Book Reviews

Religious America, Secular Europe? by Peter Berger, Grace Davie and Effie Fokas. Ashgate, 2008, 168 pages

51IJZpVdmYL. SX299 BO1204203200 José Casanova was in the habit of saying that in Europe, 'religion is part of the problem whereas in the United States, it is part of the solution'. In highlighting this quotation, Peter Berger (Director of the Institute on Culture, Religion and World Affairs in Boston) is in fact raising the following question, which might well summarise his book: Can America be said to be religious, while Europe is secular? Religious America, Secular Europe, by Grace Davie (professor of sociology at the University of Exeter in the United Kingdom) and Effie Fokas (member of the European Institute of the London School of Economics) was published in 2008.

The book consists of seven chapters. The first is a large introduction. The second is a presentation of the theme and a comparison between the two continents. The four arguments mobilized by Peter Berger in Chapter 2 are then developed through four variations: Contrasting Histories, Different Intellectual Traditions, Institutional Carriers, Religion and Social Difference.

The authors start by discarding the secularisation theory. Europe is secular because “it is European” and not because it is modern (p. 6): secularisation is extrinsic to the modernisation process.

Read more: Religious America, Secular Europe? by Peter Berger, Grace Davie and Effie Fokas. Ashgate, 2008,...

Qur’an and Woman Rereading the Sacred Text from a Woman’s Perspective by Amina Wadud, 2nd ed, New York Oxford – Oxford University Press 1999, 118 p.

AW2L’ouvrage de Amina Wadud, Qur’an and Woman Reareading the Sacred Text from a Woman’s Perspective, s’appuyant sur une perspective féminine, offre une lecture inclusive du Coran. Appartenant à un courant de réforme de l’islam appelé communément le féminisme islamique, Amina Wadud souhaite dans un premier temps, lire le Coran comme un texte ouvert et non figé. Elle développe également plusieurs outils herméneutiques qui s’inscrivent dans des préoccupations contemporaines. Ce qui l’amène dans un second temps, en mobilisant toujours le Coran, à défendre une égalité entre les hommes et les femmes ainsi que de fournir des concepts favorisant l’émancipation des femmes. Cet ouvrage permet donc de porter un autre regard sur la religion musulmane et son texte sacré.

The Qur’an does not talk by itself, it is humans who make it talk. Amina Wadud’s book summarizes this insight which is both complex and sensitive. Scholar of Qur’anic studies and Muslim theologian, Amina Wadud also embodies a reference within the Islamic feminist movement, Sisters in Islam. In the preface, we can notice a dedication to this movement. According to her, women in Muslim countries or in Muslim communities are relegated to the role of subject without agency. This relegation is mainly due to the androcentric reading of the Qur’an. She proposes to “make a ‘reading’ of the Qur’an that would be meaningful to women living in the modern era” (p.1).

Read more: Qur’an and Woman Rereading the Sacred Text from a Woman’s Perspective by Amina Wadud, 2nd ed, New...

Book Review : Clifford Geertz, Islam Observed : Religious Development in Morocco and Indonesia, The University of Chicago Press, 1971.

Clifford GeertzRésumé : L'ouvrage de Clifford Geertz, Observer l’islam. Changements religieux au Maroc et en Indonésie, a eu, après sa publication en 1967, un impact théorique profond sur les ethnologues de l'époque. L'auteur y étudie les modalités de pratique de l’Islam en se concentrant sur les changements religieux de deux pays : l’Indonésie et le Maroc, et en faisant le lien avec l’évolution de leurs institutions sociales et politiques. Le modèle général auquel parvient Geertz représente, un grand progrès pour l’anthropologie religieuse.

In 1967, the well-known anthropologist Clifford Geertz was commissioned by the Terry Foundation to deliver a series of lectures at Yale University, later to be published in book form. This study reports the evolutions in the practice of Islam, within two distant and contrasting local cultures, Indonesia and Morrocco. Geertz’s purpose was to understand and compare the life-styles linked to traditional Islam in both countries, and the shifts they underwent after Independence.

