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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

332 Episodes
Modest fashion is a growing, global multi-billion-dollar market. As a fashion trend, it has increasingly made its way into high-profile runways, has been endorsed by celebrities, and profiled in major fashion publications and news outlets.   Hafsa Lodi’s Modesty: A Fashion Paradox (Neem Tree Press, 2020) investigates how and why modest fashion became a mainstream global retail trend. It looks at the causes and key players behind the global modest fashion trend, while also exploring the controversies that surround the concept. Lodi interviewed over 40 important actors in the modest fashion movement, including designers, models, influencers, and entrepreneurs but also drew on personal experiences from her childhood in the United States and career as a fashion journalist in the Middle East to understand its history, evolution, and contradictions.  Hafsa Lodi is an American journalist who has been covering fashion for a decade. She has a BA from the Ryerson School of Journalism in Toronto and an MA in Islamic Law from the School of Oriental and African Studies in London. While living in Dubai, Hafsa has written for The National newspaper, Luxury Magazine, Mojeh Magazine, Velvet Magazine, Savoir Flair, and Vogue India, in addition to working as an online fashion editor for one of the Middle East’s largest luxury retailers, Boutique 1.  @HafsaLodi (Twitter)  @hafsalodi (Instagram)  Dr. Isabel Machado is a Postdoctoral Fellow in Gender and Sexuality Studies at the Department of History of the University of Memphis.     Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
Ahmed El-Shamsy’s Rediscovering the Islamic Classics: How Editors and Print Culture Transformed an Intellectual Tradition (Princeton University Press, 2020) is an astonishing scholarly feat that presents a detailed, sophisticated, and thoroughly enjoyable intellectual and social history of the modern publishing industry on what we today consider canonical books of Islamic thought. “Painstakingly researched” would be a description too mild for the depth and breadth of sources and analysis that El-Shamsy mobilizes in this book. Over the course of its 8 delightfully written chapters, readers meet some known and many less known book collectors, editors, Muslim reformers, early Salafis, and European Orientalists whose thought, outlook, normative agendas, and wide-ranging efforts produced a distinct corpus of classical Islamic texts. The canonization of what counted as “classical” was itself a markedly modern move and gesture, El-Shamsy argues. Populated with fascinating narratives of manuscript hunting, editorial discoveries and frustrations, and collaborations between Arab scholars and European Orientalists, Rediscovering the Islamic Classics combines the literary flair of a sumptuous novel with the textual density of a philological masterpiece. This carefully crafted and argued book represents both a profound tribute to a mesmerizingly layered archive of tradition and its actors, and a tremendous service to the field of Islamic Studies in particular and Religious Studies more broadly. It will also make a great text to teach in courses on intellectual history, manuscript studies, modern Islam, Muslim reform, and Islamic Law. 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
As Indonesia nears the 75th anniversary of its proclamation of independence this year, the socio-political debates surrounding her birth as a nation-state take on contemporary salience. In Indonesia’s Islamic Revolution (Cambridge UP, 2019), Kevin W. Fogg analyzes the religious aspirations that motivated many Muslim revolutionaries to fight the return of Dutch after the Second World War and envision a new nation-state. The book tackles this topic on both military and political fronts; paying attention not only to how Islam energized the Indonesian Revolution but also to how revolution refreshes the practice and social organization of Islam. While much of the present historiography on the Indonesian Revolution has centered on the secular nationalist leaders as primary historical actors, this book refocuses attention on how the revolutionary movement drew additional vitality from a diverse group of pious Muslims. Integrating the experiences of relatively obscure military veterans with well-known Muslim politicians, the book is one of the first to provide a coherent survey of the multi-faceted ways Islam became entangled with Indonesia’s revolutionary ideology across different ethnic communities. In this podcast, we discuss the notion of Muslim piety and how stories from veterans of the revolution break down orthodox-heterodox binaries in the practice of Islam, the mutations of religious authority during a tumultuous period, the politics of forming a national bureaucracy to govern Islam and enduring legacies of Indonesia’s Revolution. Kevin W. Fogg is based at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he is the associate director at the Carolina Asia Center. He is also a research associate at Brasenose College and the Faculty of History, Oxford University. Find him online at Faizah Zakaria is an assistant professor of history at Nanyang Technological University. You can find her website here or on Twitter @laurelinarien Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
