Faculty Books

Iqbal Akhtar

Iqbal Akhtar, The Khoja of Tanzania: Discontinuities of a Postcolonial Religious Identity

The Khōjā of Tanzania, Discontinuities of a Postcolonial Religious Identity attempts to reconstruct the development of Khōjā religious identity from their arrival to the Swahili coast in the late 18th century until the turn of the 21st century. This multidisciplinary study incorporates Gujarati, Kacchī, Swahili, and Arabic sources to examine the formation of an Afro-Asian Islamic identity (jamatī) from their initial Indic caste identity (jñāti) towards an emergent Near Eastern imaged Islamic nation (ummatī) through four disciplinary approaches: historiography, politics, linguistics, and ethnology. Over the past two centuries, rapid transitions and discontinuities have produced the profound tensions which have resulted from the willful amnesia of their pre-Islamic Indic civilizational past for an ideological and politicized 'Islamic' present. This study aims to document, theorize, and engage this theological transformation of modern Khōjā religious identities as expressed through dimensions of power, language, space, and the body.

Whitney Bauman

Whitney Bauman, Environmental Ethics and Uncertainty

This book offers a multidisciplinary environmental approach to ethics in response to the contemporary challenge of climate change caused by globalized economics and consumption. This book synthesizes the incredible complexity of the problem and the necessity of action in response, highlighting the unambiguous problem facing humanity in the 21st century, but arguing that it is essential to develop an ethics housed in ambiguity in response.

Environmental Ethics and Uncertainty is divided into theoretical and applied chapters, with the theoretical sections engaging in dialogue with scholars from a variety of disciplines, while the applied chapters offer insight from 20th century activists who demonstrate and/or illuminate the theory, including Martin Luther King, Rachel Carson, and Frank Lloyd Wright.

This book is written for scholars and students in the interdisciplinary field of environmental studies and the environmental humanities, and will appeal to courses in religion, philosophy, ethics, politics, and social theory.

Steven Heine

Steven Heine, The Treasury of the True Dharma Eye

The Treasury of the True Dharma Eye (Shōbōgenzō) is the masterwork of Dōgen (1200–1253), founder of the Sōtō Zen Buddhist sect in Kamakura-era Japan. It is one of the most important Zen Buddhist collections, composed during a period of remarkable religious diversity and experimentation. The text is complex and compelling, famed for its eloquent yet perplexing manner of expressing the core precepts of Zen teachings and practice.

This book is a comprehensive introduction to this essential Zen text, offering a textual, historical, literary, and philosophical examination of Dōgen’s treatise. Steven Heine explores the religious and cultural context in which the Treasury was composed and provides a detailed study of the various versions of the medieval text that have been compiled over the centuries. He includes nuanced readings of Dōgen’s use of inventive rhetorical flourishes and the range of East Asian Buddhist textual and cultural influences that shaped the work. Heine explicates the philosophical implications of Dōgen’s views on contemplative experience and attaining and sustaining enlightenment, showing the depth of his distinctive understanding of spiritual awakening. Readings of Dōgen’s Treasury of the True Dharma Eye will give students and other readers a full understanding of this fundamental work of world religious literature.

Columbia University Press (May 12, 2020). 312 pages.

Oren Baruch Stier

Oren Baruch Stier, Holocaust Icons: Symbolizing the Shoah in History and Memory

The Holocaust has bequeathed to contemporary society a cultural lexicon of intensely powerful symbols, a vocabulary of remembrance that we draw on to comprehend the otherwise incomprehensible horror of the Shoah. Engagingly written and illustrated with more than forty black-and-white images, Holocaust Icons probes the history and memory of four of these symbolic relics left in the Holocaust’s wake.

Jewish studies scholar Oren Stier offers in this volume new insight into symbols and the symbol-making process, as he traces the lives and afterlives of certain remnants of the Holocaust and their ongoing impact. Stier focuses in particular on four icons: the railway cars that carried Jews to their deaths, symbolizing the mechanics of murder; the Arbeit Macht Frei (“work makes you free”) sign over the entrance to Auschwitz, pointing to the insidious logic of the camp system; the number six million that represents an approximation of the number of Jews killed as well as mass murder more generally; and the persona of Anne Frank, associated with victimization. Stier shows how and why these icons—an object, a phrase, a number, and a person—have come to stand in for the Holocaust: where they came from and how they have been used and reproduced; how they are presently at risk from a variety of threats such as commodification; and what the future holds for the memory of the Shoah.

In illuminating these icons of the Holocaust, Stier offers valuable new perspective on one of the defining events of the twentieth century. He helps readers understand not only the Holocaust but also the profound nature of historical memory itself.

Tudor Parfitt

Tudor Parfitt, Black Jews in Africa and the Americas (The Nathan I. Huggins Lectures)

Black Jews in Africa and the Americas tells the fascinating story of how the Ashanti, Tutsi, Igbo, Zulu, Beta Israel, Maasai, and many other African peoples came to think of themselves as descendants of the ancient tribes of Israel. Pursuing medieval and modern European race narratives over a millennium in which not only were Jews cast as black but black Africans were cast as Jews, Tudor Parfitt reveals a complex history of the interaction between religious and racial labels and their political uses.

For centuries, colonialists, travelers, and missionaries, in an attempt to explain and understand the strange people they encountered on the colonial frontier, labeled an astonishing array of African tribes, languages, and cultures as Hebrew, Jewish, or Israelite. Africans themselves came to adopt these identities as their own, invoking their shared histories of oppression, imagined blood-lines, and common traditional practices as proof of a racial relationship to Jews.

Beginning in the post-slavery era, contacts between black Jews in America and their counterparts in Africa created powerful and ever-growing networks of black Jews who struggled against racism and colonialism. A community whose claims are denied by many, black Jews have developed a strong sense of who they are as a unique people. In Parfitt’s telling, forces of prejudice and the desire for new racial, redemptive identities converge, illuminating Jewish and black history alike in novel and unexplored ways.

Albert Wuaku

Albert Wuaku, Hindu Gods in West Africa: Ghanaian Devotees of Shiva and Krishna (Studies of Religion in Africa)

In Hindu Gods in West Africa, Wuaku offers an analytical account of the histories, beliefs, and practices of the Hindu Monastery of Africa and the Radha Govinda Temple, two of Ghana's emerging Hindu Temples.