Elbendary, “Crowds and Sultans”

In March, Oxford University Press released “Crowds and Sultans: Urban Protest in Late Medieval Egypt and Syria,” by Amina Elbendary (American University in Cairo).  The publisher’s description follows:

During the fifteenth century, the Mamluk sultanate that had ruled Egypt and Syria since 1249-50 faced a series of sustained economic and political challenges to its rule,9789774167171 from the effects of recurrent plagues to changes in international trade routes. Both these challenges and the policies and behaviors of rulers and subjects in response to them left profound impressions on Mamluk state and society, precipitating a degree of social mobility and resulting in new forms of cultural expression. These transformations were also reflected in the frequent reports of protests during this period, and led to a greater diffusion of power and the opening up of spaces for political participation by Mamluk subjects and negotiations of power between ruler and ruled.

Rather than tell the story of this tumultuous century solely from the point of view of the Mamluk dynasty, Crowds and Sultans places the protests within the framework of long-term transformations, arguing for a more nuanced and comprehensive narrative of Mamluk state and society in late medieval Egypt and Syria. Reports of urban protest and the ways in which alliances between different groups in Mamluk society were forged allow us glimpses into how some medieval Arab societies negotiated power, showing that rather than stoically endure autocratic governments, populations often resisted and renegotiated their positions in response to threats to their interests.

This rich and thought-provoking study will appeal to specialists in Mamluk history, Islamic studies, and Arab history, as well as to students and scholars of Middle East politics and government and modern history.

“Tafsir and Islamic Intellectual History: Exploring the Boundaries of a Genre” (Görke & Pink, eds.)

In February, Oxford University Press released “Tafsir and Islamic Intellectual History: Exploring the Boundaries of a Genre”  edited by Andreas Görke (University of Edinburgh) and Johanna Pink (University of Freiburg, Germany). The publisher’s description follows:

How and when did Qur’anic exegesis (tafsir) emerge as a literary genre of its own? To what extent was it influenced by other disciplines, such as law, theology, or philosophy? How did different political or theological agendas shape works of tafsir, and in what ways did the genre develop over time and in different regions? These are some of the major questions which this book seeks to address.

This book constitutes the first comprehensive attempt at describing the genre of Qur’anic exegesis in its broader intellectual context. Its aim is to provide a framework for understanding the boundaries of tafsir and its interaction with other disciplines of learning, as well as the subgenres and internal divisions within the genre. It discusses the emergence of the genre in the beginnings of Islamic history and the changes and potential ruptures it has experienced in later times, the role of hadith, law, language, philosophy, theology, and political ideology for the interpretive process, the regional dimension, the influx of modernist ideas and the process of writing tafsir in languages other than Arabic.

Among the fifteen authors who have contributed to the volume are leading scholars in the field as well as young researchers, which makes for a unique and fresh perspective on a field that has long been reduced to its instrumental value for understanding the Qur’an. Covering the time from the formation of Qur’anic exegesis until the present, it is a valuable resource for advanced students and scholars in the field.

Janina M. Safran, “Defining Boundaries in al-Andalus”

This March, Cornell University Press will publish Defining Boundaries in al-Andalus by Janina M. Safran (Pennsylvania State University). The publisher’s description follows.

Al-Andalus, the Arabic name for the medieval Islamic state in Iberia, endured for over 750 years following the Arab and Berber conquest of Hispania in 711. While the popular perception of al-Andalus is that of a land of religious tolerance and cultural cooperation, the fact is that we know relatively little about how Muslims governed Christians and Jews in al-Andalus and about social relations among Muslims, Christians, and Jews. In Defining Boundaries in al-Andalus, Janina M. Safran takes a close look at the structure and practice of Muslim political and legal-religious authority and offers a rare look at intercommunal life in Iberia during the first three centuries of Islamic rule.

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Diouf (ed.), “Tolerance, Democracy, and Sufis in Senegal”

In January, Columbia University Press will publish Tolerance, Democracy, and Sufis in Senegal edited by Mamadou Diouf (Columbia University).  The publisher’s description follows.

This collection critically examines “tolerance,” “secularism,” and respect for religious “diversity” within a social and political system dominated by Sufi brotherhoods. Through a detailed analysis of Senegal’s political economy, essays trace the genealogy and dynamic exchange among these concepts while investigating public spaces and political processes and their reciprocal engagement with the state, Sunni reformist and radical groups, and non-religious organizations.

Through a rich and nuanced historical ethnography of the formation of Senegalese democracy, this anthology illuminates the complex trajectory of the Senegalese state and its reflection of similar postcolonial societies. Offering rare perspectives on the country’s “successes” since liberation, this collection identifies the role of religion, gender, culture, ethnicity, globalization, politics, and migration in the reconfiguration of the state and society, and it makes an important contribution to democratization theory, Islamic studies, and African studies. Scholars of comparative politics and religious studies will also appreciate the volume’s treatment of Senegal as both an exceptional and universal example of postcolonial development.

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