Sunday Reading for Bostonians

Had all things been normal, I would have been on a panel this Sunday morning, at the AAS in Boston. Instead, I could only hope from a distance that Countervailing Connections: Islamicate Mobilities in Imperial Moments proved to be the barn-rouser that I had imagined. So, today’s late – very late – list of readings goes out to my peeps in Boston who must now have time on their hand. And maybe one of them can tell us how it all went. Or maybe Jonathan Dresner attended and he can give us all a summary as only he can.

  • Listen up, NYT, before you go telling us that a translation of the Qur’an is finally causing some re-examination into the very soul of Islam, please ascertain that 1. this amazing translation is ACTUALLY published and, hence, someone has read or reviewed it, and 2. that the translation passes some normative standards like, oh say, the translator KNOWS Arabic. Man, I hated that article. So, go read it and enjoy my misery.
  • Dictators and the Courts – this time Hosni Mubarak is treating Egyptian Constitution as his personal doodle pad. You must pay homage to the American commitment to spreading God-given Freedom around the world.
  • I asked this question a while ago and finally, the Boston Globe is also wondering why biography is shunned by the academy? I don’t know but there promises to be an excellent work on Raj Kumar by our friend at Land of Lime.
  • Mahmood Mamdani, in the LRB has an absolute must-read on Darfur, Kristof and the politics of higher moral grounds.
  • Mahomet and his Heaven: A Review in the TLS. Putting aside the Danish cartoon thing, I wonder how one would go about putting this in production? I mean, even if no Muslim protests, how do you contextualize this play in a performance?
  • Two goodies in the NYRB: George Soros is not afraid of the Jewish Lobby, while Pankaj Mishra – member of the Brown Lobby – calls to your attention two well-deserved books.
  • Besides Soros, Zbigniew Brzezinski is also a cranky old man who hates the War on Terror. We have always been at War with Terror. Doesn’t he know?
  • Finally. In a recent bout with insomnia I began composing the opening paragraph of my own 10-15,000 word essay on Wasim Akram for the New Yorker. My opening was going to be about the fearless Srikkanth getting hit in the head by an Akram bouncer during the first inning of the 1989 test series and simply crumbling away for the rest of the series. Since NYer has not called me to write this piece [seriously David Remnick. Even you ain’t got shit on me when it comes to profile pieces. Call.], I suggest everyone read about Adam Greenberg and what happens when you get hit in the head with a fast ball.

Author: sepoy

what is the vertiginous chapati saying to me?

9 thoughts on “Sunday Reading for Bostonians”

  1. Unfortunately I cannot give so expert a summary as Jonathan Dresner might have, but our panel at AAS did go over quite well. Not sure it was a barn burner, but I think we did manage to raise the eyebrows and pique the interest of the several people who were dedicated enough to show up at 8.30 on Sunday morning.

    Sebouh Aslanian kicked things off with a detailed and provocative examination of Armenian merchants transition from a ‘trans-imperial cosmopolitan’ ethics into a territorialized nationalism starting in the mid-18th c. I found especially compelling his argument that the concept of diaspora is too over taken as a trans-historical category whereas it should be understood in the context of the nation-state concept.

    Mana Kia followed with a probing analysis of the increasing importance of place of origin among Persophone Shias in Iran and India at the beginning of the 19th c. Particularly productive, I though, were the connections she suggested between the Mughal valuation of the Persian language idiom of writers from Iran, and the later yoking of linguistic identity to the Iranian nation-state.

    My own paper used writings about Hyderabad State or by its’ officials in the late 19th/early 20th c. to argue that colonial networks provided the conditions for Muslim modernists to conceive and disseminate alternative global political visions. This Islamist internationalist moment, however, was foreclosed by both the British regulation of these connections, which fizzled into territorial and exclusivist nationalist ideas.

    Engseng Ho as chair-discussant stole the show, as is his habit. He described the papers as thematically linked in that they all examined last moments of global connection before parochialization and the narrowing of mental horizons.

    Needless to say your absence, Sepoy, was deeply felt. Not only because we missed your characteristically spirited and challenging contributions to the academic (and other) conversations – which of course we did –, but also because your paper had promised to look at the mid-19th c. recrudescence of countervailing connections in the Islamicate world. Engseng had a few brief comments in which he tried to cover the gaping hole our papers left of the bulk of the nineteenth century, but quite truly only a valiant sepoy like yourself could have bridged the gap. Perhaps you can offer us some further nuggets from the paper that would have been in this space at some point.

  2. sepoy, thank you very much for your reply.

    There is indeed a clearly discernable bias in the NYT article, but I was hoping for your view on the mentioned verse itself.

    As despicable as it is for the NYT to publish an attack disguised as an article on a scholarly undertaking, your post seems to be an emotional response to the nature of the article; I would have loved to see you challenge the “translation” with your own interpretation of the same.

  3. 3rdman: I believe my reason for hating it are pretty clearly stated above. But, allow me to be explicit:

    The NYT publishes with the headline, “New Translation Prompts Debate on Islamic Verse” on a translation which hasn’t been published yet [hence cannot possibly be generating any debate] and by an author who does not know the language of the Quran and cannot possibly know/understand/comprehend the 1300 years of ‘debate’ on that very verse in millions of pages of commentaries done on the Quran.

    It may be hard for NYT’s editors to ascertain but a 10th reading of Lane does not – I repeat, does not – entitle one to any opinion on any word in the Quran or any other Arabic text…if one is illiterate in that language – and most specifically in Classical Arabic.

    So, I ask myself. What is the point of that NYT piece? You know which commentary of the Quran they cite in the article – out of the hundreds of thousands of commentaries written since the 9th century? Sayyid Qutb – the al-Qaeda ‘idealogue’.

    That, my friend, is a hit piece on a religion in our liberal paper of record.

  4. Dude, it’s the NYT covering religion. Of course they’re going to have all the insight of a blind man stumbling around without his cane.

  5. I read the NYT article (my reading had nothing to do with your misery), but why did you hate it? Do you have an alternate interpretation of the mentioned verse in the Koran?

  6. Sorry, I’m spending spring break in Hawai’i. Again.

    Is it just me, or is the self-loathing Cubs fan section of the Greenberg profile just way inappropriate? Wasn’t it long enough?

    And Soros is a morass of self-contradictions. Which isn’t at all unusual for people talking about Middle East/American politics, but in his case it really hurts towards the end.

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