Middle East Studies


In the Beginning was the State: Divine Violence in the Hebrew Bible

In the Beginning was the State: Divine Violence in the Hebrew Bible (Adi Ophir)

This book explores God’s use of violence as depicted in the Hebrew Bible. Focusing on the Pentateuch, it reads biblical narratives and codes of law as documenting formations of theopolitical imagination. Ophir deciphers the logic of divine rule that these documents betray, with special attention to the place of violence within it. The book draws from contemporary biblical scholarship, while also engaging critically with contemporary political theory and political theology, including the work of Walter Benjamin, Giorgio Agamben, Jan Assmann, Regina Schwartz, and Michael Walzer.

Ophir focuses on three distinct theocratic formations: the rule of disaster, where catastrophes are used as means of governance; the biopolitical rule of the holy, where divine violence is spatially demarcated and personally targeted; and the rule of law where divine violence is vividly remembered and its return is projected, anticipated, and yet postponed, creating a prolonged lull for the text’s present.

Different as these formations are, Ophir shows how they share an urform that anticipates the main outlines of the modern European state, which has monopolized the entire globe. A critique of the modern state, the book argues, must begin in revisiting the deification of the state, unpacking its mostly repressed theological dimension.

The Routledge Handbook of Persian Literary Translation (Michelle Quay)

The Routledge Handbook of Persian Literary Translation offers a detailed overview of the field of Persian literature in translation, discusses the development of the field, gives critical expression to research on Persian literature in translation, and brings together cutting-edge theoretical and practical research. The book is divided into the following three parts: (I) Translation of Classical Persian Literature, (II) Translation of Modern Persian Literature, and (III) Persian Literary Translation in Practice.

The chapters of the book are authored by internationally renowned scholars in the field, and the volume is an essential reference for scholars and their advanced students as well as for those researching in related areas and for independent translators of Persian literature.

Making Modernity in the Islamic Mediterranean (Margaret Graves and Alex Dika Seggerman)

The Islamic world's artistic traditions experienced profound transformation in the 19th century as rapidly developing technologies and globalizing markets ushered in drastic changes in technique, style, and content.

Despite the importance and ingenuity of these developments, the 19th century remains a gap in the history of Islamic art. To fill this opening in art historical scholarship, Making Modernity in the Islamic Mediterranean charts transformations in image-making, architecture, and craft production in the Islamic world from Fez to Istanbul. Contributors focus on the shifting methods of production, reproduction, circulation, and exchange artists faced as they worked in fields such as photography, weaving, design, metalwork, ceramics, and even transportation.

Covering a range of media and a wide geographical spread, Making Modernity in the Islamic Mediterranean reveals how 19th-century artists in the Middle East and North Africa reckoned with new tools, materials, and tastes from local perspectives.

Genocide, the Holocaust and Israel-Palestine: First-Person History in Times of Crisis (Omer Bartov)

This book discusses some of the most urgent current debates over the study, commemoration, and politicization of the Holocaust through key critical perspectives. Omer Bartov adeptly assesses the tensions between Holocaust and genocide studies, which have repeatedly both enriched and clashed with each other, whilst convincingly arguing for the importance of local history and individual testimony in grasping the nature of mass murder. He goes on to critically examine how legal discourse has served to both uncover and deny individual and national complicity. Genocide, the Holocaust and Israel-Palestine outlines how first-person histories provide a better understanding of events otherwise perceived as inexplicable and, lastly, draws on the author's own personal trajectory to consider links between the fate of Jews in World War II and the plight of Palestinians during and in the aftermath of the establishment of the state of Israel.

Bartov demonstrates that these five perspectives, rarely if ever previously discussed in a single book, are inextricably linked, and shed much light on each other. Thus the Holocaust and other genocides must be seen as related catastrophes in the modern era; understanding such vast human tragedies necessitates scrutinizing them on the local and personal scale; this, in turn, calls for historical empathy, accomplished via personal-biographical introspection; and true, open-minded, and rigorous introspection, without which historical understanding tends toward obfuscation, brings to light uncomfortable yet clarifying connections, such as that between the Holocaust and the Nakba, the mass flight and expulsion of the Palestinians in 1948.

