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New Books in Islamic Studies
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New Books in Islamic Studies

Author: Marshall Poe

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Interviews with Scholars of Islam about their New Books
251 Episodes
Sometimes it seems that there’s nothing left to say about mass violence in the 20th century.  But the new edited volume Let Them Not Return: Sayfo – The Genocide Against the Assyrian, Syriac, and Chaldean Christians in the Ottoman Empire (Berghahn Books, 2017), draws our attention to a conflict that even most scholars know little about—the persecution and killing of Assyrian, Syriac and Chaldean Christians during and after the First World War.In the book, editors David Gaunt, Naures Atto, Soner O. Barthoma, provide a broad range of perspectives.  With so little known about the violence, they provide historical perspectives on the long-term origins, analyses of individual and corporate responses, and reflections on the long term memory and impact of the conflict.The book functions in some ways like an invitation—an invitation to learn something about peoples and suffering about which we know little, an invitation to consider how this violence should reshape how we think about the region during the first quarter of the 20th century, and an invitation to explore further what happened to the peoples at the heart of the book.  Hopefully academics and others will take the invitation up.Kelly McFall is Professor of History and Director of the Honors Program at Newman University. He’s the author of four modules in the Reacting to the Past series, including The Needs of Others: Human Rights, International Organizations and Intervention in Rwanda, 1994, published by W. W. Norton Press.Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
Why was a Crusade that was initially meant for Syria end up in Tunis? How did the aspirations of the King of France and the Mamluk Sultan, the King of Sicily and the Hafsid Emir of Tunis, get entangled in the years following the Mongol invasion of the Middle East? More broadly, how should we approach the Crusades, a series of events that have traditionally focused on either the European or the Near Eastern perspectives, and can these perspectives become integrated into a more wholistic, Mediterranean approach? In The Tunis Crusade of 1270: a Mediterranean History (Oxford University Press, 2018), Dr. Michael Lower, professor of History at the University of Minnesota, offers a broad and deep dive into the Tunis Crusade, an unlikely but impactful moment of Mediterranean History.In our conversation, Michael and I touch upon traditional and new methodological approaches to the Crusades, the important roles played by Mediterranean rulers and the political, religious, and economic pressures that shaped their decisions, and the reasons behind the strange detour the so-called eighth Crusade, originally bound for Syria, took 1500 miles to the West, to Tunis.Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
Nazia Kazi’s Islamophobia, Race, and Global Politics (Rowman & Littlefield, 2018) is a brilliant and powerful meditation on the intersection and interaction of Islamophobia, racism, and U.S. imperial state power. This book seeks to reorient our understanding of Islamophobia from a phenomenon centered on individual attitudes and perceptions of hate, to one which is indelibly entrenched to the structural logics of modern state sovereignty, and to the long-running history of racism in the U.S. Another distinctive feature of this book lies in its sustained and nuanced analysis of liberal Islamophobia in varied social and political domains, that tethers the promise of being categorized as “good Muslim” to the endorsement and celebration of American exceptionalism. Combining methods and perspectives from anthropology, visual studies, race studies, and political studies, this thoroughly interdisciplinary book is also eminently accessible and written beautifully, rendering it particularly suitable for courses on modern Islam, Race and Religion, Islam in America, among many other topics.SherAli Tareen is Associate Professor of Religious Studies at Franklin and Marshall College. His research focuses on Muslim intellectual traditions and debates in early modern and modern South Asia. His academic publications are available here. He can be reached at Listener feedback is most welcome.Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
Robert Haug’s new book, The Eastern Frontier: Limits of Empire in Late Antique and Early Medieval Central Asia (I. B. Tauris, 2019) is an in-depth look at the frontier zone of the Sassanian, Umayyad, and Abbasid Empires. Employing an impressive array of literary, archaeological, and numismatic sources, combined with a solid theoretical foundation, Haug demonstrates the distinct challenges the border region of the empire posed to these imperial powers, but also tracks the emergence and maintenance of unique regional identities and political trends on this frontier. This is essential reading for scholars and enthusiasts of Islamic, Iranian, and Central Asian History, as well as those with an interest in the study of frontiers and border regions.Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
