Janson, “Islam, Youth, and Modernity in the Gambia: The Tablighi Jama’at”

Next month, Cambridge will publish Islam, Youth, and Modernity in the Gambia: 9781107040571The Tablighi Jama’at, by Marloes Janson (University of London). The publisher’s description follows.

This monograph deals with the sweeping emergence of the Tablighi Jama’at – a transnational Islamic missionary movement that has its origins in the reformist tradition that emerged in India in the mid-nineteenth century – in the Gambia in the past decade. It explores how a movement that originated in South Asia could appeal to the local Muslim population – youth and women in particular – in a West African setting. By recording the biographical narratives of five Gambian Tablighis, the book provides an understanding of the ambiguities and contradictions young people are confronted with in their (re)negotiation of Muslim identity. Together these narratives form a picture of how Gambian youth go about their lives within the framework of neo-liberal reforms and renegotiated parameters informed by the Tablighi model of how to be a “true” Muslim, which is interpreted as a believer who is able to reconcile his or her faith with a modern lifestyle.

Religious Division and Identity – Richard III and the Rest of Us – Part I

Thanks to Mark Movsesian for inviting me to guest blog here.  I’ll mainly be posting in October, but here’s a down payment inspired by Mark’s entry about the decision to re-inter the recently-discovered remains of King Richard III in Leicester’s Anglican Cathedral rather than give him a Catholic burial.  The Catholic bishop of Nottingham  has approved the plan, and Mark’s post was appropriately relaxed, even tongue-in-cheek, about the whole thing.  But some Catholic commentators are genuinely upset.  They argue that Richard was Catholic, not Anglican, and deserves a Catholic ceremony.  They insist that, for that matter, the Anglican Church didn’t even exist when Richard died.

Fights over long-dead bodies, famous or not, are often both religiously fraught and emotional.  Consider the efforts of American Indian tribes, bolstered by the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) of 1990, to reclaim remains that have ended up in museum collections.  But they can also implicate deeper issues about religious identity and continuity — questions that end up involving theology, history, and law.  For example, are prehistoric remains, such as those of Kenwick Man, genuinely the patrimony of modern native tribes?  The Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit famously said no.

Back to Richard III, though.  Many Anglicans would deny that Richard III was “Catholic” in the limited contemporary sense of the word that would exclude his membership in the “Church of England.”  The simple reason is that Anglicans claim a direct line back from their Church to the Church to which Richard belonged.  As the COE’s website puts it, “The roots of the Church of England go back to the time of the Roman Empire when Christianity entered the Roman province of Britain. Through the influences of St Alban, St Illtud, St Ninian, St Patrick and, later, St Augustine, St Aidan and St Cuthbert, the Church of England developed, acknowledging the authority of the Pope until the Reformation in the 16th century.”  Thus, Henry VIII might have split the English Church from Rome, but he did not create it anew.  To be sure, Catholics have a different view. But neither position is self-evident by sheer definition.

Continue reading

Ray, “After Expulsion”

Here’s an interesting looking book about the construction of Sephardic Jewish After Expulsionidentity in the centuries following the edict of Ferdinand and Isabella expelling hundreds of thousands of Jews from Spain: After Expulsion: 1492 and the Making of Sephardic Jewry (NYU Press 2013) by Jonathan Ray (Georgetown). The publisher’s description follows.

On August 3, 1492, the same day that Columbus set sail from Spain, the long and glorious history of that nation’s Jewish community officially came to a close. The expulsion of Europe’s last major Jewish community ended more than a thousand years of unparalleled prosperity, cultural vitality and intellectual productivity. Yet, the crisis of 1492 also gave rise to a dynamic and resilient diaspora society spanning East and West.

After Expulsion traces the various paths of migration and resettlement of Sephardic Jews and Conversos over the course of the tumultuous sixteenth century. Pivotally, the volume argues that the exiles did not become “Sephardic Jews” overnight. Only in the second and third generation did these disparate groups coalesce and adopt a “Sephardic Jewish” identity.

After Expulsion presents a new and fascinating portrait of Jewish society in transition from the medieval to the early modern period, a portrait that challenges many longstanding assumptions about the differences between Europe and the Middle East.

Gulalp & Seufert, “Religion, Identity, and Politics: Germany and Turkey in Interaction”

This April, Routledge Publishers will publish Religion, Identity, and Politics: Germany and Turkey in Interaction edited by Haldun Gulalp (Yıldız Technical University) and Günter Seufert (senior researcher, German Institute for International and Security Affairs). The publisher’s description follows.

This book examines the long history and unrecognized depth of German-Turkish relations, particularly with regard to the mutually formative processes of religious identities and institutions. Opposing the commonly held assumption that Europe is the abode of secularism and enlightenment, while the lands of Islam are the realm of backwardness and fundamentalism, the authors observe that, Germany, as the case in point, both historically and contemporarily has treated religion as a core aspect of communal and civilizational identity and framed its institutions accordingly. Further, there has been, and continues to be, a mutual exchange in this regard between Germany and both the Ottoman Empire and modern Turkey. Definition of identity and regulation of communities have been explicitly based on religion until the early and since the late twentieth century. The period in between, often treated as normative for being identified with secular and national communities, now appears as an exception.

Purohit, “The Aga Khan Case”

This September, Harvard University Press will publish The Aga Khan Case: Religion and Identity in Colonial India by Teena Purohit (Boston University). The publisher’s description follows.

An overwhelmingly Arab-centric perspective dominates the West’s understanding of Islam and leads to a view of this religion as exclusively Middle Eastern and monolithic. Teena Purohit presses for a reorientation that would conceptualize Islam instead as a heterogeneous religion that has found a variety of expressions in local contexts throughout history. The story she tells of an Ismaili community in colonial India illustrates how much more complex Muslim identity is, and always has been, than the media would have us believe. Continue reading

Gottschalk, “Religion, Science, and Empire”

In October, Oxford University Press will publish Religion, Science, and Empire: Classifying Hinduism and Islam in British India by Peter Gottschalk (Wesleyan University). The publisher’s description follows.

Peter Gottschalk offers a compelling study of how, through the British implementation of scientific taxonomy in the subcontinent, Britons and Indians identified an inherent divide between mutually antagonistic religious communities.

England’s ascent to power coincided with the rise of empirical science as an authoritative way of knowing not only the natural world, but the human one as well. The British scientific passion for classification, combined with the Christian impulse to differentiate people according to religion, led to a designation of Indians as either Hindu or Muslim according to rigidly defined criteria that paralleled classification in botanical and zoological taxonomies. Continue reading

Stahl on Local Government, Vote Appropriation and “the Jewish Question”

Kenneth Stahl  (Chapman U. School of Law) has posted Local Government, One Person/One Vote, and the Jewish Question. The abstract follows.

This article argues that the Supreme Court’s jurisprudence regarding the application of the ‘one person/one vote’ rule to local governments, while often considered hopelessly confused, actually contains an internal logic that reflects the ambiguous legacy of the Enlightenment in this country. There are three broad strands within the one person/one vote jurisprudence: the first, beginning with Avery v. Midland County, requires cities to apportion votes based on a ‘one person/one vote’ principle; the second, exemplified by Ball v. James, permits certain municipalities to apportion votes according to a ‘one dollar/one vote’ formula; and a third, captured in Holt Civic Club v. City of Tuscaloosa, gives the state plenary power to allocate votes with regard to some local government matters. Although these three strands seem impossible to reconcile, they are all consistent with an Enlightenment jurisprudential project to consolidate the power of the central state by suppressing the ability of entities exercising authority over particular territories, such as local governments, to challenge the state’s hegemony. Continue reading

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