Qurʾanic interpretation in contemporary societies is shaped in a multitude of ways. There are educational institutions that inform how one understands the text, linguistic hurdles for readers and commentators, publicly accessible forms of media, editors and translators that shape what audiences have access to, and global interpretive positions among various Muslim denominations. In Muslim Qurʾānic Interpretation Today: Media, Genealogies and Interpretive Communities (Equinox Publishing, 2018), Johanna Pink, Professor at Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg, explores the rich and varied expressions of Qur’anic materials and places them within these frameworks. The volume takes a genealogical approach to numerous contemporary cases studies to see where they come together and where they diverge in their assumptions, hermeneutics, and conclusions. Pink demonstrates that tensions around the Qur’an today extend from questions of who has the authority to interpreted, what is the best method to do so, and the new expanse of commentarial genres, including numerous recent media spaces available to new types of interpreters. In our conversation we discuss the factors shaping a contemporary interpretive position, the legacy of the pre-modern tafsir tradition, Ibn Kathir, the Qurʾan as source of guidance for everyday life, comics, Qur’an translations, televangelism, new media and online commentary, the use of scientific language to account for the Qur’an, gender relations, modernist, Islamist, and postmodern interpretation. Kristian Petersen is an Assistant Professor of Philosophy & Religious Studies at Old Dominion University. You can find out more about his work on his website, follow him on Twitter @BabaKristian, or email him at Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
Over the last couple of decades, a number of books written both by the academics and journalists  have appeared on many dysfunctions of the Pakistani state, a few of them even predicting why and how and when it is going to collapse. Against this grain, Ayesha Siddiqi’s new book, In the Wake of Disaster Islamists, the State and a Social Contract in Pakistan (Cambridge University Press, 2019) is a forceful meditation on a number of key issues around the social contract, citizenship, and state provisions such as disaster relief and social protection. The book helps understand why, despite its many limitations, Pakistani state remains central to the lives of those it seeks to govern. Through an intensive ethnography conducted in the three of the worst hit districts – in the wake of the flooding disasters of 2010-2011 – in the Southern-most region of Pakistan’s Sindh province, Siddiqi demonstrates that the state and citizenship, even when expressed in vernacular idiom which doesn’t lend itself neatly to predominantly Eurocentric and structuralist sensibilities have meaning and resonance for the people. People look up to Sarkar (the “state”) both when they make claims for day to day provisions and also in the times of extraordinary distress. Though not always in time and effectively, as instantiated by the universal cash grants given to everyone who might have suffered in three districts of Badin, Thatha and Tharparkar, as a consequence of the floods, Sarkar also responds. Advancing a critical anthropology of the state, the book makes three major contentions: First, as already suggested, contrary to what the ‘master narratives’ claim, state remains very much present in the lives of the people even in the peripheral regions of Pakistan. Even when state remains unable to satisfy people’s demands, the fact that people have high expectations of it testifies to its centrality in their moral and political imaginaries. Second, since the local imaginaries of the state aren’t that of a monolithic entity represented by a coherence of institutional structures and purposes, major political parties and local influentials come to acquire some of the key “state-effects”, hence relations of clientship, to the extent that they remain relevant to the socio-political lives of many, aren’t necessarily an anathema to citizenship, instead they might actually be one of the constituent elements of a postcolonial social contract. Third, the specter of Islamist organizations coming in to occupy the space created by the presumed ‘absence’ of the state has no real grounding. This is so not because the state remains very much ‘present’ but also because the Islamists are afforded visibility only in so far as they are coopted by the state to partake in the relief activities. The book will be an indispensable reading for anyone interested in grasping the socio-political complexities inherent to the postcolonial states, societies, and their mutualities beyond the dominant tropes. Ali Mohsin is a doctoral candidate in Anthropology and Sociology at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies (IHEID), Geneva. His research focuses on the politics of poverty, inequality and social protection in Pakistan. He can be reached at Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
