Michael Ross whose new book, ‘The Oil Curse: How Petroleum Wealth Shapes the Development of Nations’, is published on 19 March will be visiting London later this month. He will be delivering one of the King’s Lectures in Ethics, organised jointly by The School of Law and the European Centre for Energy and Resource Security (EUCERS). The talk will be on 19 March from 6 – 8pm at the Safra Lecture Theatre, Kings College London, Strand Campus, London WC2R 2LS . The talk is unticketed and open to all.
If you happen to be in the Washington, DC, area tomorrow afternoon and have no plans for lunch, please come out to The World Bank and hear UCLA political scientist discuss his sobering new book THE OIL CURSE: How Petroleum Wealth Shapes the Development of Nations. Michael will be in discussion with The World Bank’s Robert Lesnick. The event kicks off at 12:30 PM at the following address:
World Bank J Building
18th Street and Pennsylvania Ave, NW
Timur Kuran, author of The Long Divergence: How Islamic Law Held Back the Middle East, has two events coming up later this month in Princeton and NYC. Kuran, a professor of economics and political science at Duke University, published The Long Divergence in 2010. Read an extract from the book’s first chapter here!
Tuesday, February 21, 2012: Princeton University, Princeton, NJ
4:30 p.m in Jones 100 (campus map)
Free and open to the public
The Institute for the Transregional Study of the Contemporary Middle East, North Africa, and Central Asia presents Timur Kuran:
“Structural Inefficiencies of Islamic Courts: Ottoman Justice and Its Implications for Modern Economic Life”
Wednesday, February 22, 2012: The American Turkish Society, New York, NY
6:30 – 8:00 PM
305 East 47th Street, 8th Floor
New York, NY 10017
Free for members, $25 for non-members
In Europe, the increasing presence of Islam has often provoked concerns about a threat to security and liberal democracy. Jonathan Laurence’s The Emancipation of Europe’s Muslims challenges these ideas and shows how the transformation of a new generation into European Muslims has consisted of a complex mix of achievements and tensions. The book recently received a terrific review in The Economist. Jonathan was kind enough to answer a few questions about his unique look at European Islam, the debates surrounding it, and the connection to the Arab awakening:
Q: Anders Breivik was recently declared insane by the court. His act of violence is widely condemned, but aren’t his anti-multiculturalist views fairly widespread?
For Breivik, the year is 1683 and an Islamic empire is storming the Gates of Vienna. Some of the views in his Internet-age manifesto are popular, although what he did in Oslo and Utoya is of course condemned. An Italian politician from a party in government spoke approvingly of the Norwegian’s belief that Europe had “given up on its cultural identity without a fight.” In December, a poll showed 76% of the French public thinks Islam is “progressing too much.” So the vocal concern over Islam’s growth and Muslims’ integration is no longer the exclusive domain of the far right. It has become ritual for heads of government to declare the failure of multiculturalism, a catchall description increasingly taken to mean the arrival of Muslims in Europe. Breivik may be legally insane, but he is not alone in thinking that Europe is at a turning point vis-à-vis its growing Islamic minorities.
Q: What does this mean for integration policy in European countries, and how have Muslim groups reacted? Is this what the Minaret and Burka bans were about?
On the one hand, the focus on religious fundamentalism led to several well known bans on Islamic symbols in public spaces, from headwear to architectural design. It also provoked acrimonious debate about whether Islam “belongs” and if its associated practices –in all their diversity—can be reconciled with national identity. On the other hand, history tells us this is fairly standard treatment for a new minority entering the crucible of the nation state and joining the general citizenry. Increasingly, however, Muslim communities perceive the sum total of public debate as something akin to religious persecution or a kulturkampf against Islam. It’s not just the religious conservatives or the pious, but Muslims as a “group” who increasingly feel stigmatized. Last month, community eminences in France, Germany (and the US) independently cited the Nazi era and the gradual marginalization of German Jews to describe the political environment. It is not the most encouraging sign, obviously, if the main icebreaker between Muslims and non-Muslims is whether it’s 1683 or the mid-1930s outside.
