January 2012

“The Net Worth of the Arab Spring”

Call for Papers
CyberOrient: Online Journal of the Virtual Middle East
Editor-in-Chief: Daniel Martin Varisco

Guest Editor: Ines Braune

Submission deadline: 31 May 2012


As the first anniversary of the “Arab Spring” nears, several long-standing dictators have been toppled, protests still continue in other countries and new governments are being formed. Arguably, throughout this last year digital media have played an important, if not defining, role through Twitter, Facebook, blogs and the extensive news coverage in cyberspace. This is a call for papers across disciplines aiming for critical and evidence-based evaluation of the use of social media in the Arab Spring, the coverage of the Arab Spring in cyberspace and beyond, and the remediation and appropriation between social media and traditional media outlets, including satellite TVs and the press. First-person and ethnographic accounts are welcomed, but CyberOrient welcomes contributions from any field.

About CyberOrient

CyberOrient (http://www.cyberorient.net/) is a peer-reviewed journal published by the Middle East Section of the American Anthropological Association in collaboration with the Faculty of Arts of Charles University in Prague. The aim of the journal is to provide research and theoretical considerations on the representation of Islam and the Middle East, the very areas that used to be styled as an “Orient”, in cyberspace, as well as the impact of the internet and new media in Muslim and Middle Eastern contexts. The articles will be published online with free access in early autumn, 2012.


Articles should be submitted directly to Ines Braune (ines.braune@uni-marburg.de) and Vit Sisler (vsisler@gmail.com).

Lechery, Immodesty and the Talmud
By DOV LINZER, The New York Times, January 20, 2012

IS it possible for a religious demand for modesty to be about anything other than men controlling women’s bodies? From recent events in Israel, it would certainly seem that it is not.

Last month, an innocent, modestly dressed 8-year-old girl, Naama Margolese, living in Beit Shemesh, described being spat on and vilified by religious extremists — all men — who believed that she did not dress modestly enough while walking past them to the religious school she attends. And more and more, public buses in Israel are enforcing gender segregation imposed by ultra-Orthodox riders in and near their neighborhoods. Woe to the girl or woman who refuses to move to the back of the bus.

This is part of a larger battle being waged in Israel between the ultra-Orthodox and the rest of Israeli society over women’s place in society, over their very right to have a visible presence and to participate in the public sphere.

What is behind these deeply disturbing events? We are told that they arise from a religious concern about modesty, that women must be covered and sequestered so that men do not have improper sexual thoughts. It seems, then, that a religious tenet that begins with men’s sexual thoughts ends with men controlling women’s bodies.

This is not a problem unique to Judaism. But the Talmud, the basis for Jewish law, offers a perhaps surprising answer: It places the responsibility for controlling men’s licentious thoughts about women squarely on the men.

Put more plainly, the Talmud says: It’s your problem, sir; not hers. (more…)

The Salafis, Politics and the Revolution in Yemen

Monday, January 23rd; 12:30pm-2pm
208 Knox Hall ~ 606 West 122nd Street, New York, NY

A lecture by Laurent Bonnefoy
Moderated by Brinkley Messick

Since the early 1980s, Salafism in Yemen has developed as a mostly apolitical movement. Yet, the revolutionary process that emerged in 2011 is changing much of its face in the country and fostering deep recompositions in the Islamist field. This lecture will analyze these changes and concentrate on showing why this political movement matters beyond issues of counter-terrorism.

Laurent Bonnefoy (PhD), born in 1980, is a researcher in political science at the Institut Français du Proche-Orient (IFPO) based in Palestine. Building on four years spent in Yemen, his research focuses primarily on contemporary religious identities in the Arabian Peninsula. He is the author of Salafism in Yemen. Transnationalism and Religious Identity (Columbia University Press, 2012).

Co-sponsored by the Middle East Institute and the Alliance Program.

How the camel kept its cool: Dromedary in the desert finds shade under rare tree that does the job of a parasol

By Chris Parsons, Daily Mail, January 4. 2012

When the temperature soars around the sweltering 40C mark, you’ll take anywhere as respite from the scorching rays no matter how unusual it looks.

