Category Archives: Scholarship Roundup

“Contemporary Israel” (Greenspahn, ed.)

In August, New York University Press will release Contemporary Israel: New Insights and Scholarship edited by Frederick E. Greenspahn (Florida Atlantic University). The publisher’s description follows:Contemporary Israel

For a country smaller than Vermont, with roughly the same population as Honduras, modern Israel receives a remarkable amount of attention. For supporters, it is a unique bastion of democracy in the Middle East, while detractors view it as a racist outpost of Western colonialism. The romanticization of Israel became particularly prominent in 1967, when its military prowess shocked a Jewish world still reeling from the sense of powerlessness dramatized by the Holocaust. That imagery has grown ever more visible, with Israel’s supporters idealizing its technological achievements and its opponents attributing almost every problem in the region, if not beyond, to its imperialistic aspirations.
The contradictions and competing views of modern Israel are the subject of this book.  There is much to consider about modern Israel besides the Middle East conflict. Over the past generation, a substantial body of scholarship has explored numerous aspects of the country, including its approaches to citizenship and immigration, the arts, the women’s movement, religious fundamentalism, and language; but much of that work has to date been confined within the walls of the academy. This book does not seek not to resolve either the country’s internal debates or its struggle with the Arab world, but to present a sample of contemporary scholars’ discoveries and discussions about modern Israel in an accessible way. In each of the areas discussed, competing narratives grapple for prominence, and it is these which are highlighted in this volume.

Event at the Newseum, “Islamophobia in Focus” (Sept. 22)

On September 22, the Newseum’s Religious Freedom Center will host a conference entitled “Islamophobia in Focus: Muslims & the Media.” Panelists at the conference will include Dr. John Esposito (Georgetown University), Ayman Mohyeldin (NBC News), and Dalia Mogahed (Institute for Social Policy and Understanding). The Religious Freedom Center’s description of the event follows:

Research shows that 9 in 10 of all news reports about Muslims, Islam, and Islamic organizations are related to violence – war or terrorism. In fact, most Muslim newsmakers are warlords or terrorists. Alarmingly, media representations of Islam were worse in 2015 than any other time since 9/11. Are such portrayals representative of today’s global realities? Are Muslims simply over-sensitive? Are concerns with media depictions of Muslims and Islam in the West reflective of a liberal culture obsessed with political correctness? If not, are there opportunities for change?

Schmidt & Engler, “Handbook of Contemporary Religions in Brazil”

In September, Brill Publishing will release “Handbook of Contemporary Religions in Brazil,” by Bettina E. Schmidt (University of Wales Trinity Saint David), and Steven Engler (Mount Royal University).  The publisher’s description follows:

Sanneh, “Beyond Jihad”

In September, Oxford University Press will release Beyond Jihad: The Pacifist Tradition in West African Islam by Lamin Sanneh (Yale University). The publisher’s description follows:Beyond Jihad

Over the course of the last 1400 years, Islam has grown from a small band of followers on the Arabian peninsula into a global religion of over a billion believers. How did this happen? The usual answer is that Islam spread by the sword-believers waged jihad against rival tribes and kingdoms and forced them to convert. Lamin Sanneh argues that this is far from the whole story. Beyond Jihad examines the origin and evolution of the African pacifist tradition in Islam, beginning with an inquiry into the faith’s origins and expansion in North Africa and its transmission across trans-Saharan trade routes to West Africa. The book focuses on the ways in which, without jihad, the religion spread and took hold, and what that tells us about the nature of religious and social change.

At the heart of this process were clerics who used religious and legal scholarship to promote Islam. Once this clerical class emerged, it offered continuity and stability in the midst of political changes and cultural shifts, helping to inhibit the spread of radicalism, and subduing the urge to wage jihad. With its policy of religious and inter-ethnic accommodation, this pacifist tradition took Islam beyond traditional trade routes and kingdoms into remote districts of the Mali Empire, instilling a patient, Sufi-inspired, and jihad-negating impulse into religious life and practice. Islam was successful in Africa, Sanneh argues, not because of military might but because it was made African by Africans who adapted it to a variety of contexts.

“Islam, Sufism and Everyday Politics of Belonging in South Asia” (Dandekar & Tschacher, eds.)

In August, Routledge will release “Islam, Sufism and Everyday Politics of Belonging in South Asia,” edited by Deepra Dandekar (Heidelberg University) and Torsten Tschacher (Freie Universität Berlin).  The publisher’s description follows:

This book looks at the study of ideas, practices and institutions in South Asian Islam, commonly identified as ‘Sufism’, and how they relate to politics in South 9781138910683Asia. While the importance of Sufism for the lives of South Asian Muslims has been repeatedly asserted, the specific role played by Sufism in contestations over social and political belonging in South Asia has not yet been fully analysed.

Looking at examples from five countries in South Asia (India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and Afghanistan), the book begins with a detailed introduction to political concerns over ‘belonging’ in relation to questions concerning Sufism and Islam in South Asia. This is followed with sections on Producing and Identifying Sufism; Everyday and Public Forms of Belonging; Sufi Belonging, Local and National; and Intellectual History and Narratives of Belonging. Bringing together scholars from diverse disciplines, the book explores the connection of Islam, Sufism and the Politics of Belonging in South Asia. It is an important contribution to South Asian Studies, Islamic Studies and South Asian Religion.

