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Consorts of the Caliphs

Women and the Court of Baghdad

Ibn al-Sai

Consorts of the Caliphs is a seventh/thirteenth-century compilation of anecdotes about thirty-eight women who were, as the title suggests, consorts to those in power, most of them concubines of the early Abbasid caliphs and wives of latter-day caliphs and sultans. This slim but illuminating volume is one of the few surviving texts by Ibn al-Saʿi (d. 674 H/1276 AD). Ibn al-Saʿi was a prolific Baghdadi scholar who chronicled the academic and political elites of his city, and whose career straddled the final years of the Abbasid dynasty and the period following the cataclysmic Mongol invasion of 656 H/1258 AD.                                                                                                                   

In this work, Ibn al-Saʿi is keen to forge a connection between the munificent wives of his time and the storied lovers of the so-called golden age of Baghdad. Thus, from the earlier period, we find Harun al-Rashid pining for his brother’s beautiful slave, Ghadir, and the artistry of such musical and literary celebrities as ʿArib and Fadl, who bested the male poets and singers of their day. From times closer to Ibn al-Saʿi’s own—when Abbasid authority was trying to reassert itself and Baghdad was again a major center of intellectual and religious activity—we meet women such as Banafsha, who endowed law colleges, had bridges built, and provisioned pilgrims bound for Mecca; slave women whose funeral services were led by caliphs; and noble Saljuq princesses from Afghanistan.

Informed by the author’s own sources, his insider knowledge, and well-known literary materials, these singular biographical sketches, though delivered episodically, bring the belletristic culture of the Baghdad court to life, particularly in the personal narratives and poetry of culture heroines otherwise lost to history.

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Contentious Politics in the Middle East

Political Opposition under Authoritarianism

Holger Albrecht

Scholarship examining the governments in the Middle East and North Africa rarely focuses on opposition movements, since those countries tend to be ruled by a centralized, often authoritarian government. However, even in an oppressive state, there are civil society and oppositional forces at work. The contributors to Contentious Politics in the Middle East reveal how such forces emerge and are manifested in nondemocratic states across the region.

In most cases, the essays offer a comparative perspective, highlighting similarities across political borders. Providing historical context for current events, they examine the sociopolitical situations in Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Kuwait, Bahrain, Iraq, Morocco, Tunisia, Lebanon, and Algeria and analyze the role of Islam in Arab states' governments and in the opposition movements to them. They also demonstrate that not all opposition forces propose the overthrow of authority and point out the various forms opposition takes in societies that leave little room for political activism.

The contributors to the volume are drawn from countries across three continents and bring backgrounds in political science, conflict resolution, and history. Challenging the assertion that state-society relations are limited to coercive top-down arrangements in authoritarian regimes, the book will inspire debate on the topic of contentious political participation within the region as well as in similar settings throughout the world.

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Contesting Realities

The Public Sphere and Morality in Southern Yemen

Susanne Dahlgren

As a resident of Aden for more than three years spanning the late years of Marxist South Yemen, Dahlgren presents the reader with an intimate portrait of Yemeni men and women in the home, in the factory, in the office, and in the street, demonstrating that Islamic societies must be understood through a multiplicity of social spheres and morality orders. Within each space, she examines the range of legal, political, religious, and social regulations that frame gender relations and social dynamics. Highlighting the diversity of women’s and men’s positions as a continuum rather than as distinct areas, Dahlgren presents a vivid picture of this dynamic society, providing an in-depth background to today’s political upheavals in Yemen.

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The Convergence of Judaism and Islam

Religious, Scientific, and Cultural Dimensions

Edited by Michael M. Laskier and Yaacov Lev

The Convergence of Judaism and Islam offers fifteen interdisciplinary studies that investigate the complex relationships between the cultures of Jews and Muslims during the medieval and early modern periods. They reveal that, for the most part, Jewish-Muslim relations were peaceful and involved intellectual and professional cooperation.

Eschewing a chronological approach and featuring contributions from European, Israeli, and North American scholars, including veterans and recent PhDs, the volume makes many fascinating and stimulating juxtapositions. To give one example, chapters on early Islam and the shaping of Jewish-Muslim relations in the Middle Ages shed light on the legal battles over the status of synagogues in twentieth-century Yemen or the execution of a fourteen-year-old girl in nineteenth-century Morocco.

Sure to provoke controversy and discussion, this volume focuses on a period of free exchange between these two cultures that resulted in some of the most seminal breakthroughs in math, science, and medicine the world has known.