Lara Harb’s Arabic Poetics: Aesthetic Experience in Classical Arabic Literature (Cambridge University Press, 2020) is a delightful and formidable study on the details and development of poetics and aesthetics in medieval Arabic literature. The central theme of this splendid book centers on the emergence of the evocation of wonder as a key aesthetic experience and criterion connected to the beauty and eloquence of speech in medieval Muslim intellectual thought. With breathtaking clarity and painstaking elaboration, Harb charts the key literary tropes, categories, and strategies, as well as the broader intellectual and theological stakes, such as the question of the Qur’an’s inimitability, invested in how poetry was imagined, experienced, and evaluated in this context. The strength of this book lies in the meticulous care with which it walks readers through a complex yet deeply fascinating discursive arcade of thinkers, texts, and poetic registers. While focused on the thought of the preeminent eleventh century scholar ‘Abd al-Qāhir al-Jurjānī, Arabic Poetics presents and explores a panoply of scholars and texts situated at the intersection of religion, and literature. Written with sparkling clarity, this book will also make an excellent text to teach in various undergraduate and graduate courses on the Muslim Humanities, Arabic, Religion and Literature, and Religious Studies more broadly. 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 book Defending Muhammad in Modernity (University of Notre Dame Press, 2020) received the American Institute of Pakistan Studies 2020 Book Prize. His other academic publications are available here. He can be reached at Listener feedback is most welcome. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
Challenging incarceration and policing was central to the post-war Black Freedom Movement. In his new book Those Who Know Don't Say: The Nation of Islam, the Black Freedom Movement, and the Carceral State (UNC Press, 2020), Garrett Felber centers the Nation in the Civil Rights Era and the making of the modern carceral state. In doing so, he reveals a multifaceted freedom struggle that focused as much on policing and prisons as on school desegregation and voting rights. The book examines efforts to build broad-based grassroots coalitions among liberals, radicals, and nationalist to oppose the carceral state and struggle for local Black self-determination. It captures the ambiguous place of the Nation of Islam specifically, and Black nationalist organizing more broadly, during an era which has come to redefined by non-violent resistance, desegregation campaigns, and racial liberalism. By provocatively documenting the interplay between law enforcement and Muslim communities, Felber decisively shows state repression and Muslim organizing laid the groundwork for the modern carceral state and the contemporary prison abolition movement which opposes it. Exhaustively researched, the book illuminates new sites and forms of political struggle as Muslims prayed under surveillance in prison yards and used courtroom political theatre to put the state on trial. This history captures familiar figures in new ways Malcolm X the courtroom lawyer and A. Philip Randolph the Harlem coalition builder while highlighting the forgotten organizing of rank and file activists in prisons such as Martin Sostre. This definitive account is an urgent reminder that Islamophobia, state surveillance, and police violence have deep roots in the state repression of Black communities during the mid-20th century. Adam McNeil is a 3rd year Early African American History PhD Student at Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
In the early 19th century, on the floodplain of the Niger river’s inland delta in West Africa (present-day Mali), the Caliphate of Ḥamdallāhi emerged. The new State, locally known as the Maasina Diina, sought to consolidate its dominance over Fulani, Bamanan, and Arma military and political elites, as well as Jenne and Timbuktu’s scholarly establishment. It also attempted to reach a balance of power with neighboring Sokoto. The arsenal of tools the Caliphate deployed to achieve these goals included war, economic expansion, diplomacy, and the crafting of a historical chronicle known as the Tārīkh al-Fattāsh. In two separate strands of historiography, scholars have tackled the genesis and literary construction of the chronicle on the one hand, and the history of the Caliphate on the other. The new book Sultan, Caliph, and the Renewer of the Faith: Ahmad Lobbo, the Tārīkh al-fattāsh and the Making of an Islamic State in West Africa (Cambridge University Press, 2020), brings both together. Mauro Nobili argues that the Tārīkh al-Fattāsh was a coherent and historically contingent product of the Caliphate. It was designed as a result of one Ḥamdallāhi scholar’s assessment of what it would take to legitimize claims to power and authority in the hotly contested political landscape of 19th-century Muslim West Africa. Madina Thiam is a PhD candidate in History at UCLA. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
