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Islam, Sovereignty, and the Rule of Law in Modern Egypt
Author: Hussein Ali Agrama
Publisher: University of Chicago Press
Category: Social Science
The central question of the Arab Spring—what democracies should look like in the deeply religious countries of the Middle East—has developed into a vigorous debate over these nations’ secular identities. But what, exactly, is secularism? What has the West’s long familiarity with it inevitably obscured? In Questioning Secularism, Hussein Ali Agrama tackles these questions. Focusing on the fatwa councils and family law courts of Egypt just prior to the revolution, he delves deeply into the meaning of secularism itself and the ambiguities that lie at its heart. Drawing on a precedent-setting case arising from the family law courts —the last courts in Egypt to use Shari‘a law—Agrama shows that secularism is a historical phenomenon that works through a series of paradoxes that it creates. Digging beneath the perceived differences between the West and Middle East, he highlights secularism’s dependence on the law and the problems that arise from it: the necessary involvement of state sovereign power in managing the private spiritual lives of citizens and the irreducible set of legal ambiguities such a relationship creates. Navigating a complex landscape between private and public domains, Questioning Secularism lays important groundwork for understanding the real meaning of secularism as it affects the real freedoms of a citizenry, an understanding of the utmost importance for so many countries that are now urgently facing new political possibilities.
Law and identification transgressed political boundaries in the nineteenth-century Levant. Over the course of the century, Italo-Levantines- elite and common- exercised a strategy of resilient hybridity whereby an unintentional form of legal imperialism took root in Egypt. This book contributes to a vibrant strand of global legal history that places law and other social structures at the heart of competing imperial projects- British, Ottoman, Egyptian, and Italian among them. Analysis of the Italian consular and mixed court cases, and diplomatic records, in Egypt and Istanbul reveals the complexity of shifting identifications and judicial reform in two parts of the interactive and competitive plural legal regime. The rich court records show that binary relational categories fail to capture the complexity of the daily lives of the residents and courts of the late Ottoman empire. Over time and acting in their own self-interests, these actors exploited the plural legal regime. Case studies in both Egypt and Istanbul explore how identification developed as a legal form of property itself. Whereas the classical literature emphasized external state power politics, this book builds upon new work in the field that shows the interaction of external and internal power struggles throughout the region led to assorted forms of confrontation, collaboration, and negotiation in the region. It will be of interest to students, scholars, and readers of Middle East, Ottoman, and Mediterranean history. It will also appeal to anyone wanting to know more about cultural history in the nineteenth century, and the historical roots of contemporary global debates on law, migration, and identities.
In The Politics of Dialogic Imagination, Katsuya Hirano seeks to understand why, with its seemingly unrivaled power, the Tokugawa shogunate of early modern Japan tried so hard to regulate the ostensibly unimportant popular culture of Edo (present-day Tokyo)—including fashion, leisure activities, prints, and theater. He does so by examining the works of writers and artists who depicted and celebrated the culture of play and pleasure associated with Edo’s street entertainers, vagrants, actors, and prostitutes, whom Tokugawa authorities condemned to be detrimental to public mores, social order, and political economy. Hirano uncovers a logic of politics within Edo’s cultural works that was extremely potent in exposing contradictions between the formal structure of the Tokugawa world and its rapidly changing realities. He goes on to look at the effects of this logic, examining policies enacted during the next era—the Meiji period—that mark a drastic reconfiguration of power and a new politics toward ordinary people under modernizing Japan. Deftly navigating Japan’s history and culture, The Politics of Dialogic Imaginationprovides a sophisticated account of a country in the process of radical transformation—and of the intensely creative culture that came out of it.
We often invoke the “magic” of mass media to describe seductive advertising or charismatic politicians. In The Mana of Mass Society, William Mazzarella asks what happens to social theory if we take that idea seriously. How would it change our understanding of publicity, propaganda, love, and power? Mazzarella reconsiders the concept of “mana,” which served in early anthropology as a troubled bridge between “primitive” ritual and the fascination of mass media. Thinking about mana, Mazzarella shows, means rethinking some of our most fundamental questions: What powers authority? What in us responds to it? Is the mana that animates an Aboriginal ritual the same as the mana that energizes a revolutionary crowd, a consumer public, or an art encounter? At the intersection of anthropology and critical theory, The Mana of Mass Society brings recent conversations around affect, sovereignty, and emergence into creative contact with classic debates on religion, charisma, ideology, and aesthetics.
This book assesses whether a new category of religious actors has been constructed within international law. Religious actors, through their interpretations of the religion(s) they are associated with, uphold and promote, or indeed may transform, potentially oppressive structures or discriminatory patterns. This study moves beyond the concern that religious texts and practices may be incompatible with international law, to provide an innovative analysis of how religious actors themselves are accountable under international law for the interpretations they choose to put forward. The book defines religious actors as comprising religious states, international organizations, and non-state entities that assume the role of interpreting religion and so claim a 'special' legitimacy anchored in tradition or charisma. Cutting across the state / non-state divide, this definition allows the full remit of religious bodies to be investigated. It analyses the crucial question of whether religious actors do in fact operate under different international legal norms to non-religious states, international organizations, or companies. To that end, the Holy See-Vatican, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, and churches and religious organizations under the European Convention on Human Rights regime are examined in detail as case studies. The study ultimately establishes that religious actors cannot be seen to form an autonomous legal category under international law: they do not enjoy special or exclusive rights, nor incur lesser obligations, when compared to their respective non-religious peers. Going forward, it concludes that a process of two-sided legitimation may be at stake: religious actors will need to provide evidence for the legality of their religious interpretations to strengthen their legitimacy, and international law itself may benefit from religious actors fostering its legitimacy in different cultural contexts.