Wednesday, December 10, 2008

A ROAD TO MECCA The Journey Of Muhammad Asad reveals the timeless nature and continuing relevance of the life and work of this outstanding Austrian.
"A distinguished professor of anthropology at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, Talal Asad has in recent years been one of the most vocal and original of scholars attempting to lay the groundwork for just such a rethinking of religion and the modern. Asad's role in this effort is all the more noteworthy inasmuch as the discipline of anthropology has been largely uninvolved in this discussion. The neglect reflects the fact that most anthropologists were never particularly impressed by secularization theories one way or another. In addition, until, roughly, the 1980s, most anthropologists were not interested in the equally expansive question of what it means for a society to be modern. In the 1980s and 1990s, however, the question of the modern moved to a position of central importance in anthropological theory. In part this was an effect of postmodernist debates. But it was also the result of far-reaching changes in the local communities anthropologists study. Despite the growing interest in questions of modernity, however, most anthropologists continued to show little interest in questions of secularity and secularization. As Asad notes, even today the main textbooks in the anthropology of religion make no reference to these issues (p. 22). Meanwhile, in other social sciences and humanities, debates rage as to whether secularity is a phenomenon intrinsic to the entire modern world, a condition unique to the West, or an ideological mythology that, even in the West, obscures the wellsprings of religiosity running through all societies.
Asad's Formation of the Secular does not attempt to take on these last issues directly, but instead places the question of religion and secularity at the center of a richly eclectic but deliberately unfinished anthropology of modernity. A mix of new chapters and essays originally written in the late 1990s, the book takes aim at these questions "indirectly" (p. 67), by way of epistemic reflections on the genealogy of "the secular" and "secularism." As this latter phrasing hints, Asad's approach owes as much to Foucauldian methodologies as it does anything specifically anthropological. In the volume's introduction, Asad takes exception to colleagues who equate the anthropological method with "the pseudoscientific notion of 'fieldwork'" (p. 17). It is not fieldwork that underlies the anthropological method, Asad counters, but, following Marcel Mauss and Mary Douglas, "the comparison of embedded concepts (representations) between societies differently located in time or space" (p. 17). He adds, "the important thing in this comparative analysis is not their origin. . . , but the forms of life that articulate them, the powers they release or disable" (p. 17). Even this authorial aside fails to capture the peculiarities of Asad's methodology. Whereas social anthropologists like Mary Douglas develop their comparisons of embedded concepts from the aggregate particularities of concrete interactions, Asad's analytic begins with the macrosociology and epistemology he believes undergirds modern society and modern systems of knowledge. In his discussion of the secular, then, Asad is less concerned with concrete social particulars than he is with the general concatenations of capitalism, the nation state, and the "new concepts of 'religion,' 'ethics,' and 'politics'" they have engendered (p. 2). The approach bears a stronger resemblance to the macro-civilizational analyses of Nietzsche, Weber, and, especially, Foucault, than it does Oxford social anthropology. It is this broader concern with, so to speak, epistemic hegemonies that unites the volume's eight chapters."

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Sunday, October 26, 2008

"Kingdom Without Borders is the first book to explore the driving forces behind Saudi Arabia's new era of expansionism. Having established a far-reaching political and religious influence, as well as an impressive media empire, Saudi Arabia has become a kingdom without borders, holding both local and international actors in a tight embrace. This phenomenon has yet to be seriously-instead of sensationally-studied. In this volume, contributors soberly reassess the changing nature of state and society, considering not only the multiple leaders who have risen within Saudi Arabia in recent years but also, thanks to a second oil boom, the consolidation of outside forces that now threaten to subvert the state.
Bringing together leading scholars from Europe, the United States, the Middle East, and Asia, Kingdom Without Borders combines both a top-down and grassroots approach to examining the country's growing regional and international influence. Contributors also trace the impact of Saudi Arabia on the religion, economics, and politics of Yemen, Lebanon, and the United States, linking the transformation of local contexts to the external actors of globalization. With a thorough investigation of the history and contemporary manifestations of Saudi expansionism, Kingdom Without Borders presents a unique opportunity to view Saudi Arabia's power project within the interrelated realms of local politics, religion, and media genres. "

Friday, October 24, 2008

Music and Islam: From Prohibition to the Science of Ecstasy

Islam's complex relationship with arts and culture across Africa, the Middle East, and Asia presents special paradoxes and intrigue in the realm of music. Islam has been used both to nurture and curtail musical expression. This program delves into the historic roots of this debate, all the way back to Baghdad in the early centuries of Islam. Case studies highlight sublime and ecstatic music from Iraq, Iran, Morocco, Algeria, Egypt, Pakistan and more. Author and Middle East specialist Joseph Braude discusses the history and issues with two Islamic scholars.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Lebanon: UNODC launches report on trafficking
A major quandary in the identification of victims is the absence of any law in the Lebanese penal code concerning human trafficking. Of the 30 cases processed through the courts under existing crime legislation, such as kidnapping, offenders received a US$350 fine and a jail sentence of less than six months. Victims are also afraid to speak out, dreading retribution or stigmatization. Many simply do not know their rights. Silence perpetuates the cycle of exploitation.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

«هل يعقل ألّا تساندنا نقابة المحامين في مطلبنا أن تمنح العاملة الأجنبية قرار اختيار قضائها إجازة الـ 24 ساعة الأسبوعية داخل المنزل الذي تعمل فيه أو خارجه؟»صاحبة الجملة تينا نقاش ، ممثلة اللجنة الرعوية للعمال الأفارقة والآسيويين في لجنة التسيير.