Zaytuna just wants to be left alone to her ascetic practices and nurse her dark view of the world. But when an impoverished servant girl she barely knows comes and begs her to bring some justice to the death of a local boy, she is forced to face the suffering of the most vulnerable in Baghdad and the emotional and mystical legacy of her mother, a famed ecstatic whose love for God eclipsed everything. The Lover (Kindle Direct Publishers, 2019) is a historically sensitive mystery that introduces us to the world of medieval Baghdad and the lives of the great Sufi mystics, washerwomen, Hadith scholars, tavern owners, slaves, corpsewashers, police, and children indentured to serve in the homes of the wealthy. It asks what it means to have family when you have nearly no one left, what it takes to love and be loved by those who have stuck by you, and how one can come to love God and everything He’s done to you.In our conversation Laury Silvers discusses her transition from writing scholarship to historical fiction, how her research equipped her to give life to 10th century Baghdad in her narrative, the primary and secondary sources that informed her novel, what daily life of diverse social classes would have looked like at that moment, early pious and mystic women, sufi training and practice, questions of race and colorism, and the complex environment women had to navigate in medieval Baghdad. She even gives us a preview of the second book in this series, called The Jealous.Kristian Petersen is an Assistant Professor of Philosophy & Religious Studies at Old Dominion University. He is the author of Interpreting Islam in China: Pilgrimage, Scripture, and Language in the Han Kitab (Oxford University Press, 2017). He is currently working on a monograph entitled The Cinematic Lives of Muslims, and is the editor of the forthcoming volumes Muslims in the Movies: A Global Anthology (ILEX Foundation) and New Approaches to Islam in Film(Routledge). You can find out more about his work on his website, follow him on Twitter @BabaKristian, or email him at more about your ad choices. Visit
The past decade has seen a tremendous production of scholarship on American missionary endeavors in the Middle East. In Faithful Encounters: Authorities and American Missionaries in the Ottoman Empire (McGill-Queens University Press, 2018), Emrah Şahin approaches this dynamic field of inquiry from a less-common perspective, that of the Ottoman Empire. Relying on largely untapped official imperial sources emanating from the Sublime Porte, Şahin recounts complaints from local authorities and fraught diplomatic considerations, which Ottoman sultans, ministers, and bureaucrats were forced to grapple with as they sought to maintain control of their Empire. Weaving together compelling stories from Ottoman records, the book describes the Sublime Porte’s efforts to regulate physical space, censor missionary publications, and monitor missionary activities. With engaging anecdotes, Faithful Encounters offers a more complex look at Muslim-Christian relations and America’s engagement with the Ottomans.Emrah Şahin is the director of the Turkish Studies Program at the University of Florida and a lecturer at their Center for European Studies. He earned his PhD in History from McGill University in Canada.Joshua Donovan is a PhD candidate at Columbia University’s Department of History. His dissertation examines national and sectarian identity formation within the Greek Orthodox Christian community in Syria, Lebanon, and the diaspora.Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
In History of the Tajiks: Iranians of the East(I.B. Tauris, 2019), Richard Foltz provides a comprehensive cultural, political, and linguistic history of the Tajik people. Throughout the book, he traces the history of this Persian-speaking Iranian ethnic group, starting with the pre-historic groups who first settled in the regions of contemporary Tajikistan, Afghanistan, and Uzbekistan, and ending in the present day. Inspired by the work and career of Richard N. Frye, Foltz puts forward a clear argument about the place of the Tajiks in the broader Persianate world. Suitable for both academic and broader audiences, this book is a must-read for anyone interested in the history of the Tajik-populated regions of Central Asia, or for those seeking a broader understanding of the long durée of Persianate history.Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
