Next month, Macmillan will publish Family Law in Lebanon: Marriage and Divorce Among the Druze by Lubna Tarabey (American University of Beirut). The publisher’s description follows.
Much of the life and ritual of the Druze in Lebanon appears mysterious to outsiders, as this esoteric sect remains closed to non-members. Lubna Tarabey, herself a member of this secretive community, is ideally-placed to offer insight into the family life, tradition and religious practices of the Druze. She reaches back to the 1970s, and the start of a civil war that shattered Lebanon along confessional lines, to explore how the substantial social and political changes that have shaken the country have affected marriage and divorce practices. Through extensive research, she approaches a complex web of change and continuity, of traditional values competing with enhanced individualism and personal freedoms. In Lebanon, family law falls under the authority of its religious courts, and Tarabey traces the ways in which social and legal developments have impacted family law and the internal cohesion of the Druze.
This month, Stanford University Press will publish Days of Revolution: Political Unrest in an Iranian Village by Mary Elaine Hegland (University of Santa Clara). The publisher’s description follows.
Outside of Shiraz in the Fars Province of southwestern Iran lies “Aliabad.” Mary Hegland arrived in this then-small agricultural village of several thousand people in the summer of 1978, unaware of the momentous changes that would sweep this town and this country in the months ahead. She became the only American researcher to witness the Islamic Revolution firsthand over her eighteen-month stay. Days of Revolution offers an insider’s view of how regular people were drawn into, experienced, and influenced the 1979 Revolution and its aftermath.
Conventional wisdom assumes Shi’a religious ideology fueled the revolutionary movement. But Hegland counters that the Revolution spread through much more pragmatic concerns: growing inequality, lack of development and employment opportunities, government corruption. Local expectations of leaders and the political process—expectations developed from their experience with traditional kinship-based factions—guided local villagers’ attitudes and decision-making, and they often adopted the religious justifications for Revolution only after joining the uprising. Sharing stories of conflict and revolution alongside in-depth interviews, the book sheds new light on this critical historical moment.
Returning to Aliabad decades later, Days of Revolution closes with a view of the village and revolution thirty years on. Over the course of several visits between 2003 and 2008, Mary Hegland investigates the lasting effects of the Revolution on the local political factions and in individual lives. As Iran remains front-page news, this intimate look at the country’s recent history and its people has never been more timely or critical for understanding the critical interplay of local and global politics in Iran.
The Washington Post has a story this week about vandalism at a Protestant cemetery in Jerusalem. The vandals toppled stone crosses from graves and smashed them to pieces. The incident is the latest in a string of recent attacks on Christian sites in Israel:
The attack joins a list of high-profile Christian sites that have been vandalized within the past year. They include a Trappist monastery in Latrun, outside Jerusalem, where vandals burned a door and spray-painted “Jesus is a monkey” on the century-old building, a Baptist church in Jerusalem, and other monasteries. Clergymen often speak of being spat at by ultra-Orthodox religious students while walking around Jerusalem’s Old City wearing frocks and crosses.
As to this last fact, Armenian Apostolic priests from the Old City have told me they personally have been spat upon, usually during processions. As the Post report states, the culprits in these spitting incidents, and the suspects in the most recent attack on the cemetery, are students at ultra-orthodox yeshivas. Everyone agrees, according to the Post, that Jewish-Christian in Israel are better than they have been in the past, and that the Israeli police have started to do more to address attacks on Christians. But Christians complain that the attacks continue unabated.
You can read the whole piece here.
This November, University of Utah Press will publish Religious Knowledge, Authority, and Charisma: Islamic and Jewish Perspectives, edited by Daphna Ephrat (Open University of Israel) and Meir Hatin (Hebrew University of Jerusalem). The publisher’s description follows.
The issue of religious authority has long fascinated and ignited scholars across a range of disciplines: history, anthropology, the sociology of religion, and political science. Religious Knowledge, Authority, and Charisma juxtaposes religious leadership in premodern and modern Islam with examples from the Judaic tradition. By illustrating various iterations of authority in numerous historical and cultural contexts, this volume offers fresh insights into the nature of institutions of learning and other systems of establishing and disseminating authority, the mechanisms for cultivating committed adherents, and the processes by which religious leadership is polarized and fragmented.
Contributors tease out the sources and types of authority that emerged out of the Sunni and Shiʾi milieu and the evolution of Muslim elites who served as formulators and disseminators of knowledge and practice. Comparative insights are provided by the examination of ideological and historical developments among Jewish sages who inculcated similar modes of authority from within their traditions. The rigorous exploration of the dynamic interface of knowledge and power in Islam and Judaism serves to highlight a number of present tensions common to both religions. By intertwining a historical span that traces trajectories of continuity and change, integrative discussion of cross-sectional themes, and comparative perspectives, this volume makes a distinct contribution.
This November, Oxford University Press will publish Shaping a Muslim State: The World of a Mid-Eighth-Century Egyptian Official by Petra M. Sijpesteijn (Leiden University). The publisher’s description follows.
Shaping a Muslim State provides a synthetic study of the political, social, and economic processes which formed early Islamic Egypt. Looking at a corpus of previously unknown Arabic papyrus letters, dating from between AD 730 and 750, which were written to a Muslim administrator and merchant in the Fayyum oasis in Egypt, Sijpesteijn examines the reasons for the success of the early Arab conquests and the transition from the pre-Islamic Byzantine system and its Egyptian executors to an Arab/Muslim state.
By examining the impact of Islam on the daily lives of those living under its rule, the volume highlights the striking newness of Islamic society while also acknowledging the influence of the ancient societies which preceded it. The book applies theoretical discussions about governance, historiography, (social) linguistics, and source criticism to understand the dynamics of early Islamic Egypt, as well as the larger process of state formation in the Islamic world.
