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Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Sheffield Blogging Seminar: Monday 5 Dec

A very relevant plug, I think. This Monday (5 Dec. 11 am) the departmental seminar will be on what is called (for good or ill) 'biblioblogging'. There will be four short papers by the following bloggers: Paul Nikkel, Yasmin Finch, me and Matthew Hazell. Also, there will be Sheffield bloggers in the audience, not to mention a few blog readers. So if you're in the area and want to say how wrong we all are or you're just generally interested then come and see what the fuss is all about. I know in advance, as will regular readers of various blogs, that there will be one or two controversial opinions thrown around (some already finding their way onto several blogs already) so it could be exciting...

I'll blog on this after Monday.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Historiography debate

On a few of the Hebrew bible based blogs (apologies for the lack of links but everything can probably be found on Jim West's blog) there has been a bit a debate over the nature of history. Here's what Ken Ristau had to say:

In many history and biblical studies departments across the world, the art of historiography is being abandoned. In biblical studies, an ultra-skepticism has led to stunning tendencies in the discipline. There are scholars who abdicate entirely their responsibility to utilize the biblical text as a source and so they write vacuous histories of Israel. Some of these scholars, in an ironic inconsistency, will continue to appeal to the biblical text as a springboard to a counter-narrative without any significant contrary evidence other than their own conviction that the biblical text is false. A common thread in this sort of historical reconstruction is the creation of a community of elites living in Judah, Yehud, or Judea from the sixth century BCE to the second century BCE who, in an effort to maintain their elite status, invent a (hi)story for that community, which that community then apparently accepts as its own to the point that a new cult and social identity form (even though the [hi]story is apparently only decontextualized theology/ideology with little to no historical resonance for the community of readers and hearers). I am disturbed by this sort of reconstruction because of the many unanswered questions it leaves.

This would seem to imply the so-called minimalists (Ken goes on to criticise 'the minimalists'). And who are the so-called minimalists? Well two of the usually named are found at Sheffield. Reading Ken's comments I cannot help but feel there is an implication that Sheffield comes under the criticisms (In many history and biblical studies departments across the world, the art of historiography is being abandoned. In biblical studies, an ultra-skepticism has led to stunning tendencies in the discipline. There are scholars who abdicate entirely their responsibility to utilize the biblical text as a source and so they write vacuous histories of Israel.) Just to counter this implication, it does not reflect anyone or anything I know about Sheffield. I have worked in the area of historiography for some time now and I have used a variety of insights from Hobsbawm, Thompson, Evans, Braudel and the Annales school and various others. these are pretty standard names in the discipline of history. They are also names I discovered were being utilised by various people at Sheffield working in areas of history. In fact we even had a postgraduate historiography seminar where members of staff (me included) were very keen on their work. Now, this is hardly revolutionary in history departments. Indeed some of the work of these historians has been modified, developed, even rejected by some historians. So, if we are to read Ken's comments with one eye on the danger of implying Sheffield, I would hope he would not suggest that the so-called minimalists at Sheffield are in a department where they or the department reject conventional historiographical practices.

In fact I would turn this suggestion around: when has there ever been conventional history done in biblical studies. There is a massive emphasis on proving whether or not this or that person existed or behaved as the Bible said. What about questions of historical change through (say) economic or social factors? What about questions of causal change? These have been big, big questions in history depts but play little role in the history of historical study surrounding the Bible (at least in NT studies). If this applies to both testaments then how could biblical studies depts abandon practices they never really practised? This also says something about the discipline. It is fixated on events level history. Not underlying factors but an obession with 'what the text means' and 'what really happened'. Historiography in biblical studies has barely developed. As far as I can see I'm pretty moderate as far as historians go and as far as I can see so are other people at Sheffield who practise history. Radical in terms of biblical studies perhaps but hardly in terms of historians.

Perhaps the thing that strikes me most about the minimalist schools is that I do not believe that they truly accept their own rhetoric; in fact, many of their rhetorical flourishes are undermined by the implicit and sometimes even explicit implications of their work or the implicit assumptions reflected in their work and conclusions. To me, it seems that the entire epistomological framework of minimalism and its jargon exists in opposition to a naive maximalism of religious fundamentalists and/or long discredited historical-critical reconstructions that really have little to no currency in academia today.

I would politely ask Ken if he would give some names and examples? This may not be necessary for Hebrew Bible specialists. But as I am not a Hebrew Bible specialist, it would be helpful if you could supply these for me. Again, for the same reasons of my ignorance, I would politely ask Ken for information of names and references concerning the following:

Biblical studies, however, can no longer reasonably entertain notions that the Bible is a fabrication; it is intellectually dishonest and a crime against history and the discipline of historiography.

Friday, November 25, 2005

George Best Dies

It has just been announced that George Best, the greatest Man United player and arguably the greatest player of all time (for me Best and Maradona have no one else to rival them), has died. Best was a part of United's 'Holy Trinity' (with Law and Charlton) in the 1960s. He was also the first playboy of football but also had serious drink problems which effectively led to a long decline in health and his death. For US readers, he even played for the LA Aztecs (I think) in the 1970s scoring one of the greatest goals recorded I recall. In one sense (unless you're Northern Irish) it is a pity that he played international football for Northern Ireland because if he had played for a better international team he could have done some special things at the World Cup. Here are a few pictures. I always liked the cover of the Wedding Present album (a pretty impressive album it was too) as it is for me one the great images of football.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

More thoughts on SBL and blogging

Reading Rafael's paper was a weird experience. There was no pressure given that it wasn't mine and it is unusual not being able to raise your head with enough regularity and speak freely (don't worry Rafael I didn't mention dating of gospels, neo-con imperialism, Man United etc.: I stuck absolutely to the script). My impression was that it went well and two people came up to me praising Rafael's paper.