Reel Gender Book Cover

Reel Gender: Palestinian and Israeli Cinema (Edited by Katharina Galor and Sa'ed Atshan)

Reel Gender is a groundbreaking collection that addresses the collective realities and the filmic representations of Palestinian and Israeli societies. The eight essays, by leading scholars, demonstrate how Palestinian and Israeli film production—despite obvious overlaps and similarities and while keeping in mind the inherent asymmetry of power dynamics—are at the forefront of engaging gender and sexuality. The scholars of this volume construct and deconstruct still and moving images, characters, and stories that create an entanglement of Palestinian and Israeli cinema. Together they portray the region's diverse but unexpectedly intermingled ethnic, religious, and national communities, framed or countered by various societal norms, laws, and expectations, while also defined by colonial realities. The essays draw methodologically from the fields of media and cultural studies, critical and postcolonial theory, feminism, post-feminism, and queer theory.

Feminism as World Literature Book Cover

“There Are in Persia Many Subjects Not Accessible to Female Inquiry”: Eurocentric and Cross-Cultural Feminist Nomadism in Lady Mary Sheil's Glimpses of Life and Manners in Persia (1856) in Feminism as World Literature (Marie Ostby)

This chapter explores the effects of women writers entering the Orientalist tradition of British travel writing from Iran (then Persia), starting with Sheil, and asks what their entrance means for the genre’s strategic deployment as an imperialist tool. Ostby argues that Sheil’s text expands the travelogue genre, refocuses it on a woman’s perspective, and strengthens its potential for cross-cultural insight through access to the andarun (women’s quarters), focus on nonhuman life including animals and plants, and anti-pastoral redefinition of what “freedom” means for women in terms of speech, religion, and non-reproductive modes of female sociality. Sheil’s combination of reframing imperial perspectives and reinforcing ethnic stereotypes, she concludes, sets a precedent for a troubled, paradoxical genre that nonetheless continued to dominate cross-cultural representation into the twentieth century.

Migration, Displacement, and Higher Education: Now What? Book Cover

"Refugees and Forced Migration: An Engaged Humanities Course in French and Francophone Studies" in Migration, Displacement, and Higher Education: Now What? (Virginia Krause)

In the wake of the election of Donald Trump in 2016 and the anti-migrant hostility he unleashed, the Brown University Department of French and Francophone Studies developed an engaged scholarship course with meaningful crossover in the Center for Middle East Studies. Offered in French, The Refugee Experience: Migrations, Displacements has a broad humanities frame, with elements drawn from literary studies, history, philosophy, film studies, and anthropology. At the same time, it is grounded in a community partnership with Women’s Refugee Care, an NGO devoted to supporting refugees from Central Africa living in Rhode Island. In this forthcoming volume devoted to engaged scholarship in American universities, Krause's chapter relates the development and intellectual project of the course, which has come to function as a bridge between Brown students and Central Africans recently resettled in Providence, bringing together these two communities that would otherwise remain separate. 

A New Vision for Islamic Pasts and Futures Poster

A New Vision for Islamic Pasts and Futures (Shahzad Bashir)

An interactive, open-access born-digital work, this groundbreaking book decenters Islam from a geographical identification with the Middle East, an articulation through men’s authority alone, and the assumption that premodern expressions are more authentically Islamic than modern ones. In A New Vision for Islamic Pasts and Futures, Bashir discusses Islam as phenomenon and as discourse—observed in the built environment, material objects, paintings, linguistic traces, narratives, and social situations. He draws on literary genres, including epics, devotional poetry and prayers, and modern novels; art and architecture in varied forms; material culture, from luxury objects to cheap trinkets; and such forms of media as photographs, graffiti, and films. Through multimedia enhancements and an interactive navigation system, A New Vision for Islamic Pasts and Futures allows for an exploration of and engagement with rich visual material and multimedia evidence not possible in a printed volume. The book encourages readers to enter Islam through a diverse set of doorways, each leading to different time periods across different parts of the world. 

Tales from the Borderlands: Making and Unmaking the Galician Past Book Cover

Tales from the Borderlands: Making and Unmaking the Galician Past (Omer Bartov)

Focusing on the former province of Galicia, this book tells the story of Europe’s eastern borderlands, stretching from the Baltic to the Balkans, through the eyes of the diverse communities of migrants who settled there for centuries and were murdered or forcibly removed from the borderlands in the course of World War II and its aftermath. Omer Bartov explores the fates and hopes, dreams, and disillusionment of the people who lived there, and, through the stories they told about themselves, reconstructs who they were, where they came from, and where they were heading. It was on the borderlands that the expanding great empires—German, Austro-Hungarian, Russian, and Ottoman—overlapped, clashed, and disintegrated. The civilization of these borderlands was a mix of multiple cultures, languages, ethnic groups, religions, and nations that similarly overlapped and clashed. The borderlands became the cradle of modernity. Looking back at it tells us where we came from. 

