University Press, 2014).

Kabir Tambar is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Anthropology at Stanford University. After earning his Ph.D. in 2009 from the University of Chicago, Tambar taught in the Department of Religion at the University of Vermont. He also served as a member in the School of Social Science at the Institute for Advanced Studies in Princeton, New Jersey from 2011-2012. His scholarly work has appeared in History of the Present: A Journal of Critical History, American Ethnologist, Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, and Public Culture.

Kabir Tambar discusses his new book in this exclusive interview.

Who are the Turkish Alevis and why are they struggling to get government recognition?

Kabir Tambar
Kabir Tambar

Alevis are a sizable religious minority in Turkey (reportedly about 15%), with deep historical connections to Shi‘i Islamic communities and the Bektaşi Sufi order. Since the 1990s, Alevi groups have collectively asserted themselves in Turkey’s urban centers, performing their communal rituals in public and making demands on the state for access to governmental resources from which they have long been systematically excluded. In my book, I suggest that the question is not whether Alevis should be recognized, but how they have been recognized. What are the categories that the state uses to classify different populations and render them intelligible to governmental rationalities? What sorts of aesthetic contexts are supported by the state, and how does this official support work to privilege certain expressions of collective belonging at the expense of others? In short, how do state authorities mobilize forms of knowledge, aesthetics, and emotion to define and cultivate acceptable expressions of religious difference? Continue reading

Omid Safi

by OMID SAFI for JADALIYYA on JANUARY 31, 2014: 

I have been asked to share my impressions about the state of Islamic studies in the North American academy. Given that the pioneers of this field include many of my mentors, and many of my own peers have struggled for years to help advance the field to its current state, my observations will not be dispassionate. And since I have been fortunate to have a front-row seat along the development of the field over the last twenty years, I hope I’ll be able to do justice to the current state of the field.

I became a graduate student in the field of Islamic studies in the early 1990s. In those days, almost all of us were “converts”: no one went to undergraduate studies planning to become a professor of Islamic studies. For many, particularly Muslims of transnational background, the usual academic caste options were the familiar: doctor, lawyer, engineer, maybe the always dubious “business.” Almost all of us who entered the field did so by following the siren call of one mentor or another: Seyyed Hossein Nasr, Hamid Algar, Roy Mottahedeh, Bruce Lawrence, Vincent Cornell, Carl Ernst, Michael Sells, Annemarie Schimmel, and a few others. Continue reading


Stanford University, 2014-15 Postdoctoral Fellowship in Literary Cultures of Muslim South Asia
(Application Deadline: January 15, 2014)

Stanford University’s Sohaib and Sara Abbasi Program in Islamic Studies, the Center for South Asia, and the Stanford Global Studies Division invite applications for a one-year postdoctoral position under the general rubric “Literary Cultures of Muslim South Asia.” The postdoctoral fellow will teach two courses related to his/her interests, pursue his/her own research, and participate in the activities of Stanford University programs and departments. The fellow is expected to be in residence at Stanford during the 2014-2015 academic year.

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The Middle East Journal of Culture and Communication, now in its sixth year, is a platform for interdisciplinary scholarly work that explores transformations in culture, communication, and politics in the Middle East and North Africa. The Journal aims to challenge the traditional paradigms used to understand media and the Middle East, seeing “communication” as extending beyond the study of media in the traditional sense.

MEJCC welcomes contributions from international scholars engaged with the Middle East within various academic disciplines and using diverse approaches, whether as articles or reviews of films, books (including novels), and exhibitions.

MEJCC is seeking papers critically addressing (though not exclusive to) the following:

- the old and new media in all their forms (the broadcast media, the print media, electronic media, and film), whether in or about the Middle East

- processes of communication in geographical space in the Middle East (including street art, posters and architecture)

- popular culture in the Middle East

- the relationship between the media and communication practices and political and social processes in the region

- the cultural practices through which power is expressed and politics is performed. Continue reading


STANFORD UNIVERSITY invites applications for a tenure-line, open-rank position in MIDDLE EASTERN STUDIES to begin in the academic year 2014-15. The scholar-teacher appointed will be based in a social science department but is also expected to make contributions to the interdisciplinary study of the Middle East and North Africa across the University. The appointment can be in one of the following departments in the School of Humanities and Sciences: Anthropology, Communication, Economics, Political Science, and Sociology. Teaching responsibilities will be determined by the home department. Continue reading