Q: How did it come to this point, and is this a dead end? Or are there trends in other directions?
The competing narratives of victimization –and self-affirmation—are not new. But Muslims and non-Muslims do seem to be talking past one another at a moment when they need to be in constructive conversation. Nonetheless, it’s important to recognize the degree of cooperation that already exists between community leaders and European governments. A recent stunt to name Europe’s “tallest minaret” (35 meters) after Nicolas Sarkozy is not as ironic as it first appears. In many ways, European Islam has flourished in the past decade. When Sarkozy was interior minister in 2002–4, he helped forge the still-running French Council for the Muslim Religion and started a trend among his European colleagues to guarantee equal religious rights to Muslims. “State-mosque” relations have advanced by leaps and bounds. A thousand Islamic prayer spaces have opened in France in the last ten years. One hundred and thirty schools in Germany’s most populous state (North Rhine Westphalia) now offer Islamic instruction alongside existing religious classes, and the first class of German Muslim theologians began their doctoral program this fall. The list goes on. European governments and Muslim organizations have gotten to know one another better, and community leaders have been brought into a context that encourages their continued adaptation to life as a minority in Europe.
Q: You argue in the book that it’s not 1683 or 1938, but that European countries are at a crucial “nation-building” moment in between. What does your book have to say about the Arab awakening?
The book shows how Europeans responded to the same questions now confronting North African governments: how to balance religious freedom and the democratic rule of law? Can Islamist movements behave “moderately and democratically”? The first generation of European Islamists fled political persecution at home, and some of the religious tension in European countries is rooted in their old political battles. Perhaps the “settling” of Islam’s status in their countries of origin will engender a new dynamic and allow integration to proceed in Europe. On the other hand, European Muslims have made their home in Europe and are not as personally involved in 2011’s events as could be assumed. Nonetheless, the image of Muslim masses protesting peacefully and organizing themselves democratically could contribute in the long run to a continuing “normalization” of how Islamic populations and societies are perceived in Western democracies.
Jonathan Laurence is associate professor of political science at Boston College.
Timur Kuran, author of ‘The Long Divergence: How Islamic Law
Held Back the Middle East’ was a guest on BBC World Service The Forum on Sunday.
The programme asked three distinguished Professors of Economics for their views on how to solve the
current economic crisis. Other guests were Danny Quah from London School
of Economics and Lord Robert Skidelsky, Emeritus Professor of Political Economy
at Warwick University. The programme is available to listen to from this
This weekend, Scheherazade, a film by Yousry Nasrallah, will open at the Riverside Theater in New York. Though this film is set in modern Egypt, it relies on the very old art of storytelling and conjures the persona of the queen of this art form — Scheherazade. According to this review in Variety, the film uses the narrated stories of several women to probe larger questions about women’s oppression and sexuality in politically repressive states.
This film will be shown in limited release which means only a lucky few in NY and LA get to see it for now. So, for those of you interested in the culture of story-telling and Scheherazade, we recommend picking up a copy of Whatever Gets You through the Night by Andrei Codrescu. Hailed by critics as an imaginative re-telling of portions of the original Arabian Nights, it also probes the culture of story-telling in ancient and contemporary times. Read a sample chapter here.
FACT: Following the Amarna period of the new Kingdom, around 1200 BCE, Egyptians invented a simple device known as the shaduf, which, using a fulcrum, lifted a water bag that enabled cultivators to irrigate the lands from the spring and summer low-water nile. Shadufs made it possible to grow winter crops, such as cotton and additional cereals.
Egypt: A Short History
Robert L. Tignor
Egypt: A Short History is a sweeping, colorful, and concise narrative history of Egypt from the beginning of human settlement in the Nile River valley 5000 years ago to the present day. Accessible, authoritative, and richly illustrated, this is an ideal introduction and guide to Egypt’s long, brilliant, and complex history for general readers, tourists, and anyone else who wants a better understanding of this vibrant and fascinating country, one that has played a central role in world history for millennia—and that continues to do so today.