Baugh, “God and the Green Divide”

In October, the University of California Press will release God and the Green Divide: Religious Environmentalism in Black and White by Amanda J. Baugh (California State University, Northridge). The publisher’s description follows:

God and the Green DivideAmerican environmentalism historically has been associated with the interests of white elites. Yet religious leaders in the twenty-first century have helped instill concern about the earth among groups diverse in religion, race, ethnicity, and class. How did that happen and what are the implications? Building on scholarship that provides theological and ethical resources to support the “greening” of religion, God and the Green Divide examines religious environmentalism as it actually happens in the daily lives of urban Americans. Baugh demonstrates how complex dynamics related to race, ethnicity, and class factor into decisions to “go green.” By carefully examining negotiations of racial and ethnic identities as central to the history of religious environmentalism, this work complicates assumptions that religious environmentalism is a direct expression of theology, ethics, or religious beliefs.

Little, “The Many Captivities of Esther Wheelwright”

The Many Captivities of Esther WheelwrightIn September, Yale University Press will release The Many Captivities of Esther Wheelwright by Ann M. Little (Colorado State University). The publisher’s description follows:

Born and raised in a New England garrison town, Esther Wheelwright (1696–1780) was captured by Wabanaki Indians at age seven. Among them, she became a Catholic and lived like any other young girl in the tribe. At age twelve, she was enrolled at a French-Canadian Ursuline convent, where she would spend the rest of her life, eventually becoming the order’s only foreign-born mother superior. Among these three major cultures of colonial North America, Wheelwright’s life was exceptional: border-crossing, multilingual, and multicultural. This meticulously researched book discovers her life through the communities of girls and women around her: the free and enslaved women who raised her in Wells, Maine; the Wabanaki women who cared for her, catechized her, and taught her to work as an Indian girl; the French-Canadian and Native girls who were her classmates in the Ursuline school; and the Ursuline nuns who led her to a religious life.

Olivelle, “A Dharma Reader”

In October, Columbia University Press will release A Dharma Reader: Classical Indian Law, translated and edited by Patrick Olivelle (University of Texas at Austin). The publisher’s description follows:

A Dharma ReaderWhether defined by family, lineage, caste, professional or religious association, village, or region, India’s diverse groups did settle on an abstract concept of law in classical times. How did they reach this consensus? Was it based on religious grounds or a transcendent source of knowledge? Did it depend on time and place? And what apparatus did communities develop to ensure justice was done, verdicts were fair, and the guilty were punished?

Addressing these questions and more, A Dharma Reader traces the definition, epistemology, procedure, and process of Indian law from the third century B.C.E. to the middle ages. Its breadth captures the centuries-long struggle by Indian thinkers to theorize law in a multiethnic and pluralist society. The volume includes new and accessible translations of key texts, notes that explain the significance and chronology of selections, and a comprehensive introduction that summarizes the development of various disciplines in intellectual-historical terms. It reconstructs the principal disputes of a given discipline, which not only clarifies the arguments but also relays the dynamism of the fight. For those seeking a richer understanding of the political and intellectual origins of a major twenty-first-century power, along with unique insight into the legal interactions among its many groups, this book offers conceptual detail, historical precision, and expository illumination unlike any other volume.

Event at Georgetown University: “Threats to Religious and Ethnic Minorities under the Islamic State” (July 28)

On July 28, Georgetown University’s Religious Freedom Project is hosting a conference entitled “Threats to Religious and Ethnic Minorities under the Islamic State.” Panelists at the conference include Knox Thames (State Department Office of International Religious Freedom), Breen Tahseen (Iraqi Diplomat), David Saperstein (U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom), and Saad Salloum (Masarat Religious Freedom Organization). The Religious Freedom Project’s description of the event follows:

In March 2016, the U.S. House of Representatives and Secretary of State John Kerry declared that the Islamic State (ISIS) is committing genocide against Christians, Yazidis, Shi’a Muslims, and other religious and ethnic minority groups in Syria and Iraq. In addition to these and other crimes against humanity, ISIS is also engaging in a campaign of ethnic cleansing against Kurds and even Sunni Muslims. Unfortunately, months later, ISIS and other violent extremist groups continue to target and terrorize their victims through rape, enslavement, and murder, while religious and cultural sites are systematically looted and destroyed.

To inform policymakers about the continuing travail of religious and ethnic minorities threatened by ISIS, and to galvanize long-term thinking about addressing this crisis, the Religious Freedom Project is hosting a daylong conference at Georgetown University.

During the conference, representatives of the targeted communities will share their personal experiences of religious persecution and their recommendations for policymakers. Among the questions they will engage are: What are the immediate security challenges posed by ISIS? What can we do now to ensure the viability of vulnerable religious and ethnic communities in Iraq and Syria? What steps need to be taken to ensure religious freedom, and how is religious freedom a possible antidote to future violence? Community representatives will be joined by distinguished policymakers, activists, and scholars.

Polat, “Regime Change in Contemporary Turkey”

In September, the University of Edinburgh Press will release Regime Change in Contemporary Turkey: Politics, Rights, Mimesis by Necati Polat (Middle East Technical University, Ankara). The publisher’s description follows:

Regime Change in TurkeyTurkey has undergone a series of upheavals in its political regime from the mid-19th century. This book details the most recent change, locating it in its broader historical setting. Beginning with the Justice and Development Party’s rule from late 2002, supported by a broad informal coalition that included liberals, the book shows how the former Islamists gradually acquired full power between 2007 and 2011. It then describes the subsequent phase, looking at politics and rights under the amorphous new order.

This is the first scholarly yet accessible assessment of this historic change, placing it in the larger context of political modernisation in the country over the past 150 or so years.