Carol Bakhos’ Ishmael on the Border: Rabbinic Portrayals of the First Arab (SUNY Press, 2006) is an in-depth study of the rabbinic treatment of Abraham’s first-born son Ishmael over a 1000-year period, tracing the shifts and nuances in his representation within the Jewish tradition before and after the emergence of Islam. The work stems from her early interest in how a minority that is often depicted as the Other, depicts the Other. “It is important to recognize how the Other-ing, if you will, is a process that takes place among all groups and in all periods of time,” said Bakhos, “so that we can contextualize statements and understand groups, societies, and cultures with greater depth and appreciation.”
Lev Hakak is preparing for publication the didactic work of a forgotten 18th-century Jewish poet of Baghdad. Ezra Habavli’s Moral Reproof, originally published in 1735, is a guide to the way of life a man should choose. It is written in “a poetic, very rich and creative Hebrew style,” says Hakak. “It should be explored, brought to the attention of readers and scholars, and be part of the canon of Hebrew literature.”
Nikki Keddie, Professor Emerita of Middle Eastern and Iranian History, is a pioneer in the field of Middle East women’s history. Her most recent book, Women in the Middle East: Past and Present (Princeton University Press, 2006), is a concise, comprehensive, and authoritative history of the lives of women in the region since the rise of Islam. The book seeks to balance discussion of positive aspects and struggles for women’s rights and the obstacles to gender equality, past and present. In addition, it includes autobiographical material concerning some dramatic and significant events in own her life which show that gender and political discrimination are not limited to the Middle East.
Afaf Marsot’s History of Egypt has been published in a new edition by Cambridge University Press, bringing the history up to the present day and including an analysis of the rise of fundamentalist Islam.
Aamir Mufti’s Enlightenment in the Colony: The Jewish Question and the Crisis of Postcolonial Culture, was published in May by Princeton University Press. The work opens up the history of the “Jewish question” to a broader discussion of the social exclusion of religious and cultural minorities in modern times, and in particular the crisis of Muslim identity in modern India. Mufti argues that the minoritization of some social and cultural fragment of the population is the one characteristic shared by all emerging national cultures since the 19th century. He hopes his book “will make a convincing case for ways of thinking that are irredeemably secular, at a moment that is sometimes too hastily coming to be described as ‘post-secular’.”