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Focusing on the ways in which Shakespeare’s Othello defies the expectations of its early audiences, this essay argues that the play should be considered as an experiment that can offer new perspectives on race, religion, and the stage in early modern England. In almost every respect, the figure of Othello and his Venetian and Cypriot contexts are the result of Shakespearean innovation. He is the first Christian Moor on the stage; he is racialized differently; his trajectory intentionally defies the model established by the popular "Turk play." He even speaks differently from those "strangers" that had gone before. Reflecting in detail on the nature of those innovations reveals the extent to which the play was a sustained challenge to assumptions regarding race, religion, and the theatricality of difference that had hitherto dominated onstage and beyond. It was an experiment that proved enduringly influential.
This article explores three important Zoroastrian legal texts from the ʿAbbasid period, consisting of questions and answers to high-ranking priests. The texts contain a wellspring of information about the social history of Zoroastrianism under Islamic rule, especially the formative encounter between Zoroastrians and Muslims. These include matters such as conversion, apostasy, sexual relations with outsiders, inheritance, commerce, and the economic status of priests. The article argues that the elite clergy responsible for writing these texts used law to refashion the Zoroastrian community from the rulers of Iran, as they had been in Late Antiquity, into one of a variety of dhimmī groups living under Islamic rule. It also argues that, far from being brittle or inflexible, the priests responded to the challenges of the day with creativity and pragmatism. On both counts, there are strong parallels between the experiences of Zoroastrians and those of Christians and Jews, who also turned to law as an instrument for rethinking their place in the new Islamic cosmos. Finally, the article makes a methodological point, namely to show the importance of integrating Pahlavi sources into wider histories of Iran and the Middle East during the early Islamic period.
In Malaysia, a Muslim-majority country in Southeast Asia, a dynamic market for Muslim fashion has evolved over the past decade, especially concerning the abaya, a female Muslim dress. Malay Malaysian designers, producers and consumers focus on this garment because it represents a style of female Islamic clothing that is perceived as ‘authentic’. The abaya originates from the Arabian Peninsula and is generally worn by Arabic Muslim women with a syariah-compliant design that is commonly simple, loose and opaque. Embedded into the broader marketising processes of a halal industry in Malaysia, Malay women started to adopt this material object and transformed it into a distinct expression of Malaysian Muslim style. The original abaya that follows Islamic rules became a colourful and decorated dress. This transformative process is not only an expression of variation in fashion and style but profoundly transcends powerful social, placial and spatial orders within the Muslim world. The Malaysian fashion market for abayas is embedded in wider dynamics of sacred landscaping in which the Arabian Peninsula is considered to be the ‘centre of Islam’ while Malaysia is positioned and positions itself at the margins. However, Malay Malaysian social actors have shifted this constellation towards a Malaysia that has pushed itself to the forefront of a commercialising Islam through the development of the related Muslim fashion market, among other things. Thus, within a Muslim world order, transregional connections lead to an entangled web of meaning-making regarding power structures, Islamic principles and social practices.
This paper examines how Islam in Japan tends to be tolerated as (foreign) “culture,” especially within the framework of tabunka kyōsei, multicultural coexistence, and cosmetic multiculturalism to circumvent religious apathy, phobia of religion, and prejudice against Islam. In doing so, this paper will: first provide a history of Muslim–Japanese relations and Muslim communities in Japan as well as an overview of the total estimate of the Muslim population in Japan as of 2018; historicize and denaturalize religious apathy, phobia of religion, and prejudice against Islam among the general Japanese public; analyze the rhetoric of tabunka kyōsei and its relation to cosmetic multiculturalism as well as its problematics; investigate the cases of local oppositions to the building projects of mosques and my observations made at events organized by Muslim groups; and conclude with a critical remark on the cosmetic multiculturalist understanding of “Islamic culture” and its approach to tabunka kyōsei.
The final chapter presents the conclusions of the book, looking specifically at how speaking publicly gives people authority, particularly when others listen to and support them. Then it discusses the challenges and opportunities of speaking about one's faith in contemporary, technologically mediated contexts. Finally, how diversity of belief is managed within religious communities is discussed, in relation to the data analysed in the previous chapters.
This chapter focuses on how authority is claimed by individuals in religious traditions and the role of sacred texts as the 'word of God' in both Christianity and Islam. How individuals take on that authority for themselves, using scared texts in their discourse is analysed, with a discussion of how people of different faiths discuss the differences in their sacred texts, and how they establish authority when cultural norms change.
