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“Area studies” as a way of trying to understand human experience is undergoing a major transition. Questioning the connection between Middle East and African studies highlights important dimensions of the changing nature of area studies at the beginning of the 21st century.
Al-Sa⊂di's Ta⊃rikh al-sudan is an essential source for the history of West Africa in the 15th and 16th centuries and a significant volume in the library of Muslim history. Although a French translation by Octave Houdas has been available for more than a century, al-Sa⊂di's history has been used primarily by specialists and is known more generally only through references to it in textbooks and monographs. The publication of John Hunwick's translation makes this important work readily available to a broad audience in a readable and very usable form.
The power of traditional popular Islam in the modern world is difficult to assess. At times, however, developments provide at least an indirect means of evaluation for specific Muslim populations. One such experience is provided by the relations of the British with the ‘Ulamâ’ in the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan during the early years of the Condominium. These relations also provide a case study of British imperial attitudes toward Islam.
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