The Routledge Handbook of Persian Literary Translation Book Cover

The Routledge Handbook of Persian Literary Translation (Edited by Michelle Quay)

The Routledge Handbook of Persian Literary Translation offers a detailed overview of the field of Persian literature in translation, discusses the development of the field, gives critical expression to research on Persian literature in translation, and brings together cutting-edge theoretical and practical research. The chapters of the book are authored by internationally renowned scholars in the field, and the volume is an essential reference for scholars and their advanced students as well as for those researching in related areas and for independent translators of Persian literature.

Archaeology, Nation and Race Book Cover

Archaeology, Nation, and Race: Confronting the Past, Decolonizing the Future in Greece and Israel (Yannis Hamilakis and Raphael Greenberg)

Archaeology, Nation, and Race demonstrates how archaeology and concepts of antiquity have shaped, and have been shaped by colonialism, race, and nationalism. Structured as a lucid and lively dialogue between two leading scholars, the volume compares modern Greece and modern Israel—two prototypical and influential cases—where archaeology sits at the very heart of the modern national imagination. Exchanging views on the foundational myths, moral economies, and racial prejudices in the field of archaeology and beyond, Hamilakis and Greenberg explore topics such as the colonial origins of national archaeologies, the crypto-colonization of the countries and their archaeologies, the role of archaeology as a process of purification, and the racialization and 'whitening' of Greece and Israel and their archaeological and material heritage. They conclude with a call for decolonization and the need to forge alliances with subjugated communities and new political movements.

Israel-Palestine book cover

Israel-Palestine: Lands and Peoples (Omer Bartov)

The conflict between Israel and Palestine has raised a plethora of unanswered questions, generated seemingly irreconcilable narratives, and profoundly transformed the land’s physical and political geography. This volume seeks to provide a deeper understanding of the links between the region that is now known as Israel and Palestine and its peoples—both those that live there as well as those who relate to it as a mental, mythical, or religious landscape. Engaging the perspectives of a multidisciplinary, international group of scholars, it is an urgent collective reflection on the bonds between people and a place, whether real or imagined, tangible as its stones or ephemeral as the hopes and longings it evokes.

Persian Literature as World Literature Book Cover

Genres without Borders: Reading Modern Iranian Literature beyond "Center" and "Periphery" in Persian Literature as World Literature (Marie Ostby)

Iran’s geopolitical isolation from the West has only grown more entrenched in recent years, with the 2018 nuclear deal cancellation, President Trump’s travel ban, and the “maximum pressure” sanctions campaign. Despite the impact of this political entrenchment and escalation on the creative arts, however, there is a deep and wide network of connections between Persian and Euro-American literary cultures that has only grown richer since the early twentieth century. This network is sustained and expanded, Ostby argues, by experimentation with genre and creation of new literary forms. In defying and expanding genre-categorization, modern Iranian writers have not only resisted a global hegemony in which forms are too often seen to move only from a Euro-American “center” to a series of “peripheral” literary communities and markets—they also resist reductive and potentially racist typology and classification altogether. This chapter centers on an examination of the “global ghazal,” as modernized, politicized, and formally loosened by Simin Behbahani in Persian and Adrienne Rich in English, as a case study that proves the long, deep transnationalism of Persian literature—a transnationalism driven by the flexibility and adaptability of literary genre and form. Ostby draws on observations from Jacques Derrida, Fredric Jameson, and Caroline Levine to theorize the worlding capacity of genres in the context of Persian literature. Building on Wai Chee Dimock, Eric Hayot, Pheng Cheah, and other theorists who define world literature based on the world-making of literary works themselves, she argues that centering modern Iran in these repeated acts of genre-creation (rather than categorizing its literature as either traditionalist or “borrowing” from European forms) challenges Franco Moretti’s claims about fixed “centers” and “peripheries” and other conceptions of world literature simultaneously based on capitalist markets and genre hegemonies.

Moral Triangle Book Cover

The Moral Triangle: Germans, Israelis, Palestinians (Katharina Galor and Sa'ed Atshan)

In The Moral Triangle, Sa’ed Atshan and Katharina Galor draw on ethnographic fieldwork and interviews to explore the asymmetric relationships between Germans and Israeli and Palestinian immigrants in the context of official German policies, public discourse, and the private sphere. They show how these relationships stem from narratives surrounding moral responsibility, the Holocaust, the Israel/Palestine conflict, and Germany’s recent welcoming of Middle Eastern refugees. They also point to spaces for activism and solidarity among Germans, Israelis, and Palestinians in Berlin that can help foster restorative justice and account for multiple forms of trauma. Highlighting their interlocutors’ experiences, memories, and hopes, Atshan and Galor demonstrate the myriad ways in which migration, trauma, and contemporary state politics are inextricably linked.