Geertz uses a distinctive approach since he went beyond Levi Strauss’ widely accepted structuralism, in an original application of Weberian methodology. The latter consists in an interpretative social science which deeply influenced his theoretical assumptions. Geertz starts from the premise that culture is an inherited conception of life expressed in symbols, “[…]by means of which men communicate, perpetuate, and develop their knowledge about and their attitudes toward life” 1. As religion is an inherent part of culture, modalities of religious faith are also characterized by these all but undetectable patterns of symbols. Through such symbols, religion creates a lifestyle, that is to say, a human being's way of life. A single shift in Indonesian or Moroccan society, could thus change the pattern of symbols there and thus change the practice of religion which will then itself generate a new way of living and thinking.

Read more: Book Review : Clifford Geertz, Islam Observed : Religious Development in Morocco and Indonesia,...

The Sword and the Comma Or Down with Sibawah by Chérif Choubachy

CC3The Author: Cherif Choubachy is an Egyptian writer and journalist who was born in Alexandria.He lived in France for twenty-one years (from 1980 to 2001) where he worked as a civil servant for UNESCO and then became director of the Egyptian newspaper Al Ahram's Paris office. In Egypt, he was a news anchor for the french-speaking TV news and also Vice-Minister of Culture (from 2002 to 2006).

In 20065, he published the book Down with Sibawayh ( translated into French and published in 2007 under the title Le sabre et la virgule) which caused a fierce controversy in the Arab world. Subsequent to official protests he even had to resign from the government in 2006. In his book Choubachy asserts that one of the principle reasons for the retardation of modernity in Arab societies is the Arabic language itself and its complex rules

The Book: The original title of Choubachy’s book was Down with Sibawayh (Sibawayh is considered to be the greatest grammarian of the Arabic language). This title is a bit provocative and immediately shows Choubachy's attitude, that of someone who is preaching a renewal of Arabic. This issue is something taboo in Arab societies, because the Arabic language is sacred, as it is the language chosen by God for his last revelation, the Koran. That being so, we can understand why some asserttions by Choubachy, such as “the Arabs are riding a camel along a motorway" or “the Arabs are not able to write their own languagecorrectly ” provoked violent reactions.

Read more: The Sword and the Comma Or Down with Sibawah by Chérif Choubachy

Sectarian Gulf: Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, and the Arab Spring That Wasn't, by Toby MATTHIESEN

PR6Everybody remembers the Arab uprising as the biggest global turmoil since the collapse of the Soviet Union. These mass protests against authoritarian rule that swept the Arab world in 2011 have changed the Middle East forever. They have broken the common idea that Arab countries are fatally condemned to live under authoritarian rulers and have promoted a new Arab public sphere in which Arab autocrats no longer feel secure. Nevertheless, counter-revolutionary forces have since then rapidly set about attempting to divide the protesters along regional, sectarian, tribal, or ideological lines. Such is the sectarian line that Toby MATTHIESEN has decided to study in his book Sectarian Gulf: Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, and the Arab Spring That Wasn’t.

Toby MATTHIESEN is a Research Fellow in Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies at Pembroke College, University of Cambridge. With Sectarian Gulf, he has written a book about the events which took place in the Gulf during 2011. His aim is to provide us with a contribution to the debates around the Arab uprising.

Read more: Sectarian Gulf: Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, and the Arab Spring That Wasn't, by Toby MATTHIESEN

Medine, rapper or preacher?

Méd1The idea here is to focus our attention on what one French raptivist[1], writer and performer Medine, has to say in one of his numerous songs concerning Islam, Muslims and current society. This singer was indeed awarded the distinction of figuring in France’s public History manuals in 2012[2] , and a few months from now will once again stage a come-back with a new album,entitled “the Alb’man”. It is consequently interesting to study, through the lyrics of a recent single, from what angle he approaches the current crisis in inter-religious and community relations in French society.

Medine was formerly a member of the hip-hop collective “La Boussole” in 1996 and has been recording with its music label, “DIN records”, since 1995. Known for the quality of his writing and his adamantium[3] nib, Medine is an openly committed artist struggling for the right to be a Muslim in France. His provocative lyrics force listeners to reconsider their attitudes, do some thinking and be more open-minded about the world around them.

Read more: Medine, rapper or preacher?

