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Orientalists, Islamists and the Global Public Sphere

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Honourable Mention, The British-Kuwait Friendship Society Book Prize 2012

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.

Published: Dec 1, 2011


Section Chapter Authors
Preface Dietrich Jung
The Problem: The Essentialist Image of Islam Dietrich Jung
Orientalism: Edward Said and His Critics Dietrich Jung
Observing Multiple Modernities: Globalization, World Society, and the Global Public Sphere Dietrich Jung
State, Science, Religion and Islam: Modern Europe Between Positivism and Christian Apology Dietrich Jung
“Islam as a Problem:” The Formation of Islamic Studies Dietrich Jung
Orientalist Constructions, Islamic Reform and Islamist Revolution Dietrich Jung
References Dietrich Jung
Index Dietrich Jung

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Orientalists Islamists and the Global Public Sphere is an academic work of merit, a genealogical exploration that is detailed and well-informed, that re-tells the story of the emergence of the 'essentialist image of Islam' with great competence.
The Muslim World Book Review, 33:1, 2012

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

'If Jung’s project were just to revamp Orientalism in light of the criticism it has sustained, it would not warrant a book-length treatment. However, he views Orientalism not as the definitive word on the subject – to be accepted or rejected – but as the start of a long conversation to be continued by critics. Jung’s contribution is an attempt to show the development of this image, not as a unidirectional force imposed on Muslims by orientalist scholars in the West, but rather as a dialectical development to which Muslims and non-Muslims alike contributed.'
Journal of History and Cultures,
February 2013

‘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 Gökalp 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

'A new and challenging assessment that forms a welcome addition not only to the literature on Islam, politics and modernity, but also to the body of theoretical work on problems of knowledge and power.'
International Affairs

'Orientalists, Islamists, and the Global Public Sphere is a rich and revelatory study. It breathes new life into a familiar, almost tired, debate about Edward Said and orientalism.'
Anthropology Review Database