“Robert L. Tignor’s ambitious Egypt: A Short History stretches from the Predynastic age to the present, tying the various periods together in a continuous 5,000-year narrative to create a lengthy history told in a short book. . . . Tignor writes with an easy, assured style, and his history becomes more focused and more authoritative as it progresses. He tells us it was conceived as an alternative guidebook for discerning tourists wishing to learn about more than just pyramids and pharaohs: as such—as an enjoyable book written by someone who clearly knows and loves Egypt and the Egyptians—it serves its purpose very well.”—Financial Times
“This is a masterpiece. In simple and accessible prose, Robert Tignor builds on his long and deep familiarity with Egyptian history, politics, and economy. The reader comes away with an understanding of what propels Egyptian history over the ages, and an appreciation of the key questions that beleaguer modern Egypt. This book will be of enormous value for general readers, students, and tourists.”—Khaled Fahmy, New York University
We invite you to read Chapter 1 here: http://press.princeton.edu/chapters/s9274.pdf
In an interview on WPR, author Andrei Codrescu and Professor Reza Aslan talk about the interesting origins of the Arabian Nights stories. According to Aslan, the story of 1001 Nights were originally translated into the English language in the Victorian era to serve as sex manuals for repressed British men, much in the way that the Kama Sutra is considered by some today. His article of the Arabian Nights stories as “Islamic Erotica” appeared in Playboy Magazine. (Excerpts from that article can be found here.)
Codrescu notes that the Arabian Nights stories are interesting because their original author is unknown. As such they have been revised and rewritten by generations of authors and editors, changing the message (and degree of eroticism) of the tales. Codrescu also insists that the oral nature of the stories play an important role in their seductive effect. They are by definition never ending–Sheherezade depends on her skill as a story teller to stay alive–and thus are written (or spoken) to continually arouse curiosity and interest in the reader (or listener).
Both experts agree that the fantastic and exotic nature of the stories are what have drawn centuries of readers to the Arabian Nights stories. Even the Disney classic Aladdin was derived from one of Sheherezade’s many tales. The interview explores the stories’ connections to everything from historical figures who may have inspired the characters in 1001 Nights to the current “erotic” events that fascinate the public today (Congressman Weiner, for example). Take a listen to this educational and entertaining interview here, and check out Codrescu’s take on the famous story in Whatever Gets You through the Night: A Story of Sheherezade and the Arabian Entertainments.
Bruce Rutherford must be clairvoyant. We published Egypt after Mubarak in 2008 and now, two years later, reality is finally catching up. What will Egypt look like after Mubarak’s presidency? This is the question on everyone’s minds and Bruce’s book offers a (at least according to Fareed Zakaria) “fascinating and timely” perspective on recent events.
Bruce Rutherford teaches at Colgate University and the communications team there recently posted this great notice about Bruce and the book.
In this op-ed from USA Today, PUP author Thomas Kidd writes:
The fact that nearly 20% of Americans say that President Obama is a Muslim has certainly not kept him from talking to Muslims. Just in the past week, the president gave his second major address to the Muslim world, and issued greetings to Muslims for Eid-ul-Adha, the celebration of Abraham’s “willingness to sacrifice his son.” Even in this small act of presidential courtesy, however, Obama had to tread very carefully. Note that the administration did not include the name of Abraham’s son. Muslims believe that Abraham was willing to sacrifice Ishmael, while the Jewish and Christian Scriptures contend that it was Isaac — indeed, this is one of the most fundamental divergences between these religious traditions. The president wants to acknowledge the Muslim holiday, without exacerbating religious tensions.
Using this celebration as a point of entry, Kidd discusses the need for the president to stand up to would-be terrorists while maintaining lines of communication with the Muslim community, all as he continues to battle mis-information about his own religious beliefs. Kidd identifies this as a “nearly impossible balance” to achieve.
Kidd is an expert on the fraught relationship between America and Islam going back to the colonial times. His book with Princeton University Press, American Christians and Islam: Evangelical Culture and Muslims from the Colonial Period to the Age of Terrorism, provides an essential history through which we can understand current debates about Islam in America.