In his new book, The Deepest Border: The Strait of Gibraltar and the Making of the Hispano-African Border(Stanford, 2019), Sasha D. Pack considers the Strait of Gibraltar as an untamed in-between space—from “shatter zone” to borderland. Far from the centers of authority of contending empires, the North African and Southern Iberian coast was a place where imperial, colonial, private, and piratical agents competed for local advantage. Sometimes they outmaneuvered each other; sometimes they cooperated.Gibraltar entered European politics in the Middle Ages, and became a symbol of the Atlantic Empire in the Early Modern period (the Pillars of Hercules of Emperor Charles V are featured on the Spanish flag to this day), but Pack’s study focuses on the nineteenth century. Europe’s new imperialism, Britannic naval supremacy, the age of steam, the ever-present danger of cholera, all mark the change of a Spanish-Moorish border into a multilateral one. So too does the multicultural mix of Europeans and North Africans, Muslims, Jews, Catholics, and Protestants who brought a spirit of convivencia (mutual toleration) into the region, unlike the nineteenth- and twentieth- century homogenizing nationalism that was at play elsewhere.In the middle of this theater, Dr. Pack follows the careers of adventuresome entrepreneurs, who manipulated the weak enforcement of conflicting laws in overlapping jurisdictions for their own gain. He calls these characters “slipstream potentates” because they maneuvered creatively in the wakes of great ships of state on their courses in the seas of international politics. (Other historians have called them “the last Barbary pirates.”) They bring color and detail to this already gripping narrative of international politics in Spain and North Africa in the century between Napoleon and Franco.Sasha D. Pack is Associate Professor of History at the University of Buffalo. He studies Modern Europe, Spain and Portugal, and the Mediterranean, focusing on transnational and political history.Krzysztof Odyniec is a historian of the Early Modern Spanish Empire specializing in culture, diplomacy, and travel. He completed his PhD in 2017 at UC Berkeley where he is now a Visiting Scholar and a Fellow in the Berkeley Connect in History program.Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
The social history of Turkey across the twentieth century has produced a tension between state governance and religion. This history informs and shapes modern subjects as they try to live out an authentic vision of the present. In Muslim Civil Society and the Politics of Religious Freedom in Turkey (Oxford University Press, 2017), Jeremy F. Walton, Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity, explores how members of three contemporary Muslim groups, the Nur community, the Gülen movement, and Alevis, articulate religiosity within the Turkish public sphere. His rich ethnographic account takes the reader through Istanbul and Ankara to see how Islam is negotiated through religious classes, public conferences, charitable services, museum spaces, and the recollection of history. In our conversation we discuss twentieth century Turkish history, Muslim non-governmental organizations, religious gatherings, museum exhibits, Rumi, the Turkish state’s relationship to Islam and secularism, interreligious tolerance and pluralism, nostalgia for Ottoman heritage,  the ideal of “religious freedom,” and the recent shift in political and religious practices.Kristian Petersen is an Assistant Professor of Philosophy & Religious Studies at Old Dominion University. He is the author of Interpreting Islam in China: Pilgrimage, Scripture, and Language in the Han Kitab (Oxford University Press, 2017). He is currently working on a monograph entitled The Cinematic Lives of Muslims, and is the editor of the forthcoming volumes Muslims in the Movies: A Global Anthology (ILEX Foundation) and New Approaches to Islam in Film (Routledge). You can find out more about his work on his website, follow him on Twitter @BabaKristian, or email him at more about your ad choices. Visit
Botakoz Kassymbekova’s Despite Cultures: Early Soviet Rule in Tajikistan (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2016) is a terrific study of early Soviet rule in Tajikistan based on extensive archival research. Her work explores technologies of governance used in early Soviet Tajikistan in order to implement Soviet plans for industrialization and collectivization. The study highlights the importance of individual leaders who used such technologies to try and adhere to the commands coming from the Politburo. This is essential reading for anyone interested in how the early Soviet government sought to overcome ethnic, linguistic, and cultural diversity across a vast space. In a field often bogged down with unsatisfying comparisons to Western-style colonialism, Kassymbekova’s work shows new directions that historians of Central Asia and the Soviet Union can take in order to problematize the application of terms such as “empire,” “imperialism,” and “colonialism” in the Soviet context. She shows that the nature of rule in the Soviet Tajikistan, as elsewhere in the Soviet Union was ever-changing and often could not be easily defined purely by these theoretical concepts.Nicholas Seay is a PhD candidate at The Ohio State University.Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
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