This chapter begins with defining the key terms of religion and discourse, presenting how different approaches to language have influenced the understanding of religious experience and vice versa. A definition of discourse is provided which focuses on functions, embodied cognition, and emergence. Religion and spiritual experience have been described from a variety of perspectives with attempts to understand language with various perspectives (functional, embodied cognition, and emergence) applied to religious language and talk about religious experience. Finally, the emergence and influence of mediatisation and secularisation are discussed in terms of their effects on religious believers.
This chapter focuses on giving theoretical and methodological frameworks for dealing with religious discourse. While religious discourse can be observed in a variety of places, given the focus of this research on language-in-use and the development of religious belief and practice in these contexts, public dialogues about religion, in both supportive and antagonistic settings, are used as the primary data in this study. The data represents the ways in which speakers, foregrounding their religious identity, speak about religious belief and practice together, with a focus on instances in which the speakers are addressing challenges to the beliefs posed by social changes, such as those about homosexuality. Data sources were identified as a part of an ongoing, ten-year longitudinal observation of religious users online following principles of Discourse-Centred Online Ethnography and describing the changes in systems in interaction over time, following the principles of a Discourse-Dynamics Approach and discourse analysis using Positioning Theory.
This chapter focuses on how religion is reprented in contemporary life and how categories like 'Christian' and 'Muslim' are established both within one's own religious community and in contrast to people of different faiths. The role of religion in the wider world is then considered with a particualr focus on how religions adapt to changing cultural norms.
This chapter addresses the opportunities and challenges for believers living in the contemporary world, balancing the pressures of their own communities and their individual belief. The chapter discusses the influence of the market economy on the the presentation of belief in the contemporary world, and how debates between people of the same faith arise and are resolved. The focus on individual choice and personal conviction is analysed in relation to topics of debate within Christianity and Islam.
How do people of faith use language to position themselves, and their beliefs and practices, in the contemporary world? This pioneering and original study looks closely at how Christians and Muslims talk to people inside and outside of their own communities about what they think are the right things to believe and do. From debates, to podcasts and YouTube videos, the book covers a range of engaging texts and contexts, showing how doctrine and beliefs are not nearly as fixed and static as we might think, and that people are prone to change what they say they believe, depending on who they are talking to. From abortion, to hell, to whether it's okay to sell alcohol, Pihlaja investigates how Christians and Muslims struggle with different elements of their own faith, and try to make decisions about what to do when there are so many different voices to believe.
This chapter investigates the emergence of imperial space in the early Islamic world, 7th–12th centuries, and Muslim notions of empire in this period. It examines how an imperial space was conquered under the Prophet Muhammad, Rashidun Caliphs and Umayyad dynasty, reaching its height in c.740, followed by its fragmentation under the Abbasid Caliphate (750–1258). The role of jihad in this expansion is examined, along with the institutions that bound the empire together and the reasons for its disintegration. The expansion of the frontiers of the Islamic world only began again under Turkish dynasties, the Seljuqs, Qarakhanids and Ghaznavids in the 11th century, when parts of Anatolia, Central Asia and India were conquered. Finally, this chapter considers how imperial space was visualised and represented in this period, examining the evidence of maps in manuscripts of works by Arabic geographers of the 10th–11th centuries.
Missionaries have flocked to the Kyrgyz Republic ever since the collapse of the Soviet Union. Evangelical-Pentecostal and Tablighi missions have been particularly active on what they conceive of as a fertile post-atheist frontier. But as these missions project their message of truth onto the frontier, the dangers of the frontier may overwhelm them. Based on long-term ethnographic fieldwork amongst foreign and local Tablighis and evangelical-Pentecostals, this article formulates an analytic of the frontier that highlights the affective and relational characteristics of missionary activities and their effects. This analytic explains why and how missionaries are attracted to the frontier, as well as some of the successes and failures of their expansionist efforts. In doing so, the article reveals the potency of instability, a feature that is particularly evident in missionary work, but also resonates with other frontier situations.
This article traces the influence of Front National (FN) on the transformation of mainstream French narratives of laïcité since 1989, with particular attention to education policy. It argues that the FN’s right-wing populist rhetoric, particularly the systematic securitisation of Islam as a threat to the ‘people’, facilitated the more widespread reframing of laïcité as a Republican defence mechanism, operating primarily through the school system. Laïcité was increasingly deployed in mainstream discourses and legislative measures to address two interrelated security concerns: the immediate safety of the school by the promotion of neutrality, and the overall wellbeing of the Republic via the prevention of radicalisation. Analysing this process in two specific periods (1989–2004 and 2005–2019), the article demonstrates that the FN’s populist agenda came to be in a symbiotic relationship with the centre-right and centre-left parties. While established parties gradually incorporated the FN’s securitisation narrative in their policymaking, the FN went through a process of ‘normalisation’ by claiming ownership of laïcité as a way to frame its anti-Islam stance in a more acceptable Republican discourse.
