Interviews with Scholars of the Middle East about their New Books
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In the absence of any real certainty about the nature and intention of the early sources that tell us the story of the early Islamic period, how can we use them? What sort of methodological approaches may we deploy to elucidate the meanings of texts, often similar in their core elements, but with divergent perspectives and intentions that cut across a range of genres? In The Rebel and the Imam in Early Islam (Cambridge University Press, 2019), Professor Najam Haider, Associate Professor in the Department of Religion at Barnard, follows his two earlier books on Shi'ism with an exploration of the link between early Islamic historical writing and Late Antique and Classic Rhetoric. Najam seeks not to supplant positivist approaches to history with his new methodology, but rather to ask new kinds of questions relating to intention, meaning, and community.Aaron Hagler is an assistant professor of history at Troy University. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
As you may know, university presses publish a lot of good books. In fact, they publish thousands of them every year. They are different from most trade books in that most of them are what you might called "fundamental research." Their authors--dedicated researchers one and all--provide the scholarly stuff upon which many non-fiction trade books are based. So when you are reading, say, a popular history, you are often reading UP books at one remove. Of course, some UP books are also bestsellers, and they are all well written (and, I should say, thoroughly vetted thanks to the peer review system), but the greatest contribution of UPs is to provide a base of fundamental research to the public. And they do a great job of it.How do they do it? Today I talked to Kathryn Conrad, the president of the Association of University Presses, about the work of UPs, the challenges they face, and some terrific new directions they are going. We also talked about why, if you have a scholarly book in progress, you should talk to UP editors early and often. And she explains how! Listen in.Marshall Poe is the editor of the New Books Network. He can be reached at email@example.com. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
In July 1958, U.S. Marines stormed the beach in Beirut, Lebanon, ready for combat. Farcically. they were greeted by vendors and sunbathers. Fortunately, the rest of their mission—helping to end Lebanon’s first civil war—went nearly as smoothly and successfully, thanks in large part to the skillful work of American diplomats on site, who helped arrange a compromise solution. Future American interventions in the region would not work out quite as well.Bruce Rydel’s new book Beirut 1958: How America's Wars in the Middle East Began (Brookings, 2019), tells the now-forgotten story (forgotten, that is, in the United States) of the first U.S. combat operation in the Middle East. President Eisenhower sent the Marines in the wake of a bloody coup in Iraq, a seismic event that altered politics not only of that country but eventually of the entire region. Eisenhower feared that the coup, along with other conspiracies and events that seemed mysterious back in Washington, threatened American interests in the Middle East. His action, and those of others, were driven in large part by a cast of fascinating characters whose espionage and covert actions could be grist for a movie.Although Eisenhower’s intervention in Lebanon was unique, certainly in its relatively benign outcome, it does hold important lessons for today’s policymakers as they seek to deal with the always unexpected challenges in the Middle East. Veteran CIA analyst, National Security Council Staff member and Assistant Secretary of Defence Bruce Reidel describes the scene as it emerged six decades ago, and he suggests that some of the lessons learned then are still valid today. A key lesson? Not to rush to judgment when surprised by the unexpected. And don’t assume the worst.Charles Coutinho has a doctorate in history from New York University. Where he studied with Tony Judt, Stewart Stehlin and McGeorge Bundy. His Ph. D. dissertation was on Anglo-American relations in the run-up to the Suez Crisis of 1956. His area of specialization is 19th and 20th-century European, American diplomatic and political history. He has written recently for the Journal of Intelligence History and Chatham House’s International Affairs. It you have a recent title to suggest for a podcast, please send an e-mail to Charlescoutinho@aol.com. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
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