In Allah: God in the Qur’an (Yale University Press, 2020), Gabriel Said Reynolds argues that contrary to many scholarly and popular claims about the God of the Qur’an as either merciful or vengeful, God is in fact both. He suggests that God’s nature is a mystery and the descriptions of God, as both merciful and vengeful, are intended to have an impact on the audience of the Qur’an. Through productive comparisons between the Qur’an and the Bible, Reynolds also discusses the common themes and descriptions of God shared by these scriptures, such as the – of course, vengeance and mercy of God, but also divine scheming, God’s derision of unbelievers, and ideas of God as the Father, the Ruler, the Judge, and/or similar characteristics. Other themes covered in the book include heaven and hell, and the fate of sinners and unbelievers in the Qur’an and the exegetical tradition, the idea of humans as having been created in God’s image, and the idea of the Qur’an as a literary truth versus a historical truth, the latter point helping explain any inconsistencies in the stories that the Qur’an tells. The book would be of interest to folks teaching theology and comparative religions courses, particularly Abrahamic religions. Its accessible writing style makes it especially useful for undergraduates and for non-specialists looking to better understand God in either just the Qur’an or in the Qur’an and the Bible. Shehnaz Haqqani is Assistant Professor of Religion at Mercer University. Her primary research areas include Islam, gender, and questions of change and tradition in Islam. She also vlogs on YouTube, her videos focused on dismantling the patriarchy and available at: She can be reached at   Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
Brian Greene is a Professor of Mathematics and Physics at Columbia University in the City of New York, where he is the Director of the Institute for Strings, Cosmology, and Astroparticle Physics, and co-founder and chair of the World Science Festival. He is well known for his TV mini-series about string theory and the nature of reality, including the Elegant Universe, which tied in with his best-selling 2000 book of the same name. In this episode, we talk about his latest popular book Until the End of Time: Mind, Matter, and Our Search for Meaning in an Evolving Universe (Random House, 2020) Until the End of Time gives the reader a theory of everything, both in the sense of a “state of the academic union”, covering cosmology and evolution, consciousness and computation, and art and religion, and in the sense of showing us a way to apprehend the often existentially challenging subject matter. Greene uses evocative autobiographical vignettes in the book to personalize his famously lucid and accessible explanations, and we discuss these episodes further in the interview. Greene also reiterates his arguments for embedding a form of spiritual reverie within the multiple naturalistic descriptions of reality that different areas of human knowledge have so far produced. John Weston is a University Teacher of English in the Language Centre at Aalto University, Finland. His research focuses on academic communication. He can be reached at and @johnwphd. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
Challenging the geographical narrative of the history of Islam, Chiara Formichi’s new book Islam and Asia: A History (Cambridge University Press, 2020), helps us to rethink how we tell the story of Islam and the lived expressions of Muslims without privileging certain linguistic, cultural, and geographic realities. Focusing on themes of reform, political Islamism, Sufism, gender, as well as a rich array of material culture (such as sacred spaces and art), the book maps the development of Islam in Asia, such as in Kashmir, Indonesia, Malaysia, and China. It considers both transnational and transregional ebbs and flows that have defined the expansion and institutionalization of Islam in Asia, while attending to factors such as ethnicity, linguistic identity and even food cultures as important realities that have informed the translation of Islam into new regions. It is the “convergence and conversation” between the “local” and “foreign” or better yet between the theoretical notions of “centre” and “periphery” of Islam and Muslim societies that are dismantled in the book, defying any notions of Asian expressions of Islam as a “derivative reality.” The book is accessibly written and will be extremely useful in any undergraduate or graduate courses on Islam, Islam in Asia, or political Islam. The book will also be of interest to those who work on Islamic Studies and Asia Studies. Shobhana Xavier is an Assistant Professor of Religious Studies at Queen’s University. Her research areas are on contemporary Sufism in North America and South Asia. She is the author of Sacred Spaces and Transnational Networks in American Sufism (Bloombsury Press, 2018) and a co-author of Contemporary Sufism: Piety, Politics, and Popular Culture (Routledge, 2017). More details about her research and scholarship may be found here and here. She may be reached at . You can follow her on Twitter via @shobhanaxavier Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
