Faculty publications

Amyn B. Sajoo

The Shari'a: History, Ethics and Law, 2018

Why is the term sharia — the mention of which conjures up images of a politicised religion in many parts of the world — understood in the ways that it is today? For Muslims and non-Muslims alike, much is read into this term, often with scant regard for its historical, cultural or theological underpinnings. The politics of identity has a profound effect on contemporary life, both secular and religious, and this includes our understandings of the sharia. Yet at the core of this concept, for Muslims, is the quest for a moral compass by which to navigate a path through life (Qur’an, 45:18), informed deeply by revelation and its interpretation by the Prophet Muhammad as well as his closest Companions. Built on this foundation is an ongoing human endeavour to grasp and lend expression to that teaching — elaborately in law, but no less so in devotional, ethical and customary practices in diverse Shi'i and Sunni Muslim communities, including in the West. Popular myths about the sharia — that it is divine law, that it is contained in a single code recognised by all Muslims, that it is about controlling behavior, that it ‘defines’ Islam — are challenged in this volume by leading scholars, with a view to illuminating how we arrived here and where we might be headed. The claims of the modern state as the custodian of the sharia are put into perspective, alongside the vital role of a pluralist civil society. From bioethics, human development, family law and finance to constitutional and human rights issues, this fifth volume in the Muslim Heritage Series offers an accessible account of the ideals and realities of the sharia. As such, it will appeal not only to specialists in the humanities and social sciences, but also to the general reader with an interest in global affairs and informed citizenship.

Amyn B. Sajoo

The Shi'i World: Pathways in Tradition and Modernity, 2015

The world's 200 million Shi'i Muslims express their faith in a multiplicity of ways, united by reverence for the ahl al-bayt, the family of the Prophet. In embracing a pluralistic ethic, fourteen centuries of Shi'i Islam have given rise to diverse traditions and practices across varied geographic and cultural landscapes. The Shi'i World is a comprehensive work authored by leading scholars from assorted disciplines, to provide a better understanding of how Shi'i communities view themselves and articulate their teachings. The topics range from Shi'i Islam's historical and conceptual foundations, formative figures and intellectual, legal and moral traditions, to its devotional practices, art and architecture, literature, music and cinema, as well as expressions and experiences of modernity. The book thus provides a panoramic perspective of the richly textured narratives that have shaped the social and moral universe of Shi'i Muslims around the globe.This fourth volume in the Muslim Heritage Series will appeal to specialists and general readers alike, as a timely resource on the prevailing complexities not only of the 'Muslim world', but also of the dynamic Shi'i diasporas of Europe and North America.

Yıldız Atasoy

Global Economic Crisis and the Politics of Diversity, 2014

An interdisciplinary group of scholars from the global North and South critically explore the global deepening of market economy models. In case studies including Asia, the Middle East and Latin America, they examine the associated tensions of livelihood and ecology in the current context of global economic crisis, considering issues of natural ecology, water use, health, childcare, technology and work, migration, and economic growth. The analysis of the complex connections between domestic and global dynamics across diverse cases and issues helps reveal that state-centric approaches are still hovering over the politics of restructuring through which conformity to economic growth is addressed.

Other publications by Dr. Atasoy

Parin Dossa

Afghanistan Remembers: Gendered Narrations of Violence and Culinary Practices, 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.

Afghanistan Remembers makes an important contribution to the literature on memory and memorialization, the gender relations of war, immigration and diaspora studies, and the political economy and anthropology of food. The detailed, richly layered telling of the women’s stories is exceptional, as is Dossa’s analysis of them.”

Wenona Giles, Department of Anthropology, York University

Derryl N. MacLean

Cosmopolitanism in Muslim Contexts: Perspectives from the Past, 2012

Edited by Derryl N. MacLean and Sikeena Karmali Ahmed

"Exceeds all previous efforts to address the intersection of Islam and cosmopolitan norms, values, and options."

– Bruce B. Lawrence, Marcus Family Professor of Humanities and Professor of Islamic Studies Emeritus, Duke University

This collection of 9 essays focuses on instances in world history when cosmopolitan ideas and actions pervaded specific Muslim societies and cultures. The contributors explore the tensions between regional cultures, isolated enclaves and modern nation-states.

Cosmopolitanism is a key concept in social and political thought, standing in opposition to closed human group ideologies such as tribalism, nationalism and fundamentalism. Recent discussions of it have been situated within Western self-perceptions. Now, this volume explores it from Muslim perspectives.

Thomas Kuehn

Empire, Islam, and Politics of Difference. Ottoman Rule in Yemen, 1849-1919, 2011

 "Thomas Kuehn's remarkable book breaks new ground by drawing the late Ottoman Empire into comparative imperial studies. His history of late-nineteenth century Yemen examines Ottoman methods of conquest and rule that drew as much on the experience of European colonial empires as on Istanbul's own practices of ruling remote Arab lands. Drawing on the widest range of Ottoman archival sources, reinforced by contemporary Arabic references, Kuehn presents a lucid and persuasive analysis of the successes and shortcomings of the Ottomans' civilizing mission in Yemen. The sectarian order the Ottomans left behind has proven a divisive legacy that marks Yemen down to the present day. A brilliant book that deserves the widest possible readership among scholars of late nineteenth century empire and the Ottomans' place in that order."

