Best middle eastern podcasts we could find (Updated October 2018)
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Interviews with Scholars of the Middle East about their New Books
 
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In her new book, Warriors, Witches, Whores: Women in Israeli Cinema (Wayne State University Press 2017), Rachel Harris presents one of the first comprehensive studies of the place and role of women in Israeli cinema and Israeli society more widely. Looking at a variety of films from the early days of...…
 
Thomas Schmidinger‘s Rojava: Revolution, War and the Future of Syria’s Kurds (Pluto Press, 2018) is an exploration of the history and present of Syrian Kurdistan. It is an excellent introduction to a fraught topic, one drawn from extensive, first-hand ethnographic research. It presents multiple perspectives from both major and minor political...…
 
Samuel Helfont‘s Compulsion in Religion: Saddam Hussein, Islam and the Roots of Insurgencies in Iraq (Oxford University Press, 2018) makes an invaluable contribution to an understanding of Iraqi strongman’s Saddam Hussein harnessing of Islam in support of his Baathist regime and ideology and to ensure that Islam as a social institution...…
 
Religious music can be a source of comfort and release, but also a remembrance of sadness and loss. In Sense and Sadness: Syriac Chant in Aleppo (Oxford University Press, 2018), Tala Jarjour analyzes the Syriac chant sung in Aramaic used by the small Christian Suriyani community in Aleppo, Syria. The Suriyani...…
 
For all that China’s twenty-first-century ‘rise’ is a much-discussed notion both within the country and globally, it is an increasingly difficult concept to grasp or keep pace with. As a result, books which dissect and analyse developments from a regional perspective are of great value, particularly when they focus on...…
 
How would Israelites have understood their nation’s covenant relationship with Yahweh? Dr. Robert Miller II offers a study of the Old Testament language of covenant within its ancient context, especially in light of Assyrian ideology. His study reveals that ‘covenant’ really meant ‘grace.’ Tune in as we talk with Robert...…
 
Ellen R. Wald’s timely, well-written history of the Saudi national oil company, Saudi Inc. The Arabian Kingdom’s Pursuit of Power and Profit (Pegasus Books, 2018), is as much the story of the Saudi oil industry as it is of the ruling Al Saud family’s reliance on black gold to ensure the...
 
Joseph Ben Prestel talks with us about Emotional Cities: Debates on Urban Change in Berlin and Cairo, 1860-1910 (Oxford University Press, 2017), blending together history of emotions, urban history, global history, and comparative history to produce a monograph on the similar effects urban change had on Cairo and Berlin: ordinary citizens,...…
 
Courtney Freer‘s new book Rentier Islamism: The Influence of the Muslim Brotherhood in Gulf Monarchies (Oxford University Press, 2018) contributes significantly to an understanding of one of the most controversial political groups in Middle East politics. Widely viewed as a player that cannot be excluded from the political process in...…
 
In the 6th century CE, the Roman emperor Justinian embarked upon a series of wars that seemed to herald the restoration of the Roman empire in the western Mediterranean. In his book Rome Resurgent: War and Empire in the Age of Justinian (Oxford University Press, 2018), Peter Heather recounts the...
 
Recent years have seen new waves of research in Syriac studies, the medieval Middle East, and family history. Combining all three, Lev Weitz’s Between Christ and Caliph: Law, Marriage, and Christian Community in Early Islam (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2018), revisits the early years of Islamic civilization by looking at an oft-neglected...…
 
Pakistan Under Siege: Extremism, Society, and the State (Brookings, 2018) provides a unique insight into Pakistan’s complex and multi-layered relationship with militancy and the role of the state in Islamicizing society in a way that Pakistanis may in overwhelming majority reject violence, yet endorse attitudes that are not only militant...…
 
Cyrus Ali Zargar, Associate Professor at the University of Central Florida, is the author of The Polished Mirror: Storytelling and the Pursuit of Virtue in Islamic Philosophy and Sufism (Oneworld, 2017). Zargar explores how the study of good character and the pursuit of perfection, or virtue ethics, was part of...…
 
In Middle Eastern and Islamic intellectual history, there has long been an assumption of decline in the eighteenth century, right before the nineteenth century, when the nahda or Arabic intellectual renaissance, began: intellectuals were caught in a period of stagnation and retrograde. Ahmad Dallal pushes back against this in Islam...…
 
Inspired by the usage of the term ‘enclosure’ to describe the Separation Wall in Israel-Palestine on a visit he made to the West Bank, Gary Fields in Enclosure: Palestinian Landscapes in a Historical Mirror (University of California Press, 2017) draws upon the past to speak to the Palestinian present and...…
 
With Us and Against Us: How America’s Partners Help and Hinder the War on Terror (Columbia University Press, 2018) offers readers a fresh, insightful and new perspective on US counterterrorism cooperation with complex countries like Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Egypt, Yemen and Mali. These US partners work with the United States to...…
 
