McCallum, “Christian Communities in the Middle East”

In December, Routledge Publishing will release Christian Communities in the Middle East: Faith, Identity, and Integration by Fiona McCallum (University of St. Andrews). The publisher’s description follows:

routledge-logoThe Christian communities in the Middle East exist in an environment where religion has retained strong social significance but society is dominated by a different faith. This work explores the different historical processes of state building to examine regime policies towards the Christian presence in Syria and Jordan, identifying the methods used to accommodate groups with a distinct identity and integrate them into the nation state. This volume aims to give an overview of the under-studied Christian groups in this area, providing much-needed information on these minorities, assessing the implications of these policies on the two countries with reference to the question of regime legitimacy and determining if they can prove insightful for other regional governments in their efforts to integrate Middle Eastern Christian communities.

By examining different approaches such as secular nationalism, cultural pluralism, protected minority (dhimmi) and coercion, it would appear that there is a constant dilemma between attaining regime stability by promoting a national identity and allowing minority groups to retain their own identity. As indigenous communities, the case studies of the Christians of Syria and Jordan demonstrate to what extent the two regimes have successfully addressed this dilemma. The two countries offer interesting comparisons, and McCallum is able to highlight both the contrasting regimes and the similarities in the ongoing crises facing the region – economic problems, cultural change, the growth of political Islam and challenges posed by regional conflict. This new research will demonstrate that their role as interlocutors continues today and that their experience of living in this region has provided them with a rich knowledge and understanding of their coreligionist that is crucial to our understanding of Middle Eastern society.

Tackling issues central to the relationship between religion and politics including secularization, religious revival and the legal status of religions and their adherents, this work will be of great interest to all scholars of Religion, Comparative Politics and the Middle East.

Dodson, “Amarna Sunrise”

In December, Oxford University Press will release Amarna Sunrise: Egypt from Golden Age to Age of Heresy by Aidan Dodson (University of Bristol). The publisher’s description follows:

amarna-sunriseThe latter part of the fifteenth century BC saw Egypt’s political power reach its zenith, with an empire that stretched from beyond the Euphrates in the north to much of what is now Sudan in the south. The wealth that flowed into Egypt allowed its kings to commission some of the most stupendous temples of all time, some of the greatest dedicated to Amun-Re, King of the Gods. Yet a century later these temples lay derelict, the god’s images, names, and titles all erased in an orgy of iconoclasm by Akhenaten, the devotee of a single sun-god. This book traces the history of Egypt from the death of the great warrior-king Thutmose III to the high point of Akhenaten’s reign, when the known world brought gifts to his newly-built capital city of Amarna, in particular looking at the way in which the cult of the sun became increasingly important to even ‘orthodox’ kings, culminating in the transformation of Akhenaten’s father, Amenhotep III, into a solar deity in his own right.

Around the Web this Week

Here is a look at some interesting law and religion items from around the web this week:

Hunter, “God on Our Side”

This month, Rowman & Littlefield Publishers releases God on Our Side: Religion in International Affairs by Shireen T. Hunter (Georgetown University). The publisher’s description follows:

god-on-our-sideThis timely book offers an accessible introduction to religion in international affairs. Shireen T. Hunter highlights the growing importance of religion in politics and analyzes its nature, role, and significance. She places the question of religion’s impact on global affairs in the broader context of state and nonstate actors, weighing the factors that most affect their actions. Through the lens of three compelling and distinctive case studies—Russia’s response to the Yugoslav crisis, Turkey’s reaction to the Bosnian war, and Europe’s policy toward Turkish membership in the EU—Hunter demonstrates that religion increasingly shapes international affairs in significant and diverse ways. Her book is essential reading for anyone needing a better understanding of why and, more important, how, religion influences the behavior of international actors and thus the character of world politics.      

Brown, “Arguing Islam after the Revival of Arab Politics”

In November, Oxford University Press will release Arguing Islam after the Revival of Arab Politics by Nathan J. Brown (George Washington University). The publisher’s description follows:

arguing-islamFor much of its modern history, a combination of deep nervousness and profound lack of interest seemed to inhibit or even prevent regular political conversations in the Arab World. Public spaces were devoid of political discussions: public squares in major cities showed no signs of assemblies for political purposes. If one picked up a newspaper, one was more likely to read about the comings and goings of officials rather than any sort of comprehensive political coverage.

In the wake of the Arab Spring, newer media and older forms (such as the daily newspaper) have gradually made it easier for Middle East countries to participate in public debates from a variety of ideological perspectives. The state retreat from social welfare commitments have opened opportunities for a host of new informal groups and organizations to operate in areas previously dominated by officially-controlled bodies. These trends have obviously been noticed by social scientists, but scholars who focus on the large-scale political changes tend to edge into a celebratory tone: the changes are seen as potentially democratizing.