This camel sought refuge in the baking heat on the Island of Soqotra in Yemen by sheltering in the shade under an unusual tree which looks like a giant mushroom. (more…)

Whatever you think about “religion,” you must admit that “religion” is not something that can be avoided. There are countries where a person has little choice but to accept the dominant religion imposed and there are places where one can shop for religion more easily than clothes. As an anthropologist I accept the fact not only that we have evolved (even if Darwin did not start a religion) and that all members of Homo sapiens that have been encountered and studied have something that deserves to be called “religion,” even if only in the minimalist sense of Victorian Quaker Edward Tylor that religion is at bottom a belief in spirits. There are many religions out there and several important scholarly organizations devoted to the study of religion in one way or another, but add a new one to the mix.

Anthropologist Gabriele Marranci, founder of the journal Contemporary Islam, has formed the Worldwide Association for the Study of Religion (WASR perhaps for those who like acronyms) If you do not have a Facebook account, join the Wiki.

This group is open to scholars studying religion or with an interest in religion and aims to develop a worldwide association accessible to any scholar or student wherever they might live. This is a working group to develop ideas and the structure for this new association, which aims also to remove the gap between scholars working in developing countries and those in the West. This group is open to scholars studying religion or with an interest in religion and aims to develop a worldwide association accessible to any scholar or student wherever they might live. As scholars the goal of the association to study religion in all its forms and not to lobby for any particular religion or even for the absence of religion. This is a working group to develop ideas and the structure for this new association, which aims also to remove the gap between scholars working in developing countries and those in the West.

As Marranci notes, his effort is not to replace organizations like the American Academy of Religion, but to expand the network of scholars who study religion worldwide. With the Internet and Skype, scholars are no longer captive to meeting colleagues at professional meetings, important as these remain. Feel free to join today and tell your friends.

On Facebook; you can request joining (which is free) by clicking here. You can also join via the Wiki.

The Cambridge Digital Library now has online access to some of their Islamic manuscripts. Details below, as described on the website:

Cambridge University Library’s collection of Islamic manuscripts dates from the origins of Arabic scholarship in Cambridge in the 1630s when the University founded a Professorship in Arabic and William Bedwell donated a Qur’an to the Library. Since that time the collection has grown in size and diversity to over 5,000 works, including the collections of Thomas Erpenius, J.L.Burckhardt, E.H.Palmer and E.G. Browne. These manuscripts shed light on many aspects of the Islamic world, its beliefs and learning.

The collection was further enriched over the centuries through the activities of scholarly collectors and skilled librarians, adding more depth to the already impressive range of manuscripts. Yet this extraordinary collection has remained relatively unknown outside Cambridge. Now we hope to draw better attention to its treasures through cataloguing and digitisation. We have collaborated with the Bodleian at Oxford and other research libraries to provide an online catalogue of the collection. We will be offering a selection of digitised manuscripts through the Foundations project and will seek funding for further digitisation. (more…)

For those interested int he history and culture of Syria, there is an online archive available at http://www.syrianhistory.com/ The site has links to old photographs, film footage, music excerpts and more.

[One of the great moral tales of the 18th century is Voltaire’s (1759) Candide, a book well worth reading and rereading from time to time. Here is an excerpt from the end of the book, but it is not Orientalism in the Saidian sense of negative portrayal; indeed it is the honest Turk which stands in contrast to tyrants of all stripes.]

During this conversation, news was spread abroad that two viziers of the bench and the mufti had just been strangled at Constantinople, and several of their friends impaled. This catastrophe made a great noise for some hours. Pangloss, Candide, and Martin, as they were returning to the little farm, met with a good-looking old man, who was taking the air at his door, under an alcove formed of the boughs of orange trees. Pangloss, who was as inquisitive as he was disputative, asked him what was the name of the mufti who was lately strangled.

“I cannot tell,” answered the good old man; “I never knew the name of any mufti, or vizier breathing. I am entirely ignorant of the event you speak of; I presume that in general such as are concerned in public affairs sometimes come to a miserable end; and that they deserve it: but I never inquire what is doing at Constantinople; I am contented with sending thither the produce of my garden, which I cultivate with my own hands.” (more…)

« Previous PageNext Page »