The Minority Concept in the Turkish Context: Practices and Perceptions in Turkey, Greece and France, by Samim Akgönül

SA Samim Akgönül's book is a blend of sociology, history and political science.The author is a professor at the University of Strasburg and a researcher at the French National Scientific Research Centre (CNRS). In his new book, Samim Akgönül questions the term “minority”, focusing specifically on France, Greece and Turkey. This concept of minority is approached by the author very much in the same vein as the French sociologist, Marcel Mauss did, i.e., as a total ‘social fact’. ‘Socials facts’ are conceptual tools for studying different social situations. The author considers the Muslim minorities in Greece as products of the Ottoman Empire's former supremacy, and the Turkish minorities in France as the consequence of the arrival of Turkish immigration in France during the 1960s. Samim Akgönül claims that the issue of minorities in Turkey arose during the 1923 Turkish revolution, simultaneously with the state’s will to obliterate all differences between them.

Read more: The Minority Concept in the Turkish Context: Practices and Perceptions in Turkey, Greece and...

Secularism, Religion and Multicultural Citizenship by Braham Levey Geoffrey, Modood Tariq (Sidney 2005)

ChoiceHow can secularism and religious pluralism be thought about oday? Can secularism accommodate changing social contexts and more importantly: the challenge of Islam? The contributors of this volume bringing their expertise in various fields of social, religious and political sciences to bear on the study of these questions agree that the answer to the second of these questions might be “Yes” - or rather “Yes, if…”.

The book is the result of a symposium held by the University of New South Wales in Sidney 2005 on Religion and Multicultural Citizenship. The editors are two renowned scholars, Geoffrey Braham Levey in the field of political theory and Tariq Modood in Sociology and Public policy and especially the latter can look back on a large number of publications on the subjects of this volume. In their inquiry on how to conceive liberalism, citizenship and its relation to secularism in a contemporary context, the contributors make the solution they suggest also their guiding principle: Reassessing secularism and religion in the light of the pragmatic question: How are multicultural democracies to be made to work?. The volume tries to break out of a discussion on the circular relationship between religion and the liberal state that simply opposes secularist to anti-secularist views. It attempts to re-think secularism from different angles and discuss its usefulness and possible forms in contemporary political and social contexts.

Read more: Secularism, Religion and Multicultural Citizenship by Braham Levey Geoffrey, Modood Tariq (Sidney...

Nine Parts of Desire, The Hidden World of Islamic Women (1994)

Brooks 2Geraldine Brooks is an Australian journalist and writer. She was born in 1955. After graduating, she worked as a correspondent for The Wall Street Journal in several countries undergoing conditions of war or civil conflict, for instance Bosnia or Somalia. In the 1990s, she spent six years in the Middle East, where she became famous for her coverage of the Gulf war.

Nine Parts of Desire, The Hidden World of Islamic Women is a first-hand account , written in dashing, journalistic style. It is a testimony, based on her own direct experience in the Middle East. Although it is considered to be a non-fictional story, it might have been somewhat fictionalized mainly to meet editorial requirements. As the book was first published in 1994: we can easily imagine that 20 years later, the situation in the Middle East must have changed. That is why we may wonder if the issues raised by G. Brooks are still as relevant as they were then.

Read more: Nine Parts of Desire, The Hidden World of Islamic Women (1994)

The Copts and the West (1439-1822), by Alastair Hamilton

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The Copts and the West est un livre d’Alastair Hamilton, fruit de ses recherches sur les relations scientifiques, culturelles, ecclésiologiques entre les Coptes et l’Occident, sur la période 1439-1822

 Au moyen d’une narration riche en anecdotes biographiques, l’ouvrage aborde les tentatives d’union, le développement de l’Eglise Catholique Copte, la concurrence entre protestants et catholiques dans le développement des études arabes et coptes, les biographies d’humanistes coptes ayant enseignés en Occident et finalement le rôle des études coptes dans le développement de l’égyptologie.

