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Leisurely Islam: Negotiating Geography and Morality in Shi'ite South Beirut (Princeton Studies in Muslim Politics) Paperback – October 27, 2013

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Editorial Reviews


Winner of the 2014 British-Kuwait Friendship Society Prize in Middle Eastern Studies

One of Choice's Outstanding Academic Titles for 2014

"This outstanding ethnography of contemporary urban Middle Eastern life focuses on Hezbollah young adults, about whom people are generally misinformed, an effort of critical value to scholars of religion and politics as well as anthropologists. . . . The authors brilliantly illustrate the variety and complexity of moral choice, ethnic insularity, and worldliness with respect to other neighborhoods and populations."--Choice

"Leisurely Islam provides an interesting study of an area many people know very little about. It will interest scholars and students alike. While the book speaks particularly to those working on Lebanon and the Middle East, it will also be relevant to researchers dealing with issues regarding youth, morality, space and diversity in general."--Marianne Holm Pedersen, Social Anthropology

"Overall, Leisurely Islam [is] a powerful, important, and well-researched text, the significance of which extends far beyond the realm of leisure. I attribute a great deal of the book's success to its multidisciplinary approach. The book doesn't neatly fall within the discipline of either author but instead draws upon the expertise of both. Perhaps more importantly, the book nicely integrates multiple forms of data, from religious texts: ethnographic data (both detailed observations and interviews); and market research (on cafes in Dahiya, size, location, etc.): to urban spatial analysis and so on. Brought together in a masterful way, this cornucopia of data enables the authors to paint a richer picture of Dahiya than would have been possible using any one methodology or data source alone."--Jane Lief Abell, Allegra

"Particularly well referenced, with an unprecedented amount of information, this book is an important tool for those interested in this region."--Erminia Chiara Calabrese, REMMM

From the Back Cover

"Café culture has been an integral part of life in the Middle East for centuries, but Deeb and Harb present it as a lens through which to understand the shifting morality of the people of southern Lebanon. This is an important and fascinating study that will be read and discussed for years to come."--Reza Aslan, author of No god but God: The Origins, Evolution and Future of Islam and Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth

"Through the mapping of an emergent café culture that signals and feeds new desires for sociability and public leisure by 'more or less pious' youth, this engaging and nonjudgmental book guides us through the surprisingly complex moral rubrics and creative religious interpretations of a new generation in the Shi'a neighborhood of South Beirut. In marvelous detail, we learn how young men and women, and those who seek their business, are refiguring their neighborhood, social relations, and the whole city of Beirut, where class, sect, and geography are tightly interwoven."--Lila Abu-Lughod, Columbia University and author of Do Muslim Women Need Saving?

"This well-argued and well-organized book will greatly interest all those working on the subject of the contemporary Middle East, in particular Beirut and Lebanon. The authors challenge the view that the southern suburb of Dahiya is closely linked to Hezbollah and they introduce a number of theories to better understand the new forms of leisure that have surfaced in Dahiya during the last decade."--Jørgen BÆk Simonsen, University of Copenhagen


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Product Details

  • Series: Princeton Studies in Muslim Politics
  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press; 1st edition (October 27, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0691153663
  • ISBN-13: 978-0691153667
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.7 x 9.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #746,163 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Anthropology provides, among other things, a sense of locality. When you read a memorable ethnography, the spaces and places of the book become etched in your memory. After finishing the work, you might say, “I feel like I was there.” And yet the relationship between anthropology and space has been largely neglected in the theoretical literature. It is often limited to the notion of the terrain where fieldwork takes place, or to the symbolic categories by which space gets ordered and compartmented (as in Bourdieu's description of the Kabyle house). The geographic area where the ethnographer engages in participant observation—the village, the city ward, the factory workshop, the service area—is often taken for granted. The location is described at the outset, often in the introductory chapter, but only figures as a stage where the action takes place rather than as a central character in the play.

A recent tendency among anthropologists has been to abstract themselves from spatial boundaries, and to develop multi-sited ethnographies that are considered better adapted to our globalizing present. They sample situated encounters and follow transnational flows without strict commitment to terrain and fieldwork. Even when they stick to one location and emphasize the role of “being there”, ethnographers seldom expound on the idea that space and social interactions are symbiotic, and that, to put it in Henri Lefebvre’s terms, “space is constituted through and constitutive of social relations and material social practices.” Or as Lara Deeb and Mona Harb put it by introducing the notion of the Islamic milieu, “the milieu is continually reconstructed and reproduced by various actors, as opposed to being either an existential state or merely a context in which people live.
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