Sarah Bowen SavantThe New Muslims of Post-Conquest Iran: Tradition, Memory, and Conversion

Cambridge University Press, 2013

by Matthew Long on October 16, 2014

Sarah Bowen Savant

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[Cross-posted from New Books in Islamic StudiesSarah Bowen Savant, Associate Professor at the Institute for the Study of Muslim Civilisations at the Aga Khan University in London, addresses important questions about conversion among Persian peoples from the ninth to eleventh century CE in her work The New Muslims of Post-Conquest Iran: Tradition, Memory, and Conversion (Cambridge University Press, 2013). Memory is the centerpiece of her study. In the first half of her work, Savant’s analysis of memory, known as mnemohistory, coalesces around certain “sites of memory” which can include people, such as Salmān al-Fārisī, places, and events, with particular attention paid to conquest (futūḥ) narratives. These cases demonstrate how Persian identity was woven into the framework of pre-Islamic history and early Islam. However, remembering is not the only aspect that helped shape Persian, Muslim identity; forgetting is an equally important element according to Savant. Forgetting allowed irreconcilable features of Persian identity and history to be limited. The second half of her work highlights important strategies of forgetting, such as the replacing one past with an alternative account or the use of unfavorable elements of pre-Islamic Persia. Savant’s exploration of memory and its impact upon Persian, Muslim identify helps to answer important questions about conversion in early Islam. Readers, both scholars of Islam and historians in general, will find Savant’s work illuminating.

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Chun-fang YuPassing the Light: The Incense Light Community and Buddhist Nuns in Contemporary Taiwan

October 14, 2014

[Cross-posted from New Books in Buddhist Studies] Chün-fang Yü’s new book, Passing the Light: The Incense Light Community and Buddhist Nuns in Contemporary Taiwan (University of Hawaii Press, 2013), focuses on a community of nuns in Taiwan founded in the early 1980s, and discusses the appearance and development of this community within the context of rapidly changing social and [...]

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Anthony SantoroExile & Embrace: Contemporary Religious Discourses on the Death Penalty

October 14, 2014

[Cross-posted from New Books in Christian Studies] The death penalty is a subject that can easily inflame emotions. However, in his book, Exile & Embrace: Contemporary Religious Discourses on the Death Penalty (Northeastern University Press, 2013), Dr. Anthony Santoro does an amazing job of objectively presenting opposition to and support of the death penalty and explaining his own opposition to [...]

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Mariam al-AttarIslamic Ethics: Divine Command Theory in Arabo-Islamic Thought

October 2, 2014

Mariam al-Attar, Islamic Ethics: Divine Command Theory in Arabo-Islamic Thought (Routledge, 2010)  explores the meaning, origin and development of “Divine Command Theory” in Islamic thought. In the process, al-Attar underscores the philosophical bases of religious fundamentalism that hinder social development and hamper dialogue between different cultures and nations. Challenging traditional stereotypes of Islam, the book refutes contemporary [...]

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Mary-Jane RubensteinWorlds Without End: The Many Lives of the Multiverse

September 29, 2014

Where can the the boundaries of science, philosophy, and religion be drawn? Questioning the nature of the universe is an excellent place to rethink how these categories have been deployed across time. Mary-Jane Rubenstein, professor Religious Studies at Wesleyan University, offers a genealogy of multiple-world cosmologies that demonstrates these terms pliability and the debated relationship [...]

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Nabil MatarHenry Stubbe and the Beginnings of Islam: The Originall & Progress of Mahometanism­

September 18, 2014

[Cross-posted from New Books in Islamic Studies] In Henry Stubbe and the Beginnings of Islam: The Originall & Progress of Mahometanism­ (Columbia University Press, 2014), Nabil Matar masterfully edits an important piece of scholarship from seventeenth-century England by scholar and physician, Henry Stubbe (1632-76). Matar also gives a substantial introduction to his annotated edition of Stubbe’s text by situating the author [...]

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Albert L. Park and David K. Yoo, eds.Encountering Modernity: Christianity in East Asia and Asian America

September 10, 2014

[Cross-posted from New Books in Christian Studies] Modernity and religion have often been seen as fundamentally at odds. However, the articles in Encountering Modernity: Christianity in East Asia and Asian America (University of Hawaii Press, 2014 ), edited by Albert L. Park and David K. Yoo, argue that Protestant Christianity has played an important role in how East Asians understood and adapted [...]

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Jolyon ThomasDrawing on Tradition: Manga, Anime, and Religion in Contemporary Japan

September 6, 2014

The worlds of cinema and illustrated fiction are replete with exciting data for the historian of religion. Drawing on Tradition: Manga, Anime, and Religion in Contemporary Japan (University Of Hawai’i Press, 2012), by author Jolyon Thomas, sets up a robust theoretical model for examining how the concept of religion is deployed in these mediums. Thomas [...]

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William ChittickDivine Love: Islamic Literature and the Path to God

September 2, 2014

[Cross-posted from New Books in Islamic Studies] Where does love come from and where will it lead us? Throughout the years various answers have been given to these questions. In Divine Love: Islamic Literature and the Path to God (Yale University Press, 2013), William Chittick, professor at Stony Brook University, responds to these queries from the perspective of the rich [...]

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Matthew HedstromThe Rise of Liberal Religion: Book Culture and American Spirituality in the Twentieth Century

August 8, 2014

Expressions of religious belief through popular media are a regular occurrence in our contemporary age. But the circulation and negotiation of religious identities in public contexts has a fairly long history in American culture. Matthew Hedstrom, Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Virginia, looks beyond the church to determine how religious liberalism was [...]

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