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Area and Ethnic Studies > Middle Eastern Studies

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Embracing the Divine Cover

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Embracing the Divine

Gender, Passion, and Politics in the Christian Middle East, 1720-1798

Akram Fouad Khater is associate professor and director of Middle East studies at North Carolina State University. He is the author of Inventing Home: Emigration, Gender, and the Making of a Lebanese Middle Class, 1861-1921 and Sources in the History of th

Embracing the Divine narrates the transformation of Christianity in the Middle East during the 18th century. It traces the tumultuous events surrounding the life of Hindiyya al-Ujaimi, a visionary nun determined to establish her own religious order in the Levant against the will of the Vatican. This Christ-centered and driven desire led to two inquisitions by the Holy See, a concerted campaign on the part of Latin missionaries to discredit her, turmoil within her Maronite church between supporter and detractor, and tragic exorcisms and deaths. Thus, beyond its compelling cinematic scope, Embracing the Divine presents a critical chapter in the history of Christianity in the Middle East, a history that has been largely absent from both Middle Eastern studies and from histories of Christianity. Moreover, this story relates the radical nature and perceived magnitude of Hindiyya's transgressions across gender lines constructed locally and by a universalizing Roman Catholic Church.

Empires in Collision in Late Antiquity Cover

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Empires in Collision in Late Antiquity

G. W. Bowersock

Political and military developments in the Arabian Peninsula on the eve of Islam In this book, based on lectures delivered at the Historical Society of Israel, the famed historian G. W. Bowersock presents a searching examination of political developments in the Arabian Peninsula on the eve of the rise of Islam. Recounting the growth of Christian Ethiopia and the conflict with Jewish Arabia, he describes the fall of Jerusalem at the hands of a late resurgent Sassanian (Persian) Empire. He concludes by underscoring the importance of the Byzantine Empire’s defeat of the Sassanian forces, which destabilized the region and thus provided the opportunity for the rise and military success of Islam in the seventh century. Using close readings of surviving texts, Bowersock sheds new light on the complex causal relationships among the Byzantine, Ethiopian, Persian, and emerging Islamic forces.

Encountering Morocco Cover

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Encountering Morocco

Fieldwork and Cultural Understanding

Afterword by Kevin Dwyer. Edited by David Crawford and Rachel Newcomb

Encountering Morocco introduces readers to life in this North African country through vivid accounts of fieldwork as personal experience and intellectual journey. We meet the contributors at diverse stages of their careers–from the unmarried researcher arriving for her first stint in the field to the seasoned fieldworker returning with spouse and children. They offer frank descriptions of what it means to take up residence in a place where one is regarded as an outsider, learn the language and local customs, and struggle to develop rapport. Moving reflections on friendship, kinship, and belief within the cross-cultural encounter reveal why study of Moroccan society has played such a seminal role in the development of cultural anthropology.

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Enemy in the Mirror

Islamic Fundamentalism and the Limits of Modern Rationalism: A Work of Comparative Political Theory

Roxanne L. Euben

A firm grasp of Islamic fundamentalism has often eluded Western political observers, many of whom view it in relation to social and economic upheaval or explain it away as an irrational reaction to modernity. Here Roxanne Euben makes new sense of this belief system by revealing it as a critique of and rebuttal to rationalist discourse and post-Enlightenment political theories. Euben draws on political, postmodernist, and critical theory, as well as Middle Eastern studies, Islamic thought, comparative politics, and anthropology, to situate Islamic fundamentalist thought within a transcultural theoretical context. In so doing, she illuminates an unexplored dimension of the Islamist movement and holds a mirror up to anxieties within contemporary Western political thought about the nature and limits of modern rationalism--anxieties common to Christian fundamentalists, postmodernists, conservatives, and communitarians.

A comparison between Islamic fundamentalism and various Western critiques of rationalism yields formerly uncharted connections between Western and Islamic political thought, allowing the author to reclaim an understanding of political theory as inherently comparative. Her arguments bear on broad questions about the methods Westerners employ to understand movements and ideas that presuppose nonrational, transcendent truths. Euben finds that first, political theory can play a crucial role in understanding concrete political phenomena often considered beyond its jurisdiction; second, the study of such phenomena tests the scope of Western rationalist categories; and finally, that Western political theory can be enriched by exploring non-Western perspectives on fundamental debates about coexistence.

The Epistle of Forgiveness Cover

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The Epistle of Forgiveness

Volume One: A Vision of Heaven and Hell

Abu l-Ala al-Maarri

One of the most unusual books in classical Arabic literature, The Epistle of Forgiveness is the lengthy reply by the prolific Syrian poet and prose writer Abu l-'Ala' al-Ma'arri (d. 449 H/1057 AD), to a letter written by an obscure grammarian, Ibn al-Qarih. With biting irony, The Epistle of Forgiveness mocks Ibn al-Qarih's hypocrisy and sycophancy by imagining he has died and arrived with some difficulty in Heaven, where he meets famous poets and philologists from the past. He also glimpses Hell, and converses with the Devil and various heretics. Al-Ma'arri—a maverick, a vegan, and often branded a heretic himself—seems to mock popular ideas about the Hereafter. This book, the first of two volumes, includes Ibn al-Qarih’s initial letter to al-Ma'arri, as well as the first half of The Epistle of Forgiveness.
 