– Eugene Rogan
St Antony's College, Oxford

"Kuehn skillfully weaves several themes together to demonstrate the tensions of Ottoman rule in a frontier province in the age of high European imperialism. He draws clear and convincing comparisons between the European colonial and imperial enterprise in the late nineteenth century and the modern Ottoman endeavor to create what he dubs 'colonial Ottomanism' in Yemen. The Ottoman bureaucrats and military men that conquered and then created the administrative structures of Yemen employed techniques of government built on a set of distinctions between tribal and civilized, between rural and urban, between governance according to 'local' Islamic norm and governance through modern administration. In their attempt to govern Yemen, the late imperial Ottomans looked similar to the late British imperialist. Their colonial enterprise, however, was distinctly Ottoman. It was from the beginning shaped by the fact that the Ottomans viewed themselves as Muslim rulers bringing into the imperial fold a Muslim frontier threatened by European encroachments. Their bureaucrats viewed the Yemenis as subjects that needed to be turned into modern Ottomans loyal to the only surviving Muslim state.
Kuehn’s book should be of great interest to historians and graduate students focused on the study of comparative empires as well as scholars who work on imperial frontiers. Is it a welcome edition to the growing and exciting field of nineteenth century Ottoman history."

– Dina Rizk Khoury
George Washington University

Paul Sedra 

From Misson to Modernity, Evangelical Reformers and Education in Nineteenth Century Egypt, 2011

"With its clear writing, broad-ranging analysis, and rich insight, From Mission to Modernity is both an impressive achievement and a pleasure to read. Sedra sweeps across an eventful nineteenth century to present what is at once an intellectual history, a history of education, and a history of religion and politics. With this book, Sedra makes a major contribution to the study of nineteenth-century Egypt."
– Heather J. Sharkey, Associate Professor of Middle Eastern & Islamic Studies, University of Pennsylvania

"In describing nearly a century of interactions between Protestant missionaries and Egypt’s indigenous Coptic community, Paul Sedra’s new book deepens our understanding of the subtle ways missionization helped transform Egyptian society through processes of "cultural conversion" even in the absence of significant religious conversion. Sedra shows how international relations, domestic politics, specific educational strategies, and the widening gap between wealthy Coptic landowners and the Church hierarchy served to inculcate a 'modern Coptic subjectivity'."
– Gregory Starrett, Professor of Anthropology, University of North Carolina at Charlotte, and President, Middle East Section of the American Anthropological Association

"This book offers a compelling story of the tensions of colonialism in the intertwined realms of education and religion. As well as being a delightful read, it represents a useful contribution to Egypt studies and Middle Eastern studies with fascinating new data and fresh interpretations. Sedra has opened up new areas of research on the 19th century Middle East."
– Jessica Winegar, Assistant Professor of Anthropology, Northwestern University

Amyn B. Sajoo

A Companion to Muslim Cultures, 2011

Culture shapes every aspect of the relationship between God and the believer in Islam -- as well as between believers, and with those beyond the fold.  Fasts, prayers, and pilgrimages are attuned to social rhythms old and new, no less than the designs of mosques and public gardens, the making of 'religious' music, and ways of thinking about technology and wellbeing.  Ancient deserts and modern urban landscapes may echo with the same call for transcendence, but in voices that emerge from very different everyday realities.  The cosmopolitanism that runs through Muslim history from the outset recalls T.S. Eliot's remark that culture is 'that which makes life worth living.'

Andre Gerolymatos

Castles Made of Sand: A Century of Anglo-American Espionage and Intervention in the Middle East, 2011

Amyn B. Sajoo

A Companion to Muslim Ethics, 2010

"The field of Islamic ethics is resuming its rightful place among the disciplines of Islamic thought.  Scholars are now recognizing the ways in which ethics mediate the connection between law and spirituality, the realms of the public and the private.  Amyn Sajoo’s scholarship is very much at the forefront of this renewed interest in Islamic ethics. Highly recommended!"

–Omid Safi, University of North Carolina

Ken Seigneurie 

Standing by the Ruins: Elegiac Humanism in Wartime and Postwar Lebanon, 2010

"Fascinating, eloquent, and tightly argued, Standing by the Ruins offers a distinctive perspective on relations between cultural productions and politics in times of extreme duress.Across a range of fascinating examples, Seigneiurie shows the ways in which novelists and filmmakers offer alternative visions in a collapsing world that can set the stage for new ways of imagining the future."  -David Damrosch

"An excellent study of the cultural production of Lebanese society resulting from the period of civil war."  -Roger Allen

Laura Marks

Enfoldment and Infinity: An Islamic Genealogy of New Media Art,  2010

Enfoldment and Infinity is the most inventive synthesis of European and Islamic thought since Reza Negarestani's Cyclonopedia. This is a book full of imagination and theory, restlessly refusing to remain in the usual continental, philosophic, or chronological borders, continuously reimagining contemporary abstraction as a profoundly Muslim visual discourse."
James Elkins, School of the Art Institute of Chicago

"Admirably researched, beautifully documented, and written with dedicated passion, Enfoldment and Infinity convincingly demonstrates the deep continuities between ancient Islamic art and new media art. With this book, Laura Marks makes an original and important contribution to understanding the aesthetics of contemporary media culture and its hidden Islamic genealogies."
Patricia Pisters, University of Amsterdam