Available in English, German (Israelis, Palästinenser und Deutsche in Berlin: Geschichten einer komplexen Beziehung

J. M. G. Le Clézio et les miroirs de l'autre book cover

J.M.G. Le Clézio et les miroirs de l'autre (Maan Alsahoui)

J.M.G. Le Clézio et les miroirs de l'autre, or J.M.G, Le Clézio and the Mirrors of the Otheris a study about the cultural and religious influences of the indigenous people in Mexico and Mauritius on the works of JMG Le Clézio, the French author who won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2008.

Trois Villes Saintes book cover

ثلاث مدن مقدسة or Trois Villes Saintes (JMG Le Clézio, translated into Arabic by Maan Alsahoui)

Chancah, Tixcacal, and Chun Pom are three cities on the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico that were of great religious significance during the Caste War, waged by the Mayans against the Spanish colonizers in the late 19th century. In this book, J.M.G. Le Clézio, winner of the Novel Prize in Literature (2008), writes poetically about his experiences in these three cities that were once centers of worship for the "Talking Cross." Originally published in French in 1980, Maan Alsahoui has now translated Trois Villes Saintes into Arabic. 

Revolt Against the Sun book cover

Revolt Against the Sun: The Selected Poetry of Nazik al-Mala'ikah (Emily Drumsta)

Best known for the innovative poetic forms she brought to a centuries-old Arabic poetic tradition, the Iraqi writer Nazik al-Mala’ikah was one of the most important Arab poets of the twentieth century. In Revolt Against the Sun, the first book dedicated entirely to Mala’ikah’s work, Emily Drumsta introduces this pioneering figure of Iraqi modernism to English-language audiences through lyrical translations of her poems and a substantial critical introduction.

'Potential History: Unlearning Imperialism' book cover

Potential History: Unlearning Imperialism (Ariella Aïsha Azoulay)

A passionately urgent call for all of us to unlearn imperialism and repair the violent world we share

In this theoretical tour-de-force, renowned scholar Ariella Aïsha Azoulay calls on us to recognize the imperial foundations of knowledge and to refuse its strictures and its many violences. Read Ariella Aïsha Azoulay's interview with Jadaliyya on Potential History: Unlearning Imperialism.

'Gender, Governance and Islam' book cover

Gender, Governance and Islam (co-edited by Nadje Al-Ali)

Analyzes the links between gender and governance in contemporary Muslim majority countries and diaspora contexts. 

Following a period of rapid political change, both globally and in relation to the Middle East and South Asia, this collection sets new terms of reference for an analysis of the intersections between global, state, non-state and popular actors and their contradictory effects on the politics of gender. Edited by Deniz Kandiyoti, Nadje Al-Ali, Kathryn Spellman Poots

The World in a Book: Al-Nuwayri and the Islamic Encyclopedic Tradition (Elias Muhanna)

Shihab al-Din al-Nuwayri was a fourteenth-century Egyptian polymath and the author of one of the greatest encyclopedias of the medieval Islamic world—a thirty-one-volume work entitled The Ultimate Ambition in the Arts of Erudition. In the first study of this landmark work in a European language, Elias Muhanna explores its structure and contents, sources and influences, and reception and impact in the Islamic world and Europe.

Afghanistan Rising: Islamic Law and Statecraft between the Ottoman and British Empires (Faiz Ahmed)

Debunking conventional narratives of Afghanistan as a perennial war zone and the rule of law as a secular-liberal monopoly, Faiz Ahmed presents a vibrant account of the first Muslim-majority country to gain independence, codify its own laws, and ratify a constitution after the fall of the Ottoman Empire.

Family Life in the Ottoman Mediterranean: A Social History (Beshara Doumani)

In writings about Islam, women and modernity in the Middle East, family and religion are frequently invoked but rarely historicized. Based on a wide range of local sources spanning two centuries (1660–1860), Beshara B. Doumani argues that there is no such thing as the Muslim or Arab family type that is so central to Orientalist, nationalist, and Islamist narratives. In his comparative examination of the property devolution strategies and gender regimes in the context of local political economies, Doumani offers a groundbreaking examination of the stories and priorities of ordinary people and how they shaped the making of the modern Middle East.