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

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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:

Around the Web this Week

Some law and religion news from around the web this week:

Burnidge, “A Peaceful Conquest”

In October, the University of Chicago Press will release A Peaceful Conquest: Woodrow Wilson, Religion, and the New World Order by Cara Lea Burnidge (University of Northern Iowa). The publisher’s description follows:A Peaceful Conqueswt

A century after his presidency, Woodrow Wilson remains one of the most compelling and complicated figures ever to occupy the Oval Office. A political outsider, Wilson brought to the presidency a distinctive, strongly held worldview, built on powerful religious traditions that informed his idea of America and its place in the world.

With A Peaceful Conquest, Cara Lea Burnidge presents the most detailed analysis yet of how Wilson’s religious beliefs affected his vision of American foreign policy, with repercussions that lasted into the Cold War and beyond. Framing Wilson’s intellectual development in relationship to the national religious landscape, and paying greater attention to the role of religion than in previous scholarship, Burnidge shows how Wilson’s blend of Southern evangelicalism and social Christianity became a central part of how America saw itself in the world, influencing seemingly secular policy decisions in subtle, lasting ways. Ultimately, Burnidge makes a case for Wilson’s religiosity as one of the key drivers of the emergence of the public conception of America’s unique, indispensable role in international relations.

As the presidential election cycle once again raises questions of America’s place in the world, A Peaceful Conquest offers a fascinating excavation of its little-known roots.

“Religious Dynamics under the Impact of Imperialism and Colonialism” (Bentlage et al, eds.)

In October, Brill Publishers will release “Religious Dynamics under the Impact of Imperialism and Colonialism,” edited by Bjorn Bentlage (Martin-Luther University), Marion Eggert (Ruhr University Bochum), Hans Martin Krämer (Heidelberg University), and Stefan Reichmuth (Ruhr University Bochum). The publisher’s description follows:

This sourcebook offers rare insights into a formative period in the modern history of religions. TBrill_logohroughout the late 19th and the early 20th centuries, when commercial, political and cultural contacts intensified worldwide, politics and religions became ever more entangled. This volume offers a wide range of translated source texts from all over Asia, the Middle East, and Europe, thereby diminishing the difficulty of having to handle the plurality of involved languages and backgrounds. The ways in which the original authors, some prominent and others little known, thought about their own religion, its place in the world and its relation to other religions, allows for much needed insight into the shared and analogous challenges of an age dominated by imperialism and colonialism.

Around the Web

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