Read more: The Copts and the West (1439-1822), by Alastair Hamilton

Lydie Salvayre, d’une langue à l’autre…

indexLydie Salvayre a écrit le livre qu’elle devait écrire,  certainement un des livres – sinon le livre – de sa vie. Ce livre, Pas pleurer,  intensément, presque fébrilement habité de bout en bout, lui permet de remonter enfin triomphalement, mais aussi avec un certain détachement, aux origines, à l’aurore de sa vie, de son destin : en amont du moment où son devenir personnel allait être irréversiblement délité et en même temps comme encodé à rebours par un des événements historiques majeurs du XXème siècle : la révolution noyée dans le sang de la République espagnole de ‘36. Le sens de l’être, de notre sujet, est sans doute toujours déjà enfoui, occulté par l’histoire familiale, politique et sociétale, marquant à tout jamais notre subjectivité d’une empreinte collective dont nous luttons pour mettre à jour le sens. Mais chez certains individus, venus au monde à des moments charnières de l’Histoire, cela reste encore plus vrai que pour les autres. Ces êtres, lorsqu’ils accèdent à la parole, à la création, sont comme des paroles vivantes de l’Histoire. On pourrait dire qu’à leur insu – et même peut-être contre leur propre gré – ils ont pour destin de porter une parole censurée, mutilée, qui n’est pas seulement la leur, mais qu’ils ont comme charge paradoxale d’incarner et de transmettre en la dénouant enfin. C’est peut-être là ce qui fait la différence entre un(e) écrivain(e) et un lettré ou un idéologue gratte-papier.

Read more: Lydie Salvayre, d’une langue à l’autre…

Book Review : Le syndrome islamiste et les mutations du capitalisme, par Ahmed Henni

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English Abstract: Political Islamism is usually considered to be an ‘exotic phenomenon’ but is seldom explained in the light of economic dynamics and contemporary policies. Ahmed Henni has based his work on a wide range of statistical and historical data and sought to show how that trend is not so much the result of the Koran as it is that of petroleum-related activities and of the transformations of capitalism. The battle that is being fought for the underprivileged by political Islamism is no longer directed at property and the economic power that is derived from it; political sovereignty is the new target. Judicial claims and egalitarian aspirations do not aim to solve problems that are related to the improvement of standards of living of individuals: their goal is the equal redistribution of the income that comes from other entities. When wealth is based on income, it is granted in accordance with social status, not economic activity. That is the reason why social competition for status and position happens in redistribution rather than the production process. This form of Islamism that is commonly presented as political has expanded tremendously in the Gulf States, where oil income has enabled the latter to accumulate wealth and to become a major hub for consumption over the past few years.

Perçu comme un « phénomène exotique », l’ « islamisme politique », n’est que rarement expliqué à l’aune des dynamiques économiques et politiques contemporaines.

Read more: Book Review : Le syndrome islamiste et les mutations du capitalisme, par Ahmed Henni

Book Review: Camille Tarot – Le Symbolique et le Sacré. Théories de la Religion

Photo4244What’s at stake in the definition of Religion? Why should one feel the need today to devote 910 pages to this subject and its evolution during the 20th century in France? Camille Tarot’s Le Symbolique et le Sacré: Théories de la Religion [The Symbolic and the Sacred: Theories of Religion] answers these questions through a fascinating and pedagogical approach. His big book on the debate about the status of religion in French social thought sets a high standard for future discussions in the field.

A Close-up on French Sociology of Religion

In order to provide a general overview on the sociological debate evolving around the term of religion in the 20th century, Tarot makes use of what he calls the “scholastic mode of reasoning”. This translates into the quadripartite structure of his book: exposition of the problem, presentations of existing opinions on the subject, discussion of their validity, and finally, the establishment of the author’s own theory in the final part of the book.

Read more: Book Review: Camille Tarot – Le Symbolique et le Sacré. Théories de la Religion

Book review: Marc Bordigoni, Gypsies, Tsiganes, Roma : received ideas about the Travel World

Roma 2Not a day goes by without seeing the Roma issue portrayed in one way or another on the news. On TV, on computer screens, on paper, the word seems to have spread everywhere. In cities such as Marseille, it’s nearly impossible to walk the streets without being asked for some food or money by people in all likelihood originating from Eastern Europe, and who may or may not be Roma..

  But who are the Roma? What does the word « Roma » even mean and what reality lies behind it?

Read more: Book review: Marc Bordigoni, Gypsies, Tsiganes, Roma : received ideas about the Travel World

Beyond extremism: towards a Modern Islamic theology?