In light of the profound physical and mental traumas of colonization endured by North Africans, historians of recent decades have primarily concentrated their studies of North Africa on colonial violence, domination, and shock. The choice is an understandable one. But in his new monograph, A Slave between Empires: A Transimperial History of North Africa (Columbia University Press, 2020), M’hamed Oualdi asks how a history of the modern Maghreb might look if we did not perceive it solely through the prism of European colonization, and argues that widening our gaze might force us to redefine our understanding of colonialism — and its limits. As a sequel of sorts to his first book, Oualdi explores the life and afterlife of one figure, the manumitted slave and Tunisian dignitary Husayn Ibn ‘Abdallah, as an aperture through which to understand the financial, intellectual, and kinship networks that mingled with processes of colonialism and Ottoman governance in unexpected ways to produce the modern Maghreb. A master class in how historians might untangle the relationship between the personal and the political, A Slave between Empires centers Husayn — and North Africa — at the crossroads of competing ambitions, imperial and intimate. Engaging with sources in Arabic, Ottoman Turkish, and European languages, and corralling French, Tunisian, and Anglophone historiographies into one conversation, Oualdi’s newest book is not to be missed. M'hamed Oualdi is full professor at Sciences Po in Paris. Nancy Ko is a Paul & Daisy Soros Fellow and a PhD student in History at Columbia University, where she examines the relationship between Jewish difference and (concepts of) philanthropy and property in the late- and post-Ottoman and Qajar Middle East. She can be reached at []. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
Muslims living in locations like Australia, Europe, or North America exist within a context dominated by white racial norms and are forced to grapple with those conventions on a daily basis. If they succeed in meeting the presiding criterion of secular liberalism they can be dubbed a “moderate” Muslim by mainstream society. In Radical Skin, Moderate Masks: De-radicalising the Muslim and Racism in Post-racial Societies (Rowman & Littlefield, 2017), Yassir Morsi, Lecturer at La Trobe University, explores these contemporary social dynamics and considers the various ways Muslims don a mask in order to navigate the expectations of the dominant society. Here he offers three paradigms, what he calls the “Fabulous Mask,” the “Militant Mask,” and the “Triumphant Mask,” that represent changing tensions for the “moderate” Muslim. Morsi deconstructs the “radical” vs. “moderate” binary through the forces of racialized structures that shape everyday life and the historical circumstances of Muslims in the “West.” This is achieved through an auto-ethnography that destabilizes traditional scholarship and enables the reader to come to a better understanding of the psychological and material effects of being a Muslim in the times of the “War on Terror” and government funded deradicalization programs. In our conversation we discuss the relationship between religion and race, the category “moderate” Muslim, Frantz Fanon, being a cultural translator, U.S. Muslim scholar Hamza Yusuf, an Islamic art museum exhibit, Australian media personality Waleed Aly & comedian Nazeem Hussain, readings of Edward Said’s Orientalism, British commentator Maajid Nawaz, Friedrich Nietzsche, and confronting the theoretical and practical norms of academic scholarship. Kristian Petersen is an Assistant Professor of Philosophy & Religious Studies at Old Dominion University. You can find out more about his work on his website, follow him on Twitter @BabaKristian, or email him at Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
In his book Devotional Sovereignty: Kingship and Religion in India (Oxford University Press, 2020), Caleb Simmons examines the reigns of Tipu Sultan (r. 1782-1799) and Krishnaraja Wodeyar III (r. 1799-1868) in the South Indian kingdom of Mysore to demonstrate the extent to which both rulers--one Muslim and one Hindu--turned to religion to fortify the royal identity of kings during precarious political times.  Both courts revived pre-modern notions of Indian kingship in reaction to the British, drawing on devotion to Hindu gods, goddesses, and gurus to conceptualize and fortify their reigns. We made mention of images in the interview, and they can be found here. For information on your host Raj Balkaran’s background, see Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
