October 29, 2013 § Leave a Comment
smelling the hint of spring in a cool winter breeze and
how it makes me feel alive.
the purple shade of your leaves as they leave to die.
sailor moon smoking a cigarette on front street, joined
by a hundred other cosplay enthusiasts on a sunday
humans being dragons that chinese new year’s eve.
a happy lesbian couple holding hands walking down the
street. well, i don’t know if they were happy. maybe they’d
just had a huge fight and were holding hands as a way to
overcompensate and hide their anger. i don’t know i only
saw them passing from across the street. i didn’t have a
chance to peek into their souls.
on a rainy ramadan day, a muslim man uses his jaanamaz
(prayer rug) to shade himself from the wetness as he runs
towards a bus, carrying in his hands the food he will use
to break his fast.
all of this over time, but within a mile.
the feeling of living poetry.
toronto, this is why.
– Adnan Ali, “why i love you so.,” nothing, vol. 1, p. 18.
September 28, 2013 § Leave a Comment
They were small waves,
More the likeness of time
Than sorrow –
Sorrow is great and breaks
Along the beach
Lonely under the search
Of gulls and white
Sky the gulls carve –
These were sidelong,
To the coming tide.
The bay lay curved
Within the land,
Gulls crossed the moon
The light came on
The hook of headland
Beating up the course
Of ships home.
The air was autumn.
More than the swiftness of her cheek
Were the waves
– Ralph Gustafson, “In time of fall,” Rivers Among Rocks (McClelland and Stewart, 1960), 28.
July 28, 2013 § Leave a Comment
“Where danger is, grows the saving power also” — i’ve realized, that’s how i think of Edmonton.
July 3, 2013 § Leave a Comment
Books that have caught my eye, forthcoming from now through the end of the year.
- Colby Dickinson, ed, Postmodern Saints of France: Refiguring ‘the Holy’ in Contemporary French Philosophy (T&T Clark, July 2013)
- Asma Sayeed, Women and the Transmission of Religious Knowledge in Islam (Cambridge UP, July 2013)
- Anthony Paul Smith, A Non-Philosophical Theory of Nature: Ecologies of Thought (Palgrave MacMillan, July 2013)
- On Barak, On Time: Technology and Temporality in Modern Egypt (University of California Press, July 2013)
- Julianne Hammer & Omid Safi, eds, Cambridge Companion to American Islam (Cambridge UP, July 2013)
- Kimberley Hart, And Then We Work for God: Rural Sunni Islam in Western Turkey (Stanford UP, July 2013)
- Ahmed El Shamsy, The Canonization of Islamic Law: A Social and Intellectual History (Cambridge UP, July 2013)
- Marwa Elshakry, Reading Darwin in Arabic, 1860-1950 (University of Chicago Press, October 2013)
- Stanley Hauerwas, Approaching the End: Eschatological Reflections on Church, Politics, and Life (Eerdmans, October 2013)
- Lila Abu-Lughod, Do Muslim Women Need Saving? (Harvard UP, October 2013)
- Lara Deeb & Mona Harb, Leisurely Islam: Negotiating Geography and Morality in Shi’ite South Beirut (Princeton UP, October 2013)
- Kathryn Kueny, Conceiving Identities: Maternity in Medieval Muslim Discourse and Practice (SUNY Press, November 2013)
- Isra Yazicioglu, Understanding the Qur’anic Miracle Stories in the Modern Age (Pennsylvania State UP, November 2013)
- Samuli Schielke, The Perils of Joy: Contesting Mulid Festivals in Contemporary Egypt (Syracuse UP, December 2013)
- Ward Blanton & Hent de Vries, eds, Paul and the Philosophers (Fordham UP, December 2013)
- Paul Heck, Skepticism in Classical Islam: Moments of Confusion (Routledge, December 2013)
- Daniel Colucciello Barber, Deleuze and the Naming of God: Post-secularism and the Future of Immanence (Edinburgh UP, December 2013)
- Tom Frost, Giorgio Agamben: Legal, Political and Philosophical Perspectives (Routledge, December 2013)
- James S. Amelang, Parallel Histories: Muslims and Jews in Inquisitorial Spain (Louisiana State UP, December 2013)
- Zareena Grewal, Islam is a Foreign Country: American Muslims and the Global Crisis of Authority (NYU Press, December 2013)
April 1, 2013 § 3 Comments
i posted some quick thoughts on Anne Norton’s new book at AUFS, here. In the weeks since it has been growing on me, once i realized it is not meant to be a monograph and that the shape of its argument is different from what i first anticipated. It has been growing on me for its capacious imagination, the generosity of the vision it offers. This can be gleaned by the following quote she discusses from al-Farabi (d. 339/950) describing the democratic city, which also serves as epigraph to the book. What it means, in short, is that the questions of democracy and the future are held in common if answered variously, and that the anxieties that coalesce and congeal around the figure of the Muslim simply need not. And the relief this offers is immense, as it replaces the current frame of politics with another. The quote:
On the surface, it looks like an embroidered garment, full of colored figures and dyes. Everybody loves it and loves to reside in it, because there is no human wish or desire that this city does not satisfy. The nations emigrate to it, and reside there, and it grows beyond measure. People of every race multiply in it, and this by all kinds of copulation and marriages…. Strangers cannot be distinguished from the residents. All kinds of wishes and ways of life are to be found in it…. The bigger, the more civilized, the more populated, the more productive, and the more perfect it is, the more prevalent and the greater are the good and the evil it possesses. (133)
