Salafism in Yemen: Transnationalism and Religious Identity (Columbia/Hurst)

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9780231702966: Salafism in Yemen: Transnationalism and Religious Identity (Columbia/Hurst)

Salafism has become one of the West's new political bogeymen. Many regard the movement as a by-product of a centralized foreign-policy platform shaped by so-called Saudi interests, as well as the chosen ideology of violent groups such as al-Qaeda. Based on extensive research conducted throughout Yemen between 2001 and 2009 -- particularly in the southern province of Yâfi' -- this book offers an original approach to Salafism and draws a necessary counternarrative, considering the dynamics of the Salafi movement as well as its relationship to evolving local, regional, and international contexts.

Having studied more than a hundred recorded sermons and conferences and dozens of books, and having interviewed numerous clerics, intellectuals, and activists, Laurent Bonnefoy provides fresh perspective on the allegedly apolitical Salafi doctrine promoted by the renowned Yemeni Salafi figure, Muqbil al-Wadi'i. Building on the principles of international relations theory and political sociology, he references the everyday practices of al-Wadi'i's dedicated followers, their rivalries, and their developing trajectories. He demonstrates that -- rather than resulting from specifically planned policies -- Yemeni Salafism has, since the early 1980s, grown out of a series of spontaneous, grassroots mechanisms that are often shaped by transnational flows, which have embedded this movement within complex Yemeni systems.

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About the Author:

Laurent Bonnefoy holds a Ph.D. in international relations from Sciences Po, Paris. He is a researcher in political science at the Institut Français du Proche-Orient (IFPO) based in the Levant. Building on four years spent in Yemen, his research focuses primarily on contemporary religious identities in the Arabian Peninsula.

Review:

Salafism in Yemen is a fascinating, empirically rich investigation of an understudied but increasingly important part of today's Islamic politics. It is perhaps the best study yet produced of the intricate interactions of Yemeni Salafism with Saudi Arabia and with the wider international Islamist milieu.

(Marc Lynch, George Washington University, author of Voices of the New Arab Public: Iraq, al-Jazeera, and Middle East Politics Today)

A splendid piece of research and will be a classic on Salafism in Yemen. Bonnefoy manages not only to go beyond dominant state-centric approaches but also to surpass conventional wisdoms and pretenses picturing the development of Salafism in Yemen as a Saudi 'project.'

(Paul Aarts, University of Amsterdam, author of Saudi Arabia in the Balance: Political Economy, Society, Foreign Affairs)

Salafism is one of the most important and pervasive currents in the Muslim world, yet it remains among the least understood aspects of contemporary Islam. Bonnefoy's masterful Salafism in Yemen goes a long way towards remedying this problem. Refuting the common misunderstanding of Salafism as a Saudi export, Bonnefoy's work explores the complex interplay between local norms and transnational religious discourse.

(Peter Mandaville, George Mason University, author of Global Political Islam)

Yemen and Salafism are both making headlines in the news, yet they lack serious academic study due to the difficulties associated with field research. The challenge of Bonnefoy's book is to have studied Salafism in Yemen, remarkably succeeding in analyzing it in a concrete context and shedding new light both on the religious movement and on the Yemeni political and religious scene.

(Olivier Roy, author of Holy Ignorance: When Religion and Culture Part Ways)

Laurent Bonnefoy has produced a rich and deeply nuanced examination of contemporary Yemeni Salafism and its relationship and interactions with Saudi Arabia. The product of years of fieldwork, Salafism in Yemen is a groundbreaking study that is certain to become essential reading for anyone seeking to understand modern Yemen.

(Christopher Boucek, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace)

Bonnefoy has produced a rich and deeply nuanced examination of contemporary Yemeni Salafism and its relationship and interactions with Saudi Arabia. The product of years of fieldwork, his book is a groundbreaking study that is certain to become essential for anyone seeking to understand modern Yemen.

(Christopher Boucek, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace)

Bonnefoy's book does a fine job of breaking down of Western biases and goes some distance toward accomplishing his goal of "rescuing history" from the nation-state.

(Samuel Helfont New Republic The Book Blog)

Salafism in Yemen is a deeply researched and long-waited attempt to present new narrative discipline of international relations. The author provides the general audience with a fresh look into the influence of transnational actors and flows of ideas as well as the unique character of Yemeni society. ... This work not only sheds light on a vital area of study, but also opened a number of opportunities to expand research work in Yemen.'

(Journal of Arabian Studies)

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