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Darren Byler, Columbia Global Reports, 2021
How China built a network of surveillance to detain over a million people and produce a system of control previously unknown in human history. A cruel and high-tech form of colonization has been unfolding over the past decade in China’s vast northwestern region of Xinjiang, where as many as a million and a half Uyghurs, Kazakhs and Hui have vanished into high-security camps and associated factories. It is the largest internment of a religious minority since World War II. Darren Byler, one of the world's leading experts on Uyghur society and Chinese surveillance, draws on a decade of research on the region, examining thousands of government documents and conducting many hours of interviews with both detainees and camp workers. Byler tells the stories of people like U.S. college student Vera, police contractor Baimurat, camp instructor Qelbinur, Kazakh farmer Adilbek, and truck driver Erbakyt, who show how a sophisticated network of facial surveillance, voice recognition, and smartphone tracking technology, built by private corporations, enabled authorities to blacklist Muslims for “pre-crimes” that sometimes consist only of having installed social media apps. Their stories narrate a process of surveillance overwhelming life, and push Byler to examine how technological tools that are being built in locations from Seattle to Beijing are being adapted to create forms of unfreedom for vulnerable people around the world.
Darren Byler, Duke University Press, 2021
In Terror Capitalism anthropologist Darren Byler theorizes the contemporary Chinese colonization of the Uyghur Muslim minority group in the northwest autonomous region of Xinjiang. He shows that the mass detention of over one million Uyghurs in “reeducation camps” is part of processes of resource extraction in Uyghur lands that have led to what he calls terror capitalism—a configuration of ethnoracialization, surveillance, and mass detention that in this case promotes settler colonialism. Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork in the regional capital Ürümchi, Byler shows how media infrastructures, the state’s enforcement of “Chinese” cultural values, and the influx of Han Chinese settlers contribute to Uyghur dispossession and their expulsion from the city. He particularly attends to the experiences of young Uyghur men—who are the primary target of state violence—and how they develop masculinities and homosocial friendships to protect themselves against gendered, ethnoracial, and economic violence. By tracing the political and economic stakes of Uyghur colonization, Byler demonstrates that state-directed capitalist dispossession is co-constructed with a colonial relation of domination.
Tamir Moustafa, Cambridge University Press, 2018 (open access)
Most Muslim-majority countries have legal systems that enshrine both Islam and liberal rights. While not necessarily at odds, these dual commitments nonetheless provide legal and symbolic resources for activists to advance contending visions for their states and societies. Using the case study of Malaysia, Tamir Moustafa examines how these legal arrangements enable litigation and feed the construction of a 'rights-versus-rites binary' in law, politics, and the popular imagination. By drawing on extensive primary source material and tracing controversial cases from the court of law to the court of public opinion, this study theorizes the 'judicialization of religion' and the radiating effects of courts on popular legal and religious consciousness. The book documents how legal institutions catalyze ideological struggles, which stand to redefine the nation and its politics. Probing the links between legal pluralism, social movements, secularism, and political Islamism, Constituting Religion sheds new light on the confluence of law, religion, politics, and society.
Parin Dossa, University of Toronto Press, 2014
Although extensive literature exists on the violence of war, little attention has been given to the ways in which this violence becomes entrenched and normalized in the inner recesses of everyday life. In Afghanistan Remembers, Parin Dossa examines Afghan women’s recall of violence through memories and food practices in their homeland and its diaspora. Her work reveals how the suffering and trauma of violence has been rendered socially invisible following decades of life in a war-zone. Dossa argues that it is necessary to acknowledge the impact of violence on the familial lives of Afghan women along with their attempts at recovery under difficult circumstances. Informed by Dossa’s own story of family migration and loss, Afghanistan Remembers is a poignant ethnographic account of the trauma of war. She calls on the reader to recognize and bear witness to the impact of deeper forms of violence.
Adel Iskandar, The American University in Cairo Press, 2013
No chapter in Egypt’s contemporary history has been more turbulent and unpredictable than the past three years. In a very short period of time, the Arab world’s most populous country has seen a transition from rule by an iron-fisted dictatorship to a populist uprising to military omnipotence to Islamist electoral victory to constitutional turmoil to societal polarization. Egypt’s iconic revolution has been neither victorious nor defeated. Egypt in Flux is a collection of essays on the political, social, economic, and cultural dimensions of change in the country’s ongoing revolutionary current. While written over a span of several years, the essays are timeless in the historical context they provide and their ability to chart the country’s trajectory in the period ahead. From the conditions that precipitated the uprising and the eruption of national dissent to the derailing of the revolution, the author reflects on the pressing topics of the day while being mindful of the counterrevolutionary movements and the continuation of the unending uprising. From discussions about the illusion of fair and free elections, social inequities, and labor disparities to examinations of religion, sports, literature, and sexuality, the essays in this valuable and intellectually stimulating volume chart both the broad lines and the nuances of an unfinished revolution.