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Copts in Context

Negotiating Identity, Tradition, and Modernity

Nelly van Doorn-Harder

Though the Coptic Orthodox Church of Egypt is among the oldest Christian communities in the world, it remained relatively unknown outside of Egypt for most of its existence. In the wake of the Arab Spring, however, this community was caught up in regional violence, and its predicament became a cause for concern around the world. Copts in Context examines the situation of the Copts as a minority faith in a volatile region and as a community confronting modernity while steeped in tradition. Nelly van Doorn-Harder opens Coptic identity and tradition to a broad range of perspectives: historical, political, sociological, anthropological, and ethnomusicological. Starting with contemporary issues such as recent conflicts in Egypt, the volume works back to topics—among them the Coptic language, the ideals and tradition of monasticism, and church historiography—that while rooted in the ancient past, nevertheless remain vital in Coptic memory and understanding of culture and tradition. Contributors examine developments in the Coptic diaspora, in religious education and the role of children, and in Coptic media, as well as considering the varied nature of Coptic participation in Egyptian society and politics over millennia. With many Copts leaving the homeland, preservation of Coptic history, memory, and culture has become a vital concern to the Coptic Church. These essays by both Coptic and non-Coptic scholars offer insights into present-day issues confronting the community and their connections to relevant themes from the past, demonstrating reexamination of that past helps strengthen modern-day Coptic life and culture.

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Countdown to Statehood

Palestinian State Formation in the West Bank and Gaza

A study of Palestinian state formation in comparison to Zionist experiences. Countdown to Statehood, based on Arabic, English, and Hebrew language sources, analyzes the form that the Palestinian state is likely to take. The book looks at past institution-building patterns in the West Bank and Gaza, the relationship between the PLO and the local Palestinians, and the nature of the conflict with Israel from 1967 through the first year of the Palestinian Authority under Arafat’s leadership. A major reference point in this analysis is the Zionist experience of state-building in Israel’s own pre-independence era. Not only did the Zionist experience serve as a model of a successful protagonist that Palestinians wished to emulate, but both also began as diaspora-based. These similarities and, even more so, the dissimilarities between these two struggles for national determination allow the reader to assess the potential likenesses and disparities of the future Palestinian state compared to its Israeli counterpart. The concluding chapter analyzes the findings in the broader context of third-world state-building by arguing, contrary to the common wisdom that “war makes the state,” that more peaceful routes to statehood lead to better states in the post-independence era.

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Courting Conflict

The Israeli Military Court System in the West Bank and Gaza

Lisa Hajjar

Israel's military court system, a centerpiece of Israel's apparatus of control in the West Bank and Gaza since 1967, has prosecuted hundreds of thousands of Palestinians. This authoritative book provides a rare look at an institution that lies both figuratively and literally at the center of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Lisa Hajjar has conducted in-depth interviews with dozens of Israelis and Palestinians—including judges, prosecutors, defense lawyers, defendants, and translators—about their experiences and practices to explain how this system functions, and how its functioning has affected the conflict. Her lucid, richly detailed, and theoretically sophisticated study highlights the array of problems and debates that characterize Israel's military courts as it asks how the law is deployed to protect and further the interests of the Israeli state and how it has been used to articulate and defend the rights of Palestinians living under occupation.

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Crime and Criminal Justice in Israel

Assessing the Knowledge Base toward the Twenty-First Century

Offers insights into the criminal justice system and the field of criminology in Israel. Assessing the Israeli criminal justice knowledge base with implications for Israel and international scholarship, this book explores crime, legislation, law enforcement, courts, corrections, and the victim. The book discusses the development of criminal justice and criminology in a new society, adding to the understanding of crime and societal reaction. The authors examine the historical development of Israeli criminal justice, describe the state of current knowledge, and point to possible future directions.

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Critical Essays on Israeli Social Issues and Scholarship

Books on Israel, Volume III

Critical Essays on Israeli Social Issues and Scholarship is part of a series of review volumes sponsored by the Association for Israel Studies and published by SUNY Press that provides a framework for discussion of research and scholarship on all aspects of Israeli society. This book brings together review essays commenting on issues in Israeli culture, literature, politics, scholarship, and society. The authors identify a series of recently published books and provide critical commentary. In their examination, they go beyond the works themselves to comment on the state of scholarship and social conditions. Topics covered include Israeli writers’ reactions to the Holocaust, critical analyses of the popular Israeli poet and novelist Amnon Shamosh, the linguistic relations between Yiddish and Modern Hebrew, ethnic relations, the emerging “mainstream” of Israeli culture, politics, Israeli historical revisionism, and social, psychological, and political aspects of the continuing Israel-Palestine conflict.

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Critical Essays on Israeli Society, Religion, and Government

Books on Israel, Volume IV

Original review essays that provide critical commentary on recently published books and films on Israeli society, culture, politics, and religion. This book is part of a series of review volumes sponsored by the Association for Israel Studies that provides a framework for discussion of research and scholarship on all aspects of Israeli society. It brings together original review essays commenting on issues in Israeli society, culture, politics, religion, literature, and film. The authors’ evaluations of recently published books go beyond critical commentary on the works themselves to include the state of scholarship and social conditions. Among the issues addressed are the conflict over water resources, the human dimensions of the Israeli-Palestinian dialogue, local governance, and the court system. The book provides reviews and commentary, not only on scholarly works but also on memoirs of military leaders at the time of the Yom Kippur war, Sephardi novels on the shock of immigration and on Israeli orthodox Judaism, and politically oriented cinema and literature of the 1980s and 1990s.

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