RB 2Nowadays, the perception of Islam in the Western world is often reduced to its most radical anti-modernist interpretations. But there is more to discover in an Islamic world whose plurality is unfortunately mostly underestimated in the media. Islam has more to offer than a conservative retreat from modernity. Radical thinking is not a privilege of traditionalistic mullahs but is also at the core of some of the most interesting research projects in the academic discourse on Islam. These radically modern interpretations of Islam are not without risks for the persons defending them. Their persisting determination merits a larger recognition of their work in the European discourse on Islam.

Introduction to a new Islam

Way before the Arab Spring revolutions and the outburst of liberal hopes in many Muslim dominated countries, Rachid Benzine devoted a work to these courageous commentators of the Islamic tradition. Presenting basically eight of these new thinkers, Benzine introduces us to a universe that is highly worth the discovery. Benzine who studied mainly under Mohammed Arkoun has published several works on Islam and the interpretation of its foundational texts. His book on the new thinkers of Islam has been translated into German but still awaits its translation into English.

Read more: Beyond extremism: towards a Modern Islamic theology?

Symbolisme et Franc-Maconnerie/ Jean-Charles NEHR

NehrEnglish language abstract: Symbolism and Freemasonry / Jean-Charles NEHR

Publisher: A l’Orient, Paris 2008

Jean-Charles Nehr’s book confronts the rise of an obscurantist “symbolatry”. Considering the symbol as a tool, the author proposes a certain analysis of the function of symbolism in the frame of a progressive Freemasonry.

But this perspective doesn’t lead to any reduction of the symbol. It is rather an extension that puts its emphasis on the object being symbolized. The author shows that the freemason symbolism is a phenomenon sufficiently serious not to be lefts at the hands of the usual panegyrists of an ambiguous and obscurantist symbolism:

“A simple symbol is a tangible object that replaces or represents something else with the intention of a better understanding. So it’s an elevation of the importance of the object being symbolized (L. M. Sherwood) – without forgetting about the essential: the symbolism is a way to improve man as well as society.”

If symbolism plays a fundamental role in the history and the work of Freemasonry, it isn’t by any means an end or a goal in itself. It’s only a means, a tool at the disposition of a group of people who share the same ideal in a certain manner. Viewed from this angle, it’s the cement that binds the freemasons together in time and space. It binds them together and, at the same time, differentiates them from the strictly mundane order. The particularity of the masons’ symbolism is to reveal to the intelligence and to the heart that a better world is within reach.

Accordingly, the fundamental question is the following: Does Freemasonry still have something to offer? What is its project? Indeed, what would be the use of a symbolism, as beautiful as it may be, if it was based on an out-dated way of thinking and an empty humanism?

Read more: Symbolisme et Franc-Maconnerie/ Jean-Charles NEHR

Cairo 678: Egypt, a country plagued by sexual harassment

 Image Caire 678« I am going to ask you three questions. Have you been sexually assaulted ? How many times ? How did you react ? » .

          This is Seba - one of the main characters in Mohamed Diab's movie Cairo 678 - speaking. She gives courses to a group of Egyptian women who wish to react facing sexual assault. Indeed, according to a recent study published by the Egyptian center for women's rights 90 percent of Egyptian women report undergoing sexual harassment in public spaces. The writer Ghada Abdel Aal shares her experience. She says that whenever she rides the bus to Cairo she always buys two tickets to make sure she will not be assaulted by a man sitting next to her. The movie Cairo 678 addresses the issue of sexual harassment in public spaces in modern Egypt.

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Raphaël Liogier's 'The Religion to Come'

raphael-liogierRaphaël Liogier has written a big book, not of course only from the point of view of length–sociologists and futurologists have long accustomed us to still more doughty blockbusters-but definitely from the point of view of its scope and in-depth perspective.This of course can be partly traced back to Liogier’s self-imposed turbo- charged training curriculum: he simultaneously studied philosophy at the university and political science and sociology at Sciences Po, Aix-en-Provence, before going on to run the gauntlet of transplantation from the ‘continental’ to the ‘analytic, so-called anglo-saxon’ schools of philosophical method, daring to spend one or two fairly embattled years in the philosophy departments of Edinburgh and Oxford. This ‘irregular’ trajectory – or still often considered as such by Europe’s jealously guarded national academic establishments – has enabled him to develop some decidedly original angles of approach to  - and depths of insight into  - a subject which might well have spawned just another exercise in pseudo-scientific extrapolation of current trends and technologies, or even just yet another luddite pamphlet  against the dangers of liberalism and its demon child, individualism.

