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  • Recent Publications
  • George Jagels and Leah Nagy


Afghanistan's Troubled Transition: Politics, Peacekeeping, and the 2004 Presidential Election, by Scott Seward Smith. Boulder, CO: First Forum Press, 2011. $69.95.

Scott Seward Smith, who worked in Afghanistan for the UN's Electoral Assistance Division and as a team leader for the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, documents the 2004 election — the first popular election in the country's history — and discusses its effect on Afghanistan today. His analysis examines the tension between long-term institution-building and short-term political considerations; to show this friction, the author relies on memories and notes as well as public sources. Afghanistan's Troubled Transition also serves as a primer on what went wrong after 2004 and puts forward thoughts on the country's democratic future. Smith considers the election a success, but laments what he sees as the subsequent failure of both the Afghan political class to prioritize "the national interest" over "personal gains" and the "uncoordinated international community" to consolidate the success of Afghanistan's first real vote. (GJ)


On the State of Egypt: A Novelist's Provocative Reflections, by Alaa Al Aswany. Cairo: The American University in Cairo Press, 2011. $24.95.

Egyptian novelist Alaa Al Aswany's collection of short essays on the condition of his country in the years leading up to President Husni Mubarak's resignation is a very timely work. He writes on the nature of the Mubarak regime, why Egyptians did not turn against it sooner, and the suitability of democracy in Egypt. The introduction also recounts his time with protesters in Tahrir Square in February 2011. (GJ)


Unsettling Gaza: Secular Liberalism, Radical Religion, and the Israeli Settlement Project, by Joyce Dalsheim. New York: Oxford University Press, 2011. $74.

Joyce Dalsheim's ethnography critically examines the Israeli settlement project, shedding new light on Israeli identity and the Israel-Palestine conflict. A set of interrelated essays based on field work in the Gaza Strip and surrounding communities in the year prior to the Israeli withdrawal, Dalsheim's study analyzes the tensions and conflicts between religious and secular Jews, revealing the fundamental similarities and shades [End Page 524] of variation hidden underneath their clashing, binary ideologies. The chapters of the book mirror its central argument: that no single set of oppositions, continuities, or empirical categories can adequately frame the debate around settlements. In this study — the first to place radical right-wing settlers and their secular, left-wing opposition in the same analytical frame — Dalsheim moves beyond the stereotypes associated with both parties to make room for alternative interpretations of the settlement conflict and broader questions that arise at the interface between religiosity and secularism. (LN)


Osama bin Laden, by Michael Scheuer. New York: Oxford University Press, 2011. $19.95.

Published before bin Laden's death at the hands of US Navy Seals, Michael Scheuer's biography uses a wealth of resources to paint a new picture of one of the most notorious and consequential figures in world events over the last decade-and-a-half. Drawing on all the speeches and interviews given by bin Laden as well as a wealth of interviews, testimony, and previously untranslated documents written by those close to him, Scheuer redefines bin Laden as not only the architect of 9/11 but a rhetorical and strategic genius who remains a formidable enemy. Scheuer, the first head of the CIA's bin Laden unit, sets out to correct American misconceptions of bin Laden based on the false assumptions of political and military leaders that, the author warns, will cost the US its war against bin Laden and terrorism. (LN)


Behind the Veil of Vice: The Business and Culture of Sex in the Middle East, by John R. Bradley. New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 2010. $27.

The sexual mores of the Middle East, often portrayed as universally repressive, have been cited by well-known commentators as a principal reason for the violence emanating from the region. Bradley rejects this view and tries to offer a "more nuanced account ... of the social world that shapes Arabs' sex lives." To describe the sexual cultures and associated businesses, he traveled to Iran, Syria, Tunisia...


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