Thomas Kuehn, Brill Publishing, 2011
Historians of the Middle East in the long nineteenth century have often considered empire-building the preserve of European powers. This book revises this picture by exploring how the Ottomans re-conquered and ruled large parts of present-day Yemen between 1849 and the end of World War I, after more than two centuries of independence under local dynasties. Drawing on a wide range of sources and on recent scholarship on empire and colonialism Empire, Islam, and Politics of Difference shows how the concepts and practices of Ottoman imperial rule were shaped through the encounters between Ottoman officials, their European rivals, and local communities. The result is a fresh look at the nature of governance in the late Ottoman Empire more generally.
Paul Sedra, Bloomsbury Publishing, 2011
In this pioneering account of Egyptian educational history, Paul Sedra describes how the Egyptian state under Muhammad Ali Pasha sought to forge a new relationship with children during the nineteenth century. Through the introduction of modern forms of education, brought to Egypt by evangelical missions, the state aimed to ensure children's loyal service to the state, whether through conscription or forced labour. However, these schemes of educational reform, most prominently Joseph Lancaster's monitorial system, led to unforeseen consequences as students in Egypt's new modern schools resisted efforts to control their behaviour in creative and complex ways, and these acts of resistance themselves led to new forms of political identity. Tracing the development of a distinctly Egyptian 'modernity', From Mission to Modernity is indispensable for all those interested in Egyptian history and the history of modern education and reform.
Ken Seigneurie, Fordham University Press, 2010
Since the mid-1970s, Lebanon has been at the center of the worldwide rise in sectarian extremism. Its cultural output has both mediated and resisted this rise. Standing by the Ruins reviews the role of culture in supporting sectarianism, yet argues for the emergence of a distinctive aesthetic of resistance to it. Focusing on contemporary Lebanese fiction, film, and popular culture, this book shows how artists reappropriated the twin legacies of commitment literature and the ancient topos of “standing by the ruins” to form a new “elegiac humanism” during the tumultuous period of 1975 to 2005. It redirects attention to the critical role of culture in conditioning attitudes throughout society and is therefore relevant to other societies facing sectarian extremism. Standing by the Ruins is also a strong intervention in the burgeoning field of World Literature. Elaborating on the great Arabist Hilary Kilpatrick’s crucial insight that ancient Arabic forms and topoi filter into modern literature, the author details how the “standing by the ruins” topos—and the structure of feeling it conditions—has migrated over time. Modern Arabic novels, feature films, and popular culture, far from being simply cultural imports, are hybrid forms deployed to respond to the challenges of contemporary Arab society. As such, they can take their place within a World Literature paradigm: they are cultural products that travel and intervene in the world.
Laura Marks, MIT Press, 2010
In both classical Islamic art and contemporary new media art, one point can unfold to reveal an entire universe. A fourteenth-century dome decorated with geometric complexity and a new media work that shapes a dome from programmed beams of light: both can inspire feelings of immersion and transcendence. In Enfoldment and Infinity, Laura Marks traces the strong similarities, visual and philosophical, between these two kinds of art. Her argument is more than metaphorical; she shows that the “Islamic” quality of modern and new media art is a latent, deeply enfolded, historical inheritance from Islamic art and thought. Marks proposes an aesthetics of unfolding and enfolding in which image, information, and the infinite interact: image is an interface to information, and information (such as computer code or the words of the Qur'an) is an interface to the infinite. After demonstrating historically how Islamic aesthetics traveled into Western art, Marks draws explicit parallels between works of classical Islamic art and new media art, describing texts that burst into image, lines that multiply to form fractal spaces, “nonorganic life” in carpets and algorithms, and other shared concepts and images. Islamic philosophy, she suggests, can offer fruitful ways of understanding contemporary art.
Tamir Moustafa, Cambridge University Press, 2007
For nearly three decades, scholars and policymakers have placed considerable stock in judicial reform as a panacea for the political and economic turmoil plaguing developing countries. Courts are charged with spurring economic development, safeguarding human rights, and even facilitating transitions to democracy. How realistic are these expectations, and in what political contexts can judicial reforms deliver their expected benefits? Tamir Moustafa addresses these issues through an examination of the politics of the Egyptian Supreme Constitutional Court, the most important experiment in constitutionalism in the Arab world. The Egyptian regime established a surprisingly independent constitutional court to address a series of economic and administrative pathologies that lie at the heart of authoritarian political systems. Although the Court helped the regime to institutionalize state functions and attract investment, it simultaneously opened new avenues through which rights advocates and opposition parties could challenge the regime. The Struggle for Constitutional Power challenges conventional wisdom and provides insights into perennial questions concerning the barriers to institutional development, economic growth, and democracy in the developing world.
Mohammed el-Nawawy and Adel Iskandar, Basic Books, 2003
Al-Jazeera, the independent, all-Arab television news network based in Qatar, emerged as ambassador to the Arab world in the events following September 11, 2001. Arabic for “the peninsula,” Al-Jazeera has “scooped” the western media conglomerates many times. With its exclusive access to Osama Bin Laden and members of the Taliban, its reputation has been burnishing quickly through its exposure on CNN, even as it strives to maintain its independence as an international free press news network. Al-Jazeera sheds light on the background of the network: how it operates, the programs it broadcasts, its effects on Arab viewers, the reactions of the West and Arab states, the implications for the future of news broadcasting in the Middle East, and its struggle for a free press and public opinion in the Arab world.