RECENT BOOKS BY FACULTY & ALUMNI

Theodor Herzl: The Charismatic Leader
Penslar, Derek. Theodor Herzl: The Charismatic Leader. Yale University Press, 2020. Publisher's VersionAbstract

From the prizewinning Jewish Lives series, a masterful new biography of Theodor Herzl by an eminent historian of Zionism.

The life of Theodor Herzl (1860–1904) was as puzzling as it was brief. How did this cosmopolitan and assimilated European Jew become the leader of the Zionist movement? How could he be both an artist and a statesman, a rationalist and an aesthete, a stern moralist yet possessed of deep, and at times dark, passions? And why did scores of thousands of Jews, many of them from traditional, observant backgrounds, embrace Herzl as their leader?

Drawing on a vast body of Herzl’s personal, literary, and political writings, historian Derek Penslar shows that Herzl’s path to Zionism had as much to do with personal crises as it did with antisemitism. Once Herzl devoted himself to Zionism, Penslar shows, he distinguished himself as a consummate leader—possessed of indefatigable energy, organizational ability, and electrifying charisma. Herzl became a screen onto which Jews of his era could project their deepest needs and longings.

The Kizilbash-Alevis in Ottoman Anatolia: Sufism, Politics, and Community
Karakaya-Stump, Ayfer. The Kizilbash-Alevis in Ottoman Anatolia: Sufism, Politics, and Community. Edinburgh University Press, 2019. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Explores the transformation of the Kizilbash from a radical religio-political movement to a religious order of closed communities.

  • The first comprehensive social history of the Kizilbash/Alevi communities
  • Combines conventional sources with newly discovered ones generated within the Kizilbash-Alevi milieu
  • Argues for a readjustment in focus from pre-Islamic Central Asia to the cosmopolitan Sufi milieu of the Middle East when exploring genealogies of popular Islam in Anatolia
  • Offers a critical assessment of the long-standing Köprülü paradigm in the field of religious and cultural history of Anatolia
  • Provides a new perspective on the Ottoman-Safavid conflict, and on Sunni-Shiʿi confessionalisation in the early modern period
  • Opens new avenues of research in the study of other ‘heterodox’ communities in the Islamic world

The Kizilbash were at once key players in and the foremost victims of the Ottoman-Safavid conflict that defined the early modern Middle East. Today referred to as Alevis, they constitute the second largest faith community in modern Turkey, with smaller pockets of related groups in the Balkans. Yet several aspects of their history remain little understood or explored. This first comprehensive socio-political history of the Kizilbash/Alevi communities uses a recently surfaced corpus of sources generated within their milieu. It offers fresh answers to many questions concerning their origins and evolution from a revolutionary movement to an inward-looking religious order.

The Anthropology of Islamic Law: Education, Ethics, and Legal Interpretation at Egypt's Al-Azhar
Nakissa, Aria. The Anthropology of Islamic Law: Education, Ethics, and Legal Interpretation at Egypt's Al-Azhar. Oxford University Press, 2019. Publisher's VersionAbstract

The Anthropology of Islamic Law shows how hermeneutic theory and practice theory can be brought together to analyze cultural, legal, and religious traditions. These ideas are developed through an analysis of the Islamic legal tradition, which examines both Islamic legal doctrine and religious education. The book combines anthropology and Islamist history, using ethnography and in-depth analysis of Arabic religious texts. The book focuses on higher religious learning in contemporary Egypt, examining its intellectual, ethical, and pedagogical dimensions. Data is drawn from fieldwork inside al-Azhar University, Cairo University's Dar al-Ulum, and the network of traditional study circles associated with the al-Azhar mosque. Together these sites constitute the most important venue for the transmission of religious learning in the contemporary Muslim world. The book gives special attention to contemporary Egypt, and also provides a broader analysis relevant to Islamic legal doctrine and religious education throughout history.

The Universal Enemy: Jihad, Empire, and the Challenge of Solidarity
Li, Darryl. The Universal Enemy: Jihad, Empire, and the Challenge of Solidarity. Stanford University Press, 2019. Publisher's VersionAbstract

No contemporary figure is more demonized than the Islamist foreign fighter who wages jihad around the world. Spreading violence, disregarding national borders, and rejecting secular norms, so-called jihadists seem opposed to universalism itself. In a radical departure from conventional wisdom on the topic, The Universal Enemy argues that transnational jihadists are engaged in their own form of universalism: these fighters struggle to realize an Islamist vision directed at all of humanity, transcending racial and cultural difference.

Anthropologist and attorney Darryl Li reconceptualizes jihad as armed transnational solidarity under conditions of American empire, revisiting a pivotal moment after the Cold War when ethnic cleansing in the Balkans dominated global headlines. Muslim volunteers came from distant lands to fight in Bosnia-Herzegovina alongside their co-religionists, offering themselves as an alternative to the US-led international community. Li highlights the parallels and overlaps between transnational jihads and other universalisms such as the War on Terror, United Nations peacekeeping, and socialist Non-Alignment. Developed from more than a decade of research with former fighters in a half-dozen countries, The Universal Enemy explores the relationship between jihad and American empire to shed critical light on both.

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