Recent Posts

April 20th, 2017

The inevitable Islamic State? The paradoxes of Sudanese politics and society

posted by Abdelwahab El-Affendi

For Love of the ProphetNoah Salomon’s recent book, For Love of the Prophet, is a lesson in academic creativity in the face of adversity. As the author details in his candid introduction, he went to Sudan in search of the “Islamic State,” only to discover that it was nowhere to be seen. Deprived of his object of study, he was able to conjure it by renaming it. What other researchers would call “civil society” was re-christened as an ubiquitous Islamic state that was found everywhere, from bus rides to mosques and mystical rituals. The enemies of this state, no less than its supporters, all became part of this amorphous phenomenon called the Islamic state. As he puts it, the opponents of Islamism vied with its constituencies (due to its “hegemony” and “magnetism”) in a contest to speak its language.

This “discovery,” Salomon argues, compelled him to ask his questions in a new form. Rather than focus on the state as a despotic entity, the question was re-formulated in terms of what can be learned from examining “state power as productive and not solely repressive.”

This radical claim is supported by an even more radical rejection of the widely accepted separation between state and civil society and its enveloping public sphere.

Read The inevitable Islamic State? The paradoxes of Sudanese politics and society

April 13th, 2017

Taking the Islamic in “the Islamic state” seriously

posted by Mayanthi L. Fernando

April 11th, 2017

Salafism in Nigeria: An introduction

posted by Alexander Thurston

April 6th, 2017

Tainted love

posted by Gina Giliberti

~ More recent posts ~


Scholar or retailer of import goods? Reza Aslan, his guru, and his critics

by Michael Altman

By Ken Wieland [CC BY-SA 2.0 (], via Wikimedia CommonsIn this essay, Michael Altman critiques the depictions of religion as presented through the CNN Original series, Believer, hosted by Reza Aslan.

“The dispute between Aslan and American Hindus illustrates the popularity of progressive perennial do-gooder spirituality that effaces religious difference, the desire to assert firm religious identities when faced with that spirituality, and the real fears and dangers experienced by racial and religious minorities in our current social and political moment. The job of the scholar, then, is to step back and analyze these political, social, and cultural forces.”

Read this essay here.


For Love of the Prophet

by Noah Salomon

For Love of the Prophet

In this series, six scholars engage with Noah Salomon’s recent ethnography of the Islamic state in Sudan. As Salomon phrases it in his introduction to the series,

“As much a meditation on the religious dimensions of the modern state in general as it is an ethnography of religious and political life in Sudan, For Love of the Prophet asks readers to question their own assumptions about what has sustained foundational politics in our ‘post-foundational age.’ Moving beyond arguments about the impossibility of the Islamic state as a moral-theoretical or an ethical-political project, For Love of the Prophet draws on ethnographic research to ask by what means the Islamic state does in fact proceed in spite of its seeming contradictions.”

Read Salomon’s introduction to the series here.

Featured discussion

Theologies of American Exceptionalism

In this series of paired essays, participants expound on exemplary texts reflecting views of “American exceptionalism” at home and abroad.

Featured publication

Salafism in Nigeria

Alex Thurston, a former fellow of the SSRC IDRF program, introduces his new book, which argues that Salafism is animated by a canon of texts using examples of preaching and politics in Nigeria.

Featured essay

"God Bless America" - Boulder City, NV USA, Antique Store | via Flickr user g Tarded

Weak theology and the anti-gospel of American exceptionalism

In this essay, James Wellman asks questions such as, What is American greatness now? What makes us exceptional? What role does Christian theology play in those narratives?