Arguing Islam after the Revival of Arab Politics presents an understanding the “revived” forms of Arab politics as they really are, and does not speculate about the democratic future these changes could signal. In particular, this book examines various sites of Arab public life to explore how politics operates. Four kinds of public spheres are brought into focus: small group discussions that straddle the public/private divide (such as diwaniyyas in Kuwait or piety groups in Egypt), public spaces of assembly (such as public squares and mosques), media (both new and old), and parliaments (an institution etymologically founded in philosophizing and pontificating rather than legislating). Further, the author gives due attention to the ways in which these spheres interact to explore how these gradations, affirmations, and subversions of hierarchy, status, and power make up the current political landscape of the Middle East.

The resulting work is one that is able to bridge disciplinary boundaries, offering understandings of the new political sphere. Designed to speak beyond a scholarly audience, this volume will contribute to broader public understandings of Islam in practice and of Arab politics as those who participate in it experience it.

Around the Web This Week

Here is a look at some law and religion news stories from around the web this week:

Walton, “Buddhism, Politics and Political Thought in Myanmar”

In November, Cambridge University Press will release Buddhism, Politics and Political Thought in Myanmar by Matthew J. Walton (St. Antony’s College, Oxford). The publisher’s description follows:

logoThis is the first book to provide a broad overview of the ways in which Buddhist ideas have influenced political thinking and politics in Myanmar. Matthew Walton draws extensively on Burmese language sources from the last 150 years to describe the ‘moral universe’ of contemporary Theravada Buddhism that has anchored most political thought in Myanmar. In explaining multiple Burmese understandings of notions such as ‘democracy’ and ‘political participation’, the book provides readers with a conceptual framework for understanding some of the key dynamics of Myanmar’s ongoing political transition. Some of these ideas help to shed light on restrictive or exclusionary political impulses, such as anti-Muslim Buddhist nationalism or scepticism towards the ability of the masses to participate in politics. Walton provides an analytical framework for understanding Buddhist influences on politics that will be accessible to a wide range of readers and will generate future research and debate.

“Saving the People” (Marzouki et al, eds.)

In November, Oxford University Press will release “Saving the People: How Populists Hijack Religion,” edited by Nadia Marzouki (Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique), Duncan McDonnell (Griffith University), and Olivier Roy (European University Institute). The publisher’s description follows:

Western democracies are experiencing a new wave of right-wing populism that seeks to 9780190639020mobilize religion for its own ends. With chapters on the United States, Britain, France, Italy, Austria, the Netherlands, Poland and Israel, Saving the People asks how populist movements have used religion for their own ends and how church leaders react to them. The authors contend that religion is more about belonging than belief for populists, with religious identities and traditions being deployed to define who can and cannot be part of ‘the people’. This in turn helps many populists to claim that native Christian communities are being threatened by a creeping and highly aggressive process of Islamization, with Muslims becoming a key ‘enemy of the people’. While Church elites generally condemn this instrumental use of religions, populists take little heed, presenting themselves as the true saviours of the people. The policy implications of this phenomenon are significant, which makes this book all the more timely and relevant to current debate.

Guirguis, “Copts and the Security State”

In November, Stanford University Press will release “Copts and the Security State: Violence, Coercion, and Sectarianism in Contemporary Egypt,” by Laure Guirguis (Orient-Institut, Max Weber Foundation).  The publisher’s description follows:

Copts and the Security State combines political, anthropological, and social history to
analyze the practices of the Egyptian state and the political acts of the Egyptian Coptic pid_26146minority. Laure Guirguis considers how the state, through its subjugation of Coptic citizens, reproduces a political order based on religious identity and difference. The leadership of the Coptic Church, in turn, has taken more political stances, thus foreclosing opportunities for secularization or common ground. In each instance, the underlying logics of authoritarianism and sectarianism articulate a fear of the Other, and, as Guirguis argues, are ultimately put to use to justify the expanding Egyptian security state.

In outlining the development of the security state, Guirguis focuses on state discourses and practices, with particular emphasis on the period of Hosni Mubarak’s rule, and shows the transformation of the Orthodox Coptic Church under the leadership of Pope Chenouda III. She also considers what could be done to counter the growing tensions and violence in Egypt. The 2011 Egyptian uprising constitutes the most radical recent attempt to subvert the predominant order. Still, the revolutionary discourses and practices have not yet brought forward a new system to counter the sectarian rhetoric, and the ongoing counter-revolution continues to repress political dissent.

Around the Web this Week

Here is a look at some law and religion news stories from around the web this week:

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