This translation is the first complete translation in any language and retains the many digressions, difficult passages, and convoluted grammatical discussions of the original typically omitted in other translations. It is accompanied by a comprehensive introduction and detailed annotation. Replete with erudite commentary, amusing anecdotes, and sardonic wit, The Epistle of Forgiveness is an imaginative tour-de-force by one of the most pre-eminent figures in classical Arabic literature.

The Epistle of Forgiveness Cover

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The Epistle of Forgiveness

Volume Two: Hypocrites, Heretics, and Other Sinners

Abu l-Ala al-Maarri

One of the most unusual books in classical Arabic literature, The Epistle of Forgiveness is the lengthy reply by the prolific Syrian poet and prose writer, Abu l-'Ala' al-Ma'arri (d. 449 H/1057 AD), to a letter by an obscure grammarian, Ibn al-Qarih. With biting irony, The Epistle of Forgiveness mocks Ibn al-Qarih’s hypocrisy and sycophancy by imagining he has died and arrived with some difficulty in Heaven, where he meets famous poets and philologists from the past. He also glimpses Hell, and converses with the Devil and various heretics. Al-Ma'arri—a maverick, a vegan, and often branded a heretic himself—seems to mock popular ideas about the Hereafter.
 
This second volume is a point-by-point reply to Ibn al-Qarih’s letter using al-Ma'arri’s characteristic mixture of erudition, irony, and admonition, enlivened with anecdotes and poems. Among other things, he writes about hypocrites; heretical poets, princes, rebels, and mystics; apostates; piety; superstition; the plight of men of letters; collaborative authorship; wine-drinking; old age; repentance; pre-Islamic pilgrimage customs; and money. This remarkable book is the first complete translation in any language, all the more impressive because of al-Ma'arri’s highly ornate and difficult style, his use of rhymed prose, and numerous obscure words and expressions.
 
Geert Jan van Gelder was Laudian Professor of Arabic at the University of Oxford from 1998 to 2012. He is the author of several books on classical Arabic literature, including Beyond the Line: Classical Arabic Literary Critics on the Coherence and Unity of the Poem and Of Dishes and Discourse: Classical Arabic Literary Representations of Food.
 
Gregor Schoeler was the chair of Islamic Studies at the University of Basel from 1982 to 2009. His books in the fields of Islamic Studies and classical Arabic literature include The Oral and the Written in Early Islam, and Paradies und Hölle, a partial German translation of The Epistle of Forgiveness.

The Epistle on Legal Theory Cover

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The Epistle on Legal Theory

al-Shafii

The Epistle on Legal Theory is the oldest surviving Arabic work on Islamic legal theory and the foundational document of Islamic jurisprudence. Its author, Muhammad ibn Idris al-Shafi'i (d. 204 H/820 AD), was the eponym of the Shafi'i school of legal thought, one of the four rites in Sunni Islam. This fascinating work offers the first systematic treatment in Arabic of key issues in Islamic legal thought. These include a survey of the importance of Arabic as the language of revelation, principles of textual interpretation to be applied to the Qur’an and prophetic Traditions, techniques for harmonizing apparently contradictory precedents, legal epistemology, rules of inference, and discussions of when legal interpretation is required. The author illustrates his theoretical claims with numerous examples drawn from nearly all areas of Islamic law, including ritual law, commercial law, tort law, and criminal law. The text thus provides an important window into both Islamic law and legal thought in particular and early Islamic intellectual history in general .
 
The Arabic text has been established on the basis of the two most important critical editions and includes variants in the notes, while the English text is a new translation by a leading scholar of Shafi'i and his thought. The Epistle on Legal Theory represents one of the earliest complete works on Islamic law, one that is centrally important for the formation of Islamic legal thought and the Islamic legal tradition.

Erased from Space and Consciousness Cover

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Erased from Space and Consciousness

Israel and the Depopulated Palestinian Villages of 1948

Foreword by Oren Yiftachel. Noga Kadman

Hundreds of Palestinian villages were left empty across Israel when their residents became refugees after the 1948 war, their lands and property confiscated. Most of the villages were razed by the new State of Israel, but in dozens of others, communities of Jews were settled—many refugees in their own right. The state embarked on a systematic effort of renaming and remaking the landscape, and the Arab presence was all but erased from official maps and histories. Israelis are familiar with the ruins, terraces, and orchards that mark these sites today—almost half are located within tourist areas or national parks—but public descriptions rarely acknowledge that Arab communities existed there within living memory or describe how they came to be depopulated. Using official archives, kibbutz publications, and visits to the former village sites, Noga Kadman has reconstructed this history of erasure for all 418 depopulated villages.

Ethnographic Encounters in Israel Cover

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Ethnographic Encounters in Israel

Poetics and Ethics of Fieldwork

Edited by Fran Markowitz

Israel is a place of paradoxes, a small country with a diverse population and complicated social terrain. Studying its culture and social life means confronting a multitude of ethical dilemmas and methodological challenges. The first-person accounts by anthropologists engage contradictions of religion, politics, identity, kinship, racialization, and globalization to reveal fascinating and often vexing dimensions of the Israeli experience. Caught up in pressing existential questions of war and peace, social justice, and national boundaries, the contributors explore the contours of Israeli society as insiders and outsiders, natives and strangers, as well as critics and friends.

Everyday Life and Consumer Culture in Eighteenth-Century Damascus Cover

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Everyday Life and Consumer Culture in Eighteenth-Century Damascus

By James Grehan

Draws on court records and the city's dazzling literary tradition to explore the material culture of premodern Damascus and provides an unusual and intimate account of the choices, constraints, and compromises that defined consumer behavior.

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