What is a mosque? What are women's mosques specifically? What historical values do women's mosques offer, and what is the relationship between mosque spaces and women's religious work? How do women leaders themselves identify with and conceptualize their leadership roles? Why are women's mosques around the world, both historical and contemporary, omitted from both popular and scholarly discourses on women's mosques? Jacqueline Fewkes' excellent and theoretically sophisticated book, Locating Maldivian Women's Mosques in Global Discourses (Palgrave Macmillan, 2019), offers answers to these questions and more. Complete with images from Fewkes' research, the book is an ethnography of women's mosques in the Maldives, an almost unheard-of phenomenon. It situates women's prayer places, the Nisha Miskiis, the physical buildings in which women lead prayers for other women, as complex sites of sociohistorical and cultural significance. Ultimately, Fewkes explores the ways in which these spaces relate to, contribute to, and fit in larger conversations about the transnational Muslim community—the global ummah—rather than being limited to the local with no historical significance. Locating Maldivian Women's Mosques in Global Discourses may be assigned in graduate courses in Anthropology, Islamic Studies, Women's and Gender Studies, or any combination of these; it would also make an exciting and inviting read for those generally interested in questions of gendered spaces, women's religious works, and specifically in women's mosques. Shehnaz Haqqani is an Assistant Professor of Religion at Mercer University. Her primary research areas include Islam, gender, and questions of change and tradition in Islam. She can be reached at Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
In her spellbindingly brilliant new book, Dying to Serve: Militarism, Affect, and the Politics of Sacrifice in the Pakistan Army (Stanford University Press, 2020), Maria Rashid conducts an intimate and layered ethnography of militarism and death in Pakistan, with a focus on the lives, aspirations, and tragedies of soldiers and their families in rural Punjab. How does the Pakistani military’s regulation and management of affect and emotions like grief authorize and sustain the practice of sacrificing the self in service to the nation? Rashid addresses this question through a riveting and at many times hauntingly majestic analysis of a range of themes including carefully choreographed public spectacles of mourning, military regimes of cultivating martial subjects, fissures between official scripts and unofficial unfoldings of grieving, anxieties over the representation of maimed soldiers, and ambiguities surrounding the appropriation of martyrdom (shahādat) for death on the battlefield. Theoretically incisive, ethnographically charged, and politically urgent, Dying to Serve is a landmark publication in the study of South Asia, Pakistan, and modern militarism that is destined to become a classic. It is also written with lyrical lucidity, making it an excellent text to teach in a range of undergraduate and graduate courses on modern Islam, South Asia, religion and violence, gender and masculinity, affect studies, and theories and methods in anthropology and religion. 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
As British colonial rulers expanded their control in South Asia legal resolutions were increasingly shaped by the English classification of social life. The definitional divide that structured the role of law in most cases was the line between what was deemed religious versus secular. In Governing Islam: Law, Empire, and Secularism in Modern South Asia (Cambridge University Press, 2018), Julia Stephens, Assistant Professor in the Department of History at Rutgers University, examines how Islam and Muslims were regulated within legal domains that managed various spheres of life. British rule determined that religious laws were most effective in governing family affairs but secular laws would govern markets and transactions. What complicated this simple binary was that Islamic “personal law” was very often bound up with economic issues. In our conversation we discuss British notions of “secular governance,” marriage and women’s property, the role of custom in legal reasoning, rulings around ritual and challenges to conformity, the construction of “personal law,” the relationships between colonial judges and Muslim legal scholars, how colonial law contributed to women’s economic marginalization, the relationship between gender and Islamic law, tensions between Hindus and Muslims, and how South Asia’s past can help us think about the present. Kristian Petersen is an Assistant Professor of Philosophy & Religious Studies at Old Dominion University. You can find out more about his work on his website, follow him on Twitter @BabaKristian, or email him at Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