And i found myself reminded of this quote and this book an afternoon last week, when i dropped off a shoulder bag to be mended (i tore off its strap a couple of weekends ago while wandering a maritime city). The soft-spoken, middle-aged tailor squinting at his sewing machine was playing a recording of Qur’an recitation in his shop as the raucous throngs of foul-mouthed teenagers off from school jostled each other as they passed the corner outside. He had pictures up in his shop of his daughter smiling surrounded by flowers in front of a snowy mountain peak in Iran. And as i left the shop for campus a few minutes later (a seven minute bus ride from this neighbourhood of rich white families then a half-hour subway ride from a station marking the boundary of a strongly immigrant-Bengali stretch of a thoroughfare on the other side of the tracks) i was reminded of what struck me about this city when my sister and i first visited for a week in February 2008. It was its plenitude, the fact that among the grime and recycled air of any subway trip you will hear multiple languages. Of course English is the imperial medium and there are a host of racialized class politics that structure this plenitude, but they do not determine it. “In the diversity of your tongues and hues…,” recites the Qur’an (30:22), and also “and We have made you tribes and families…” (49:13). This inspires that vision.
The counterpoint to this image and promise of the cosmopolis, which Norman O. Brown argues is essentially a theocratic structure and prophecy the response to its corruption, is glimpsed in these pictures a friend shared on FaceBook recently. They are pictures of the teeming skies above cold dark cities. They ask: what if the city is not the vital site of plenitude and forms of life? What if the city is not illuminating? For as in these lines of a poem by Jan Zwicky, lines that have stayed with me in the years since Lara first showed me them, “evil is not darkness, / it is noise. It crowds out possibility, / which is to say / it crowds out silence.” What if the languages of the city are only so much noise? This is a matter neither of light pollution nor some organicist concept of community corrupted nor a phonocentric resentment of mediation. These pictures are an instance of prophetic critique.
April 1, 2013 § Leave a Comment
The month of March, among other things, was very busy. i edited ten articles submitted as a journal special issue, three chapters of a biography, two chapters of an edited volume, three dissertation chapters, and a dozen smaller publications (reports, grant applications, final proofs, reviews, dissertation proposals, CVs). i took two weekend trips, continued attending two editing courses, wrote a conference paper. This post registers both my relief that the month is over (and i met most deadlines) and continued appreciation that this freelance work is in fact a viable work option.
April will be lighter, with further work on an edited volume, the Qur’an encyclopedia, one conference paper, a manuscript of transcribed lectures, another journal issue, and hopefully the formalization of this freelance work into a business proper. Every once in awhile i anticipate time to work on my own projects (three article drafts in disarray, reading lists, more broadly thinking ahead to fall PhD applications), but i’ll see how far i get. i find these days i’d rather go on a walk and dream about Alberta than try to read/write in any disciplined fashion.
On a different note, Alexander Key recently posted a helpful annotated bibliography on the topic of Arabic poetics. It’s a topic i find myself absolutely fascinated by though know very little about.
February 13, 2013 § Leave a Comment
After lunch today, with the five-hour stream of piano students and their parents starting up the stairs, i left to work elsewhere. Ended up six blocks west at the local branch of the public library, where i generally sit at the large table in front of the big windows. By the large-print books and the meagre CD stacks. Already distractable and halfway through editing an essay on autopilot, i started drifting. i fell asleep and for five seconds dreamt of Saskatchewan. And then i woke up and found myself staring at MS Word again.
But this Saskatchewan was not the prairie province we rode through on our continental train trek two months ago (the polar express bearing Christmas), the province that later swallowed my new gloves whole at the family gathering. Instead it offered a five-second vision of undulating pasture sharply cut by a coolie. And beyond its furthest reach against the clumps of grass and a rail fence the impassive prairie sky. It looked more like the hills you hit halfway back from Milk River than anywhere i remember in Saskatchewan. Yet dreams are a form of revelation, stretching between the prophetic and imaginative faculties.