Read more: Raphaël Liogier's 'The Religion to Come'

"God Bless America" - Politics and Religion in the United States: a reassessment

US Religion 2We, as Europeans, are deeply convinced that in the United States religion never stands apart from political life, being an essential component of the latter. From the role of the Christian right in the Republican party's electoral successes to the emergence of a Democrat left-wing religiosity, some have gone so far as to label the United States a “Theo-democracy”. Yet, things often turn out to be much more complex than they appear at first sight. In this respect, Camille Froidevaux-Metterie aims at showing that the U.S. on the contrary, is a firmly secular republic reposing on two deeply rooted constitutional principles: the freedom of religion and State neutrality in terms of religion. Furthermore, this wall of separation has been strengthened by a clearly separatist jurisprudence of the Supreme Court (even if challenged during recent decades).

In order to fully grasp the contradictory dynamics characterizing this curious idiosyncratic configuration, the author suggests we explore the intricacies of American history, from the ages of Puritanism to today’s multidenominational America symbolized by President Barack Obama.

Read more: "God Bless America" - Politics and Religion in the United States: a reassessment

A commentary on David E. Campbell and Robert D. Putnam, “God and Caesar in America, Why mixing religion and politics is bad for both”

US religionThe article “God and Caesar in America: Why mixing religion and politics is bad for both” (Foreign Affairs – March/April 2012) was written by two important political scientists; Robert David Putnam and David E. Campbell. The material in the article comes from the authors’ highly informative book American Grace: How religion divides and unites us (published in 2010 by Simon&Schuster).The book is based on many surveys, but central to its analysis is the Faith Matters Survey which was conducted in 2006 on behalf of Harvard University, the second survey in 2007 with 3100 Americans. On the other hand; the article contains some statistical data from a 2011 survey and certain data from Gallup surveys.

Read more: A commentary on David E. Campbell and Robert D. Putnam, “God and Caesar in America, Why mixing...

The New Heretics of France?

Susan PalmerThe New Heretics of France: Minority Religions, la République, and the Government-Sponsored “War on sects”, by SUSAN J. PALMER. New York: Oxford University Press, 2011, 251 pp.

Considering the extreme difficulty of undertaking any serious research on such a topic in France, where positions remain highly polarized, Susan J. Palmer’s work is impressive, both in terms of field work and of its fundamental orientation. Here in the Hexagon, the scientific, social and media-related obstacles are still such that a French religious sociologist would be hard put – or would not be able at all - to produce so well-documented a study.

In many respects, Palmer’s work takes the form of a pedagogical chart of the situation of minority religions in France. The reader is guided through a panorama of the relations between cults and anti-cult movements rather than provided with any deep theoretical explanation of the latter. That being said, the work remains highly relevant for anyone interested in the status of minority religions in contemporary France.

Read more: The New Heretics of France?

Edouard GLISSANT ou l’éloge de l’interculturel

GlissantEdouard Glissant nait le 21 septembre 1928 à Sainte-Marie en Martinique.Il suit des études de philosophie à la Sorbonne et d'ethnologie au Musée de l’Homme, à Paris. Poète, romancier, essayiste, auteur dramatique et théoricien de la littérature, Edouard Glissant se révèle être le penseur d’un nouveau Monde. Son activité de militant en faveur de la cause antillo-guyanaise et contre le système colonial lui vaut dans les années 1960 quelques déboires avec la justice française. Il est alors assigné à résidence en France. En 1965, il retourne en Martinique. Directeur du Courrier de l’Unesco (1982-1988), il se trouve à un poste d’observation idéal pour développer sa relation autour des thèmes de la relation au monde et du métissage culturel… Edouard Glissant est le père spirituel des écrivains du mouvement de la créolité, il est le premier à avoir théorisé le concept de créolisation perçue comme un processus imprévisible et comme « un métissage conscient de lui-même ». Désormais professeur à New York, Edouard Glissant s’affirme avec des romans et essais comme  ‘’Tout-Monde’’  ou encore  ‘’Poétique de la relation’’  comme le penseur majeur du monde actuel. Edouard Glissant meurt le 3 février 2011 à Paris à l'âge de 82 ans.