For the most part women in the classical world have suffered from what Duane W. Roller terms “near-invisibility,” obscuring the consequential roles that at times they played in government and politics. In his book Cleopatra’s Daughter: And Other Royal Women of the Augustan Era (Oxford University Press, 2018), Roller recounts...…
 
History is only recently opening up to previously marginalized groups: it is only just now that women’s history is being explored across different historical fields. Eve Krakowski in Coming of Age in Medieval Egypt: Women’s Adolescence, Jewish Law, and Ordinary Culture (Princeton University Press, 2017) uses Cairo Geniza documents, and Jewish...…
 
In Beyond Post-Zionism (SUNY Press, 2015), Eran Kaplan locates the post-Zionist debates, which have brought into question some of the core tenets of Zionist ideology, within the context of the changes that Israeli society and culture have undergone over the past three decades. Beyond Post Zionism also explores some of the key post-Zionist argum ...…
 
In his sparkling new book, “Mysticism” in Iran: The Safavid Roots of a Modern Concept (University of South Carolina Press, 2017), Ata Anzali, Assistant Professor of Religion at Middlebury College, offers a sweeping and brilliant intellectual history of the concept of ‘Irfan in medieval, early Modern, and modern contexts. Combining a...…
 
Jamie Stern-Weiner’s new edited volume, Moment of Truth: Tackling Israel-Palestine’s Toughest Questions (OR Books, 2018) seeks to clarify what it would take to resolve the Israel-Palestine conflict, to assess the prospects of doing so, and to illuminate the future possibilities for the region.
 
The title of Guy Laron’s The Six-Day War: The Breaking of the Middle East (Yale University Press, 2017) says it all. As Laron notes in this interview, the fact that the war led to ongoing conflicts in the Middle East is an accepted interpretation of the war’s meaning. However, through his...
 
In The Republic of Arabic Letters: Islam and the European Enlightenment (Harvard University Press, 2018), Alexander Bevilacqua uncovers a different side of the European Enlightenment, at least with regards to its engagement with Arabic and Islam. Instead of polemics, he tells the story of how books and ideas moved across continents and were...…
 
The First World War ended over four centuries of Middle East rule by the expansive, multiethnic, multireligious, and multilingual Ottoman Empire. In its wake, Britain, France, and some groups within the region and its diaspora aspired to create ethnically, religiously, and nationally homogenous nation-states that would be kept separate from...…
 
Most studies of the Macedonian conqueror Alexander III focus on the military aspects of his life and reign. Yet Alexander’s campaigns would not have been possible had it not been for the enormous plunder his armies seized in their conquests. In The Treasures of Alexander the Great: How One Man’s...
 
Zoltan Pall‘s Salafism in Lebanon: Local and Transnational Movements (Cambridge University Press, 2018), a just published ethnographic investigation of the rise of Salafism among Lebanese Sunni Muslims is far more than a study of an ultra-conservative community in a country that is a patchwork of religious communities. Pall’s book is...…
 
Described as a small book about a very large book, The World in a Book: Al-Nuwayri and the Islamic Encyclopedic Tradition (Princeton University Press, 2017) by Elias Muhanna tells the story of an encyclopedia, or a universal compendium, The Ultimate Ambition in the Arts of Erudition in Mamluk Egypt, written by Shihab al-Din...…
 
Mehrzad Boroujerdi and Kourosh Rahimkhani‘s new book, Postrevolutionary Iran: A Political Handbook (Syracuse University Press, 2017), traces the political events that mark almost four decades of revolutionary rule and includes biographies of the 2,300 most important political players in the Islamic republic. The book is certain to be a must-have...…
 
As a graduate student, I spent quite a bit of time explaining to people how we needed to pay much more attention to the history of World War One in the East. What I didn’t realize is that we needed to see the war as it appeared from Istanbul just...
 
In Rising Powers and the Arab-Israeli Conflict Since 1947 (Lexington Books, 2018), Guy Burton, who teaches politics and international relations at the Mohammed bin Rashid School of Government, studies how five rising powers—Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, a group that is sometimes called the BRICS countries—have approached the...…
 
In his thrilling and sparkling new book, Medieval Empires and the Cultures of Competition: Literary Duels at Islamic and Christian Courts (Edinburgh University Press, 2017), Samuel England, Assistant Professor of Arabic at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, analyzes with remarkable nimbleness the interaction of literature, politics, and power ...…
 
In Middle Eastern history, the printing press has been both over- and under-assigned significance as an agent of social change. Hala Auji’s Printing Arab Modernity: Book Culture and the American Press in Nineteenth-Century Beirut (Brill, 2016) is not only a history of the American Protestant mission’s Arabic press in Beirut, which printed...…
 
Yoav Di-Capua‘s new book, No Exit: Arab Existentialism, Jean-Paul Sartre and Decolonization (University of Chicago Press, 2018) is narrative intellectual history at its best: a tale of friendship and betrayal, of missed connections and surprising syntheses, of unfinished revolutions, Oedipal revolts, and angst-ridden meditations on the meaning ...…
 
