Abdo, “The New Sectarianism”

In December, Oxford University Press will release The New Sectarianism: The Arab Uprisings and the Rebirth of the Shi’a-Sunni Divide by Geneive Abdo (Atlantic Council). The publisher’s description follows:

the-new-sectarianismThe Shi’a-Sunni conflict is one of the most significant outcomes arising from the Arab rebellions. Yet, there is little understanding of who is driving this tension and the underlying causes. By delving deeply into the historical factors leading up to the present-day conflict, The New Sectarianism sheds new light on how Shi’a and Sunni perceive one another after the Arab uprisings, how these perceptions have affected the Arab world, and why the dream of a pan-Islamic awakening was misplaced.

Geneive Abdo describes a historical backdrop that serves as a counterpoint to Western media coverage of the so-called Arab Spring. Already by the 1970s, she says, Shi’a and Sunni communities had begun to associate their religious beliefs and practices with personal identity, replacing their fragile loyalty to the nation state. By the time the Arab risings erupted into their full fury in early 2011, there was fertile ground for instability. The ensuing clash-between Islamism and Nationalism, Shi’a and Sunni, and other factions within these communities-has resulted in unprecedented violence. So, Abdo asks, what does religion have to do with it? This sectarian conflict is often presented by the West as rivalry over land use, political power, or access to education. However, Abdo persuasively argues that it must be understood as flowing directly from religious difference and the associated identities that this difference has conferred on both Shi’a and Sunni.

The New Sectarianism considers the causes for this conflict in key countries such as Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and Bahrain and the development of regional trends. Abdo argues that in these regions religion matters, not only in how it is utilized by extremists, moderate Islamists, and dictators alike for political purposes, but how it perpetually evolves and is perceived and practiced among the vast majority of Muslims. Shi’a and Sunni today are not battling over territory alone; they are fighting for their claim to a true Islamic identity.

Burke & Segall, “Christian Privilege in U.S. Education”

In December, Routledge will release Christian Privilege in U.S. Education: Legacies and Current Issues by Kevin J. Burke (University of Georgia) and Avner Segall (Michigan State University). The publisher’s description follows:

christian-privlegeUsing critical curriculum theory as its lens, this book explores the relationship between religion—specifically, Christianity and the Judeo-Christian ethos underlying it—and secular public education in the United States. Despite various 20th-century court decisions separating religion and education, the authors challenge that religion is in fact absent from public education, suggesting instead that it is in fact very much embedded in current public educational practices and discourses and in a variety of assumptions and perspectives underlying understandings of teaching, learning, and teacher preparation. The book reframes the discussion about religion and schooling, arguing that it remains in the language and metaphors of education, in the practices and routines of schooling, in conceptions of the “’child” and the “teacher” (and what happens between them in the spaces we call “learning,” the “classroom,” and “curriculum”) as well as in assumptions about the role of schools emanating from such conceptions and in the current movement toward accountability, standardization, and testing. Christian Privilege in U.S. Education examines not whether Christianity has a place in public education but, rather, the very ways in it is pervasive in a legally secular system of education even when religion is not a topic taught in school.