11 Books to Read on Middle Eastern & Islamic Societies and Cultures

Stanford University Press (SUP) has a dynamic publishing program and extensive offerings in Middle Eastern and Islamic societies and cultures, Middle Eastern history, and Islamic political theory and theology. Below are a few highlights, courtesy of Kate Wahl, Editor-in-Chief & Publishing Director of SUP.

Morbid Symptoms: Relapse in the Arab Uprising

By Gilbert Achcar, Professor of Development Studies and International Relations at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London

A timely analysis of the ongoing Arab uprising. Drawing on a unique combination of scholarly and political knowledge of the Arab region, Gilbert Achcar argues that, short of radical social change, the region will not achieve stability any time soon.

The Ottoman Scramble for Africa: Empire and Diplomacy in the Sahara and the Hijaz

By Mostafa Minawi, Assistant Professor of History at Cornell University

The first book to tell the story of the Ottoman Empire’s expansionist efforts during the age of high imperialism. Mostafa Minawi challenges the idea that the Ottomans were passive observers of the European negotiations over solutions to the so-called Eastern Question.

Kuwait Transformed: A History of Oil and Urban Life

By Farah Al-Nakib, Assistant Professor of History and Director of the Center for Gulf Studies at the American University of Kuwait

A sweeping history of Kuwait, from its settlement in 1716 to the 21st century. Farah Al-Nakib explains both Kuwait’s cosmopolitan history as a diverse port city and the fundamental transformation of its urban space and political life.

A Modern History of the Middle East: Rulers, Rebels, and Rogues

By Betty Anderson, Associate Professor of Middle East History at Boston University

A comprehensive assessment of the Middle East, from the founding of the Ottoman and Safavid empires through the present-day protests and upheavals. Betty Anderson highlights the region’s complexity and variation, countering easy assumptions about the Middle East and its inhabitants.

Making Moderate Islam: Sufism, Service, and the “Ground Zero Mosque” Controversy

By Rosemary Corbett, Visiting Professor at the Bard Prison Initiative

The first book to investigate the assumptions behind moderate Islam in the United States. Rosemary Corbett unpacks a century of pressures on religious minorities to conform to dominant American ideas about race, gender, and political economy, while also telling the story of those involved in Manhattan’s contested project for an Islamic community center.

Losing Afghanistan: An Obituary of the Intervention

By Noah Coburn, Professor of Anthropology at Bennington College

A vivid account of the challenges and contradictions of life during the US intervention. Noah Coburn tells the stories of four individuals — an ambassador, a Navy SEAL, a young Afghan businessman, and a wind energy engineer — to show how the intervention became an entity unto itself, one doomed to collapse under the weight of its own bureaucracy and contradictory intentions.

Circuits of Faith: Migration, Education, and the Wahhabi Mission

By Michael Farquhar, Lecturer in Middle East Politics at King’s College London

The first examination of the Islamic University of Medina and the Saudi actors and institutions trying to exert religions influence beyond the kingdom’s borders. Michael Farquhar counters the common assumptions about the Saudi “export” of Wahhabism, and shows how transnational networks of students and faculty also influence the Wahhabi mission.

Souffles-Anfas: A Critical Anthology from the Moroccan Journal of Culture and Politics

By Olivia Harrison, Assistant Professor of French and Middle East Studies at the University of Southern California, and Teresa Villa-Ignacio, Postdoctoral Fellow in English and Visiting Scholar in French at Tulane University

An incandescent corpus of experimental leftist writing, presented in English for the first time. The essays, poems, and artwork included in this anthology offer a unique window into the political and artistic imaginaries of writers and intellectuals in postcolonial North Africa.

Field Notes: The Making of Middle East Studies in the United States

By Zachary Lockman, Professor of Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies and of History at New York University

A detailed history of the origins and trajectory of Middle East studies in the United States. Zachary Lockman uncovers how area studies as an academic field was built — a process replete with contention, anxiety, dead ends, and consequences both unanticipated and unintended.

Soundtrack of the Revolution: The Politics of Music in Iran

By Nahid Siamdoust, Research Scholar at New York University’s Hagop Kevorkian Center for Near Eastern Studies

An alternative history of the Iran, told through its music, culture, and politics. Nahid Siamdoust follows the work of four musicians to shed new light on the ongoing debates about religious belief political freedom, and identity.

The Story of Reason in Islam

By Sari Nusseibeh, Professor of Philosophy at Al-Quds University in Jerusalem

A sweeping intellectual history of Islamic reasoning. Sari Nusseibeh surveys the different Islamic schools of thought to offer a fresh look at why and how Islamic reasoning evolved over time.

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This article originally appeared in the 2017 newsletter of the Abbasi Program in Islamic Studies. View the complete newsletter here.

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