In light of the ongoing public debate that focuses on differences between Islam and the West, this book suggests a change of perspective. It departs from the observation that both western Orientalists and Islamist activists have defined Islam similarly as an all-encompassing religious, political and social system. In shifting from differences to similarities, it leaves behind the increasingly circular debate about the true nature of Islam in which the Muslim religion has been represented either as intrinsically hostile to or as principally compatible with modern culture. Instead, it associates the evolution of a particularly essentialist image of Islam with a complex process of cross-cutting (self)-interpretations of Muslim and Western societies within an emerging global public sphere. Putting its focus on the life and work of a number of paradigmatic individuals, the book investigates the intellectual encounters and discursive interdependencies among western and Muslim intellectuals. In a historical genealogy it deconstructs the essentialist image of Islam in uncovering its conceptual foundations in the modern transformation of European and Muslim societies from the nineteenth century onwards. Thereby, the changing infrastructure of the global public sphere has facilitated the gradual popularization, trivialization, and dissemination of a previously elitist discourse on Islam and modernity. In this way, the idea of Islam as an all-encompassing system has been turned into accepted knowledge in the Western and Muslim worlds alike.
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Dietrich Jung is a Professor and Head of Department at the Center for Contemporary Middle East Studies, University of Southern Denmark. He holds a MA in Political Science and Islamic Studies, as well as a Ph.D. in Political Science from University of Hamburg, Germany and has large field experience in the Muslim world. He has published numerous scholarly articles on causes of war, peace and conflict studies, political Islam, modern Turkey and on conflicts in the Middle East. His most recent book (edited with Catharina Raudvere) is Religion, Politics, and Turkey's EU Accession (Palgrave Macmillan, 2008).Review:
'Through an analysis of classical Islamic studies and emergent social sciences, Dietrich Jung carefully unpicks and disposes of the whole legacy of the notion of a unified, coherent and integrated Islam, showing its manifest and profound differences across cultures and time. The book is equally critical of the New Orientalism in both the academy and the media which persists with the notion that Islam is the principal stumbling block for societies on the way to modernization and democracy. He uncovers the tragedy of our post- 9/11 world in which the New Orientalists in the West converge with the ideas of Political Islam in which the dominant quest is to discover the True Islam. Finally Dr Jung guides us through an interpretation of how Islamic movements have to be understood in a global public that is being created by many different forms of modernity. Orientalists Islamists and the Global Public Sphere is the definitive modern work on the history and pitfalls of Orientalism - both old and new.' Bryan S.Turner, Presidential Professor of Sociology, The Graduate Center, CUNY 'Modern Western scholars claim that there are many "Islams". But Western public opinion and many Islamist thinkers believe that there is only one all-encompassing Islam. This belief has had, and has, fateful consequences for both Muslims and the West. Jung's book traces the emergence of this understanding in the interactions between Islamic thinkers and Orientalists in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. It is a contribution to the intellectual history of the globalizing world of the first importance.' Prof Francis Robinson CBE, Sultan of Oman Fellow, Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies, Professor of the History of South Asia, Royal Holloway University of London 'The character of Islamic studies has been in question ever since the publication of Edward Said's Orientalism in 1978. This astonishing book, brilliant, knowledgeable and elegant, goes beyond heated polemics by means of sophisticated use of social theory so as to present a complete, balanced and convincing account of the formation of contemporary understandings of the Islamic world. Jung is at his most brilliant in showing the cognitive interactions between Muslim scholars and occidental scholars of Muslim society, allowing him to cast light on a vast range of figures, from Goldziher, Robertson Smith, Durkheim and Renan to Abduh, Iqbal, Ziya Gokalp and Islamist thinkers like Mawdudi and Said Qutb.' John Hall, James McGill Professor of Comparative Historical Sociology, McGill University, Montreal 'Orientalists, Islamists and the Global Public Sphere is an insightful, compelling, and thorough new account of the history of Islamic studies, east and west, that is must reading for social theorists and intellectual historians interested in Islam.' --Richard C. Martin, Professor of Islamic Studies and History of Religions, Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia
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