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Ajami, a film by Scandar Copti and Yaron Shani

images 2The scene takes place in Jaffa, an ancient commercial port connected to Tel-Aviv since 1950, once the 1948 war had emptied it of most of its Palestinian population. The district of Ajami, origin of the film’s title, has retained that flavor of heterogeneity. Indeed, Jews, Muslims and Christians live side by side. Yet the Judeo-Arab conflict still poisons the atmosphere. However, the conflict is never made explicit in the usual way. Here, the central conflict of the area is tackled indirectly through the problems of everyday life: Jewish police officers carrying out a search in the apartment of an Arab Christian Israeli, the same guy, the Arab Christian Israeli, in conflict with his Arab friends because they reproach him his going to live in Tel-Aviv with his Jewish girlfriend. There is also a Jewish policeman who wants to know the truth about the death of his brother, killed by an Arab guy during his military service, and more surprisingly, the movie shows us Arab Israelis who appear to be superior to Palestinian Arabs and are exploiting them.

Read more: Ajami, a film by Scandar Copti and Yaron Shani

A Cross-cultural Book Review: Touching by Adania Shibli and Kneller's Happy Summer Camp by Etgar Keret

51Id2Uc1mKL. SS500 Our objective here is to comparatively review two books: Kneller's happy summer camp, by Etgar Keret, 1998, and Touching, by Adania Shibli, 2002. Our main reason for operating a comparative analysis on these two works of fiction is linked to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict: the books both provide examples of the new literary scene in the two countries concerned. Indeed, there is a departure from the classical form of writing, which consists in not taking the conflict into account, or at least, in not making it the main focus of their story. Moreover, this comparative analysis aims to highlight the emergence of what we believe may be a new literary movement.

Read more: A Cross-cultural Book Review: Touching by Adania Shibli and Kneller's Happy Summer Camp by Etgar...

"The Parthenon as a metaphor"

Christos Chryssopoulos, La destruction du Parthénon, Actes Sud, 2012.

In 1944, surrealist poet and secretary of the ASAS (the Society of Aesthetic Saboteurs of Antiques), Yorgos Makris wrote a manifesto entitled “Let’s blow up the Acropolis!” On Friday the17th of this month, in The destruction of the Parthenon, Ch. K., the anti-hero of the novel actually blew up the Parthenon. A part of the Acropolis was obliterated to be replaced by the immensity of an empty sky. The astonished Athenians watched and commented on the scene, asking themselves plenty of questions: Who could have done such a thing? Who could have damaged their symbol? Why? Was it real, or were they just dreaming? This doubt persists throughout the novel: it becomes hard for the reader to tell reality from fiction. Christos Chryssopoulos constructs his work, The destruction of the Parthenon, on these questions. Several voices mingle in an attempt to understand the incomprehensible. The Parthenon has been profaned, someone has to be punished. Ch. K., who will be arrested, will have to pay for “the destruction of the symbol” (p. 57).

Read more: "The Parthenon as a metaphor"

Raphaël Liogier, Le mythe de l'islamisation

mterestch2Il n'est peut-être pas de nation qui puisse subsister sans la distinction de l'ami et de l'ennemi, du citoyen et de l'étranger, sans la délimitation de frontières et d'un espace clos sur lequel s'exerce la souveraineté de l'Etat.

A quoi s'ajoute la fabrication d'un récit, plus ou moins fictif, qui vise à souder les citoyens dans le sentiment d'une identité partagée et d'une histoire commune. Mais qu'advient-il à une telle société si les ressorts de l'unité nationale et du patriotisme se nourrissent, chez un nombre croissant de citoyens, de l'imaginaire d'une menace qui conduit à stigmatiser une catégorie d'individus en raison de leur appartenance à une religion particulière ? Est-ce là un facteur de vitalité ou au contraire le symptôme d'une pathologie sociale ?

On l'aura compris, c'est la seconde hypothèse qui a toutes les chances d'être la plus exacte. Encore convient-il de prouver qu'il s'agit bien là d'un fantasme se développant au sein d'une société en proie à une profonde crise identitaire. Tel est le diagnostic que porte le sociologue Raphaël Liogier dans son dernier ouvrage, Le mythe de l'islamisation. Essai sur une obsession collective (Paris, Le Seuil, 2012).