Next month, I.B. Tauris will publish The Dynamics of Coexistence in the Middle East: Negotiating Boundaries Between Christians, Muslims, Jews and Samaritans in Palestine, by Julia Droeber (An-Najah University, Palestine). The publisher’s description follows.
Palestine is often viewed, from afar, through the frame of insurmountable difference and violent conflict along religious and ethnic lines. Julia Droeber looks beyond this, as she draws out the way in which sameness and difference is constructed and dealt with in the day to day relationships and practices of different religious communities in the West Bank town of Nablus. She follows the reality of coexistence and the constant negotiation of boundaries between Christians, Muslims and one of the last remaining Samaritan communities worldwide, and how these relationships are complicated by an occupler perceived as ‘Jewish.’ This is a sensitive and nuanced study of cultural and religious space in a much-contested region. It illustrates how differences are reconciled, accommodated and emphasized, while existing alongside a common sense of belonging. Droeber’s findings resonate beyond the town of Nablus, and the West Bank, and into the broader fields of Middle East Studies, Anthropology, Comparative Religion and Peace and Conflict Resolution Studies.
Next month, Oxford University press will publish The Oxford Handbook of Islam and Politics, edited by John Esposito (Georgetown University) and Emad El-Din Shahin (American University in Cairo). The publisher’s description follows.
Over the past three decades, scholars, government analysts and terrorism experts have examined the relationship between Islam and politics. But specialists have tended to limit their analysis to a specific country or focus. Few works have provided a geographically comprehensive, in-depth analysis. Since 9/11, another wave of literature on political Islam and global terrorism has appeared, much of it superficial and sensationalist. This situation underscores the need for a comprehensive, analytical, and in-depth examination of Islam and politics in the post-9/11 era and in an increasingly globalizing world. The Oxford Handbook of Islam and Politics, with contributions from prominent scholars and specialists, provides a comprehensive analysis of what we know and where we are in the study of political Islam. It enables scholars, students, and policymakers to understand the interaction of Islam and politics and the multiple and diverse roles of Islamic movements, as well as issues of authoritarianism and democratization, religious extremism and terrorism regionally and globally.
Next month, Cambridge University Press will publish The Awakening of Muslim Democracy: Religion, Modernity, and the State by Jocelyne Cesari (Georgetown University). The publisher’s description follows.
Why and how did Islam become such a political force in so many Muslim-majority countries? In this book, Jocelyne Cesari investigates the relationship between modernization, politics, and Islam in Muslim-majority countries such as Egypt, Iraq, Pakistan, Tunisia, and Turkey – countries that were founded by secular rulers and have since undergone secularized politics. Cesari argues that nation-building processes in these states have not created liberal democracies in the Western mold, but have instead spurred the politicization of Islam by turning it into a modern national ideology. Looking closely at examples of Islamic dominance in political modernization – for example, nationalization of Islamic institutions and personnel under state ministries; reliance on Islamic references in political discourse, religiously motivated social unrest, or violence; and internationalization of Islam-aligned political movements or conflicts – this study provides a unique overview of the historical and political developments from the end of World War II to the Arab Spring that have made Islam the dominant force in the construction of the modern states, and discusses Islam’s impact on emerging democracies in the contemporary Middle East.
Last month, Random House published Lawrence in Arabia: War, Deceit, Imperial Folly and the Making of the Modern Middle East by Scott Anderson. The publisher’s description follows.
The Arab Revolt against the Turks in World War One was, in the words of T.E. Lawrence, “a sideshow of a sideshow.” Amidst the slaughter in European trenches, the Western combatants paid scant attention to the Middle Eastern theater. As a result, the conflict was shaped to a remarkable degree by a small handful of adventurers and low-level officers far removed from the corridors of power.
Curt Prüfer was an effete academic attached to the German embassy in Cairo, whose clandestine role was to foment Islamic jihad against British rule. Aaron Aaronsohn was a renowned agronomist and committed Zionist who gained the trust of the Ottoman governor of Syria. William Yale was the fallen scion of the American aristocracy, who traveled the Ottoman Empire on behalf of Standard Oil, dissembling to the Turks in order gain valuable oil concessions. At the center of it all was Lawrence. In early 1914 he was an archaeologist excavating ruins in the sands of Syria; by 1917 he was the most romantic figure of World War One, battling both the enemy and his own government to bring about the vision he had for the Arab people.
The intertwined paths of these four men – the schemes they put in place, the battles they fought, the betrayals they endured and committed – mirror the grandeur, intrigue and tragedy of the war in the desert. Prüfer became Germany’s grand spymaster in the Middle East. Aaronsohn constructed an elaborate Jewish spy-ring in Palestine, only to have the anti-Semitic and bureaucratically-inept British first ignore and then misuse his organization, at tragic personal cost. Yale would become the only American intelligence agent in the entire Middle East – while still secretly on the payroll of Standard Oil. And the enigmatic Lawrence rode into legend at the head of an Arab army, even as he waged secret war against his own nation’s imperial ambitions.
Based on years of intensive primary document research, lawrence in Arabia definitively overturns received wisdom on how the modern Middle East was formed. Sweeping in its action, keen in its portraiture, acid in its condemnation of the destruction wrought by European colonial plots, this is a book that brilliantly captures the way in which the folly of the past creates the anguish of the present.
As readers of this site know, the situation for Copts and other Christians in Egypt is truly dire. On October 1, the House of Representatives Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights and International Organizations will hold a hearing on the situation. Speakers include Bishop Angaelos of the Coptic Church, author Samuel Tadros, and Rutgers Professor Morad Abou-Sabe. The hearing will be webcast live. Details are here.