Punjab was the arena of one of the first major armed conflicts of post-colonial India. During its deadliest decade, as many as 250,000 people were killed. This book makes an urgent intervention in the history of the conflict, which to date has been characterized by a fixation on sensational violence—or ignored altogether. In her book Faith, Gender, and Activism in the Punjab Conflict: The Wheat Fields Still Whisper (Palgrave Macmillan, 2019), Mallika Kaur unearths the stories of three people who found themselves at the center of Punjab’s human rights movement: Baljit Kaur, who armed herself with a video camera to record essential evidence of the conflict; Justice Ajit Singh Bains, who became a beloved “people’s judge”; and Inderjit Singh Jaijee, who returned to Punjab to document abuses even as other elites were fleeing. Together, they are credited with saving countless lives. Braiding oral histories, personal snapshots, and primary documents recovered from at-risk archives, Kaur shows that when entire conflicts are marginalized, we miss essential stories: stories of faith, feminist action, and the power of citizen-activists. Sneha Annavarapu is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Sociology at the University of Chicago. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
Ibrahim Fraihat’s latest book, Iran and Saudi Arabia: Taming a Chaotic Conflict (Edinburgh University Press, 2020) is much more than an exploration of the history of animosity between Saudi Arabia and Iran and its debilitating impact on an already volatile Middle East. It is a detailed roadmap for management and resolution of what increasingly looks like an intractable conflict. Based on years of field research, Fraihat builds a framework that initially could help Saudi Arabia and Iran prevent their conflict from spinning out of control, create mechanisms for communication and travel down a road of confidence building that could create building blocks for a resolution. Fraihat’s book could not have been published at a more critical moment. A devastating coronavirus pandemic has hit both Saudi Arabia and Iran hard. So has the associated global economic breakdown and the collapse of oil markets. The double whammies constitute the most existential crisis the kingdom has faced in at least half a century. They hit Iran particularly hard as it labours under harsh US sanctions. Fraihat offers a roadmap that would allow Saudi Arabia and Iran to ultimately extricate themselves from costly proxy wars in Yemen, Syria and Libya. By providing a detailed roadmap, Fraihat’s book makes a major contribution not only to a vast literature of conflict in the Middle East but also to policymakers in Saudi Arabia and as well as would-be mediators. James M. Dorsey is a senior fellow at Nanyang Technological University S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies and the National University of Singapore’s Middle East Institute. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
Slavery and the University: Histories and Legacies (University of Georgia Press, 2019), edited by Leslie M. Harris, James T. Campbell, and Alfred L. Brophy, is the first edited collection of scholarly essays devoted solely to the histories and legacies of this subject on North American campuses and in their Atlantic contexts. Gathering together contributions from scholars, activists, and administrators, the volume combines two broad bodies of work: (1) historically based interdisciplinary research on the presence of slavery at higher education institutions in terms of the development of proslavery and antislavery thought and the use of slave labor; and (2) analysis on the ways in which the legacies of slavery in institutions of higher education continued in the post–Civil War era to the present day. The collection features broadly themed essays on issues of religion, economy, and the regional slave trade of the Caribbean. It also includes case studies of slavery’s influence on specific institutions, such as Princeton University, Harvard University, Oberlin College, Emory University, and the University of Alabama. Though the roots of Slavery and the University stem from a 2011 conference at Emory University, the collection extends outward to incorporate recent findings. As such, it offers a roadmap to one of the most exciting developments in the field of U.S. slavery studies and to ways of thinking about racial diversity in the history and current practices of higher education. Today I spoke with Leslie Harris about the book. Dr. Harris is a professor of history at Northwestern University. She is the coeditor, with Ira Berlin, of Slavery in New York and the coeditor, with Daina Ramey Berry, of Slavery and Freedom in Savannah (Georgia). Adam McNeil is a History PhD student at Rutgers University-New Brunswick. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
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