Friday, February 10, 2012

What is Jonathan Lyons reading?

The current featured contributor at Writers Read: Jonathan Lyons, author of Islam Through Western Eyes: From the Crusades to the War on Terrorism.

His entry begins:
I am taking something of a detour from my engagement with the Muslim world to apply some of the same analytical approaches to early American history, specifically to the question of how America became the world’s leading technological power. As a result, much of my recent reading has addressed colonial and British intellectual history. But I also try to read novels, both classics and newer works, when I can.

I have several historical books on the go right now. These include Ron Chernow’s impressive Washington: A Life, which Gordon S. Wood’s notice in the NYRB called “the best, most comprehensive, and most balanced single-volume biography of Washington ever written.” It is instructive to watch Chernow at work, as he painstakingly fashions an accessible and...[read on]
About the book, from the publisher:
Despite the West's growing involvement in Muslim societies, conflicts, and cultures, its inability to understand or analyze the Islamic world threatens any prospect for East–West rapprochement. Impelled by one thousand years of anti-Muslim ideas and images, the West has failed to engage in any meaningful or productive way with the world of Islam. Formulated in the medieval halls of the Roman Curia and courts of the European Crusaders and perfected in the newsrooms of Fox News and CNN, this anti-Islamic discourse determines what can and cannot be said about Muslims and their religion, trapping the West in a dangerous, dead-end politics that it cannot afford.

In Islam Through Western Eyes, Jonathan Lyons unpacks Western habits of thinking and writing about Islam, conducting a careful analysis of the West's grand totalizing narrative across one thousand years of history. He observes the discourse’s corrosive effects on the social sciences, including sociology, politics, philosophy, theology, international relations, security studies, and human rights scholarship. He follows its influence on research, speeches, political strategy, and government policy, preventing the West from responding effectively to its most significant twenty-first-century challenges: the rise of Islamic power, the emergence of religious violence, and the growing tension between established social values and multicultural rights among Muslim immigrant populations.

Through the intellectual "archaeology" of Michel Foucault, Lyons reveals the workings of this discourse and its underlying impact on our social, intellectual, and political lives. He then addresses issues of deep concern to Western readers—Islam and modernity, Islam and violence, and Islam and women—and proposes new ways of thinking about the Western relationship to the Islamic world.
Learn more about Islam Through Western Eyes at the Columbia University Press website, and visit Jonathan Lyons's website and blog.

The Page 99 Test: Islam Through Western Eyes.

Writers Read: Jonathan Lyons.

--Marshal Zeringue