Telling the story of a former colony post-independence is tricky, no matter if it’s a colony in Latin America, the Middle East or East Asia. Where does the idea of the ’nation’ slot in? Does it exist independent of colonialism? How does one talk about decolonization in post-imperial contexts? Then, you...…
 
Ethan L. Menchinger‘s The First of the Modern Ottomans: The Intellectual History of Ahmed Vasif (Cambridge University Press, 2017) traces the life and career of Ahmed Vasif (ca. 1735-1806), a prominent diplomat, historian, and intellectual of the early modern Ottoman Empire. This vivid biography places Vasif in the context of an Empire...…
 
Toufoul Abou-Hodeib‘s A Taste for Home: The Modern Middle Class in Ottoman Beirut (Stanford University Press, 2017) is a welcome addition to the scholarship on the urban history of Beirut precisely because it exceeds the disciplinary boundaries of urban history: A Taste for Home tells the story of late Ottoman...…
 
Space Science and the Arab World, Astronauts, Observatories and Nationalism in the Middle East (I. B. Tauris, 2018) a recently published history of Arab exploration of space, offers a fascinating insight into fundamental issues shaping the contemporary Middle East, including efforts to turn Arab societies into twenty first-century knowledge-bas ...…
 
Often, when writing the intellectual history of the Middle East, we make assumptions about the influence of ideas from other places on the Middle East itself. We assume what ideas are being adapted in their entirety and not necessarily as challenged and critiqued; this is often influenced by power dynamics...…
 
In his new book, In Search of Israel: The History of an Idea (Princeton University Press, 2018), Professor Michael Brenner, a historian of Jews and of Israel who teaches both at Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich and at American University in Washington, DC, offers a history of the Zionist idea, and...…
 
Modeled on Bad Girls of Japan (Palgrave Macmillan, 2005), Bad Girls of the Arab World (University of Texas Press, 2017), edited by Nadia Yaqub and the late Rula Quawas stands apart from the edited volume crowd. It includes, not only academic entries, but personal essays and reflections on art by...
 
In the recent past, anti-Muslim hate crimes and rhetoric have surged across America and Europe. Much of this public discourse revolves around questions of assimilation and where Muslim positions on sexuality and gender fit into national unity. In Sexagon: Muslims, France, and the Sexualization of National Culture (Fordham University Press,...…
 
Literacy is often portrayed as a social good. Composing Egypt: Reading, Writing, and the Emergence of a Modern Nation, 1870-1930 (Stanford University Press, 2016), Hoda Yousef has a different take on it, portraying it as a tool. Yousef uses reading and writing to interrogate how new social practices were changing...…
 
Abu Nasr Al-Farabi (c. 872 – c. 950) a philosopher who wrote on politics, metaphysics, and logic as well as mathematics, psychology, and music, was known by Jews, Christians, and Muslims as the “second teacher,” second only to Aristotle. Although little of his biography is known, we have many of...
 
Mihri Hatun: Performance, Gender-Bending, and Subversion in Ottoman Intellectual History (Syracuse University Press, 2017) by Didem Havlioglu is at once an intellectual history and biography of sorts of Mihri Hatun, a fifteenth century Ottoman poet. It considers the question of what happens when a woman enters a field dominated by...…
 
In Enemies and Neighbors: Arabs and Jews in Palestine and Israel, 1917-2017 (Atlantic Monthly Press, 2017), Ian Black, the former Middle East Editor of the Guardian, offers a comprehensive view of the past and present of what would ultimately become known as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Drawing on a range of...…
 
The study of Palestine and Israel has been largely shaped by the politics of the conflict and thus, many scholars start with political history, often using Israeli state sources. Maha Nassar, in Brothers Apart: Palestinian Citizens of Israel and the Arab World (Stanford University Press, 2017), looks specifically at the...…
 
Who are the American Jews behind many of the Israeli settlements in the West Bank? This is the question that Dr. Sara Hirschhorn, Research Lecturer at the University of Oxford, seeks to answer in her new book City on a Hilltop: American Jews and the Israeli Settler Movement (Harvard University...
 
In the Arab world, photography is often tied to the modernizing efforts of imperial and colonial powers. However, indigenous photography was itself a major aspect of the cultural and social lives of Middle Eastern societies in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Stephen Sheehi’s The Arab Imago: A Social...…
 
Sufism, like many terms in the study of Islam, can be difficult to define and even more difficult to handle, but Alexander Knysh, in Sufism: A New History (Princeton University Press, 2017), has produced a primer that will both challenge and reinforce many of the assumptions we’ve made in the...
 
The French-Algerian War that erupted in 1954 ended with the emergence of an independent Algeria in 1962, but it was not until decades later that a broader French public turned its attention with vigor to the violence and pain of that conflict. Indeed, the French state only officially recognized the...…
 
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