Constitutionally, Indonesia is a state “based on Almighty God,” but the Constitution does not specify any religions or belief systems. This is left to statute, which establishes six official religions that the state supports and helps administer: Islam, Protestantism, Catholicism, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Confucianism. But Indonesia is home to a rich kaleidoscope of other beliefs (kepercayaan), ranging from indigenous practices predating the arrival of many of the official religions to new age spiritual movements. The constitutional status of these beliefs is contentious, and their followers have long complained of government discrimination, primarily in matters of civil registration services, education, and employment. This reinforces the view, propounded by some adherents to official religions, that beliefs are inferior to official religions. This view, in turn, perpetuates the socioeconomic and cultural marginalization of belief-holders. In 2017, Indonesia's Constitutional Court was asked to examine the constitutional status of these beliefs. Its decision appears to constitutionally recognize these beliefs; accordingly, it has been heralded as an advance for religious freedom in Indonesia. Indeed, it has spurred limited administrative reforms to remove discrimination in several parts of Indonesia. But the Court's decision is muddled and inconsistent. It does not clearly establish that beliefs enjoy the same level of constitutional protection as do religions—if they are, in fact, constitutionally protected at all. The likely result is continuing faith-based discrimination and marginalization in Indonesia.
Chapter Three argues that the Mughal emissary I’tesamuddin adopts contradictory personas in London parks, theaters, and ballrooms. His Persian travelogue, Shigarf-nāma i Wilāyat [The Wonder-book of the Province/England], narrates his 1767–1769 diplomatic mission to deliver Mughal Emperor Shah Alam II’s letter requesting military assistance from King George III, circumventing the Company’s authority. Because this mission failed after Robert Clive withheld the letter, the Mirza instead writes about London’s theatrical and touristic attractions, including Shakespeare’s King Lear, John Gay’s The Beggar’s Opera, and a pantomime farce. Enthralled by these shows, he morphs into a black-masked Harlequin in sexual pursuit of white fairy-like Englishwomen – the repertoire by which he judges off-stage Britons as deluded by worldly gain, figured as a Protestant work ethic that values efficient labor and capital accumulation. By the end of his narrative, his identity shifts from an admirer of an Islamized Anglican state to an ascetic Muslim who prefers elite Mughal society and its veiled light brown women.
The history of medieval West Africa is defined by the age of three great empires that succeeded one another: Ghāna, Māli, and Songhay. How did these empires come to frame our view of the West African past? To answer the question, we have to understand first how the European and Eurocentric concept of an empire was imposed on a specific African context and why it thrived. In this respect, the case of Sudanic empires in particular illuminates the process of history writing and scholars’ relationship with their time and object of study. In the last few years, Sudanic empires have made a prominent return to the historical conversation. I propose here a critical reflection on ‘empire’ and ‘imperial tradition’ in the western Sahel based on europhone and non-europhone (Arabic) historiographies, from the first histories written in postmedieval West Africa to those produced by twenty-first-century scholarship.
Recent research points to a renewed scholarly interest in the West African Middle Ages and the Sahelian imperial tradition. However, in these works only tangential attention is paid to the role of Muslims, and especially to clerical communities. This essay tackles theoretical and historiographical insights on the role of African Muslims in the era of the medieval empires and argues that the study of Islam in this region during the Middle Ages still suffers from undertheorizing. On the contrary, by using a ‘discursive approach’ scholars can unravel access to fascinating aspects of the history of West African Muslims and in particular to the crucial role played by clerical communities, who represented one node of the web of diffused authority which is characteristic of precolonial West African social and political structures.
Numerous tārīḫs (chronicles) were written in Timbuktu and its surrounding world from the seventeenth to the twentieth century CE. They constitute the Timbuktu tārīḫ tradition. The tārīḫs were embedded in different political projects, which became possible and necessary only under certain historical conditions. Hence, tārīḫs do not all belong to one single genre of historical literature. A chronicle that belongs to the Timbuktu tārīḫ tradition is the twentieth-century Kitāb al-turjumān. It sheds light on history writing in the Sahel during a crucial time, namely European colonial rule and the political realities it gave birth to thereafter. One of modern historians’ most important tasks is precisely to identify, describe, and analyse the different genres within the tārīḫ tradition. We attempt to do that in the case of the Kitāb al-turjumān.