Read more: Raphaël Liogier, Le mythe de l'islamisation

The Daughters of Allah: towards an open discourse on faith...

livreIn his novel, Nedim Gürsel relates his childhood. After the death of his father and the departure of his mother, he is raised by his grandparents. The grandfather is a Muslim landowner and a jurist. He is a disabled war veteran who tries to instill Islamic principles into his grandson. As for his grandmother, she used to tell him stories from the Koran and traditional Turkish legends. Building on this education, the child created his own imagination, haunted by questionings about good and evil and Mahomet’s life. On reching adulthood, among his grandfather’s documents, Nedim Gürsel discovers a diary in which his the latter had written about his war experience in Arabia during World War I. He explains how he fought against the Arabs, who were allied with the British, in order to defend Medina. Nedim Gürsel also tells us about his friend Ismaîl, murdered by his own father, the baker Ibrahim. This autobiographical part of the novel is blended with another form of narrative. Nedim Gürsel has the pre-Islmaic idols Manat, Uzza and Lat speak about the emergence of Islam and Muslim faith. These three idols were considered to be Allah’s daughters, intercessors between Allah and mankind.

Read more: The Daughters of Allah: towards an open discourse on faith...

La Religion à venir (ou vers une Bobo-isation du monde ?)

Souci de Soi, Conscience du Monde

Quelques questions et réflexions intempestives pour accompagner le débat autour de ‘Souci de Soi, Conscience du Monde' de Raphaël Liogier.

Pour Raphaël Liogier, le fond de l'air de notre époque n'est ni rouge, ni brun, ni même vert (sauf peut-être au sens écologique), ni pourpre, ni encore safran, mais d'un bleu profond, amniotique, planétaire, qui contiendrait en même temps la chatoyante multitude des nuances individuelles de l'arc-en-ciel. En tout cas, dans son nouveau livre, il nous annonce brillamment deux ou trois bonnes nouvelles (sans majuscules). La première, très bonne déjà pour les sociologues et autres spécialistes du religieux (croyants ou non, bien sûr), c'est que la Religion (ou du moins la Religiosité.. ?), malgré une mort annoncée de longue date et préparée de longue main, n'est ni moribonde, ni entrain de dépérir d'une lente phtisie laïque et moderniste.

Read more: La Religion à venir (ou vers une Bobo-isation du monde ?)

"God and Caesar in America"


US religionThe article "God and Caesar in America: Why mixing religion and politics is bad for both" (Foreign Affairs - March/April 2012) was written by two important political scientists; Robert David Putnam and David E. Campbell. The material in the article comes from the authors' highly informative book American Grace: How religion divides and unites us (published in 2010 by Simon&Schuster).The book is based on many surveys, but central to its analysis is the Faith Matters Survey that was conducted in 2006 on behalf of Harvard University, the second survey from 2007 with 3100 Americans. On the other hand; the article contains some statistical data from a 2011 survey and certain data from Gallup survey.

Read more: "God and Caesar in America"

Religion, Civil Society and Peace in Northern Ireland, John D. Brewer, Gareth I. Higgins and Francis Teeney

The three authors of the sociological essay Religion, Civil Society and Peace in Northern Ireland are scholars who graduated from and/or taught at Queen's University Belfast and with a direct experience of the Northern Irish peace process. John D. Brewer has written extensively in the sociology of religion in Northern Ireland (The Mote and the Beam: Anti-Catholicism in Northern Ireland, with Gareth I. Higgins, 1998...) and on comparative peace processes (Peace processes: A Sociological Approach, 2010). Gareth I. Higgins is a Belfast-born sociologist and currently the manager of the American independent arts Wild Goose Festival. Francis Teeney is a social psychologist and teaches currently at Aberdeen University. This book was conceived by John D. Brewer as the third instalment of a trilogy on violence, peace and religion, after C. Wright Mills and the Ending of Violence and Peace Processes.[1]

Read more: Religion, Civil Society and Peace in Northern Ireland, John D. Brewer, Gareth I. Higgins and...