The highlight of the papers for remains the session on Iraq: I have never been involved in such a high standard debate on the subject. I haven't got the notes on me so that blogging will have to wait.

Again it was unfortunate for me to miss the blogging session, particularly as I'm currently writing a paper on blogging for the Sheffield seminar on blogging which I intend to publish. On the female bloggers, I'm still thinking this over. I've not been very successful yet although I may have one possible solution which I'll mention once they are properly thought through.

It cannot be denied that it is clearly an issue. It is absolutely true that there male scholars participate in higher numbers than female scholars in university education despite there being high numbers of female students. That's undoubetdly one factor but it doesn't explain everything because the numbers are even more staggeringly lower in the blog world. Moreover, there are plenty of other female bloggers in other fields (e.g. politics). So there can be no denying that it is a genuine problem. Clearly the freedom of the blogging world is something that ought to be thought about and presumably there are some underlying structural reasons why there is a lack of female bloggers. That needs to be explained because, like Sherlock Holmes, I don't believe in coincidences.

I'm not concentrating on this issue for my paper (just as well it would seem) though I may include it if I think I can provide a plausible solution. As I said previously I think there is something in what Paul Nikkel and Yasmin Finch (more here) say (largely because its well documented that identity issues do play a role in exclusion) but I think I'll wait to see what they say after the Sheffield seminar on blogging. Between them they may well produce a plausible answer.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

New Blog from Sheffield

I should hae done this earlier but I was rushed when blogging at SBL so had to keep things SBL related (though a bed picture is the obvious response). Anyway, there is another Sheffield blog. This time it is Matthew Coomber whose views look pretty compatible with some of those espoused on this blog and has left some comments (particularly handy when I didn't have time to respond on certain issues). Here's the outline:
Prophet Talk
A Space to Post and Gain Feedback on My Ideas Regarding the Prophetic Literature of the Hebrew Bible, with a Special Emphasis on Social-Justice Issues. It should be stated that, although I am a member of the clergy, ideas posted here are my own and not those of the American Epsicopal Church.


Ok, stay with me here. I'm completely worn out with too much travelling. So here's a few things I'll blog on (why anyone would care I don't know). I sadly couldn't make the blogging session as there was a session I had to be at to possibly defend myself (I didn't have to). I've read the reports and spoken to people. I think there is something in what Paul Nikkel and Jasmin Finch say but more on that soon. So just the social side of things for now.

I also really wanted to go to the Stephen Carlson gathering on his latest book but it clashed with the Sheffield almuni meal at the Nodding Head (another microbrewery with great food). Graham Auld was guest speaker and it was a good old affair. Then it was the Sheffield and Sheffield Phoenix Press reception which attracted all sorts (in the best possible sense). This was a great night where I failed miserably in taking enough photos after being led astray by Hugh Pyper's legion of bad, bad friends (again in the very best possible sense).

Next on to some pub (possibly that Independent Brewery) with a largely Sheffield group and played pool until God knows what early hour. There poor old Paul Nikkel was taught a pool lession by yours truly. Sadly for me, I've barely slept since.

Saw more bloggers of course. Saw the ever friendly Jim West before I left (there are some pictures forthcoming Jim). Oh, and Mark Goodacre mocked me in the flesh over the bed picture. Come on, Mark, if Tracy Emin and Jim West can do it then that's good enough for me!

Missed anythinh out? Probably. Memory,as we all know, is not always the greatest help in historical reconstruction.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Once more, Philadelphia

Social sciences: retrospect and prospect. I've completed a load of research on this so I was particularly interested in this one. Many of the papers were autobiographical with some interesting details. There was a bit of superiority going on at times and claims of inventing just about every new critical methodology. The best for me (and, ok, I biased but I still think I'm right) was David Horrell's. David raised some important issues which went ignored in the questions, particularly on cultural diversity and the problems of imposing models too strictly. Gager's paper was a good one too and I suspect there are some interesting views on secular approaches he has not too far beneath the surface which I hope he really pursues.

Did go for a few drinks yesterday. Bloggers too. Met Michael Bird for a few (a good lad and a good laugh even despite his evengelicalism). Also met Philip Harland whose work I've used a fair bit (whether he'll approave, I don't know). Then a couple of us from Sheffield met up with Jim West and Chris Heard which was a really good evening (both on the side of Good).

Anyway, off to read Rafael's paper and the Social Sciences group.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Philadelphia again

Well what happened? Oddly I've only been to AAR papers. The first was on historiography, historians and the 'linguistic turn'/poststructuralism. I wanted to go to the review off Roland Boer's book on Marxism and the Bible but hadn't read his book (apparently I'd have liked it anyway as the discussion got quite broad). The historiography paper was interesting because I think some of that debate has reached an end. Many people now appreciate the benefits of postmodernism and those who are strongly postmodernist are recognising that most conventional historians aren't hardcore Elton-style empiricists. Gabrielle Speigel responded to Elizabeth Clark on this and was excellent. She is a trained philosopher of history and it showed. Thankfully I did get to meet Roland Boer (who had some very interesting things to say) in the evening which included a drinks session in one Yasmin Finch's room via some connection with Paul Nikkel. The blogging community spreads far and wide.

I went to an afternoon paper on the Iraq war. The first paper was more a summary of the just war arguments in recent years but after that the discussion got more directly relevant with some very good papers. But I saw what had to be the finest academic paper I have ever seen by Simon Harak and some of the most enjoyable and relevant discussion I have ever been involved with. Harak gave masses of detail (brilliantly presented too) on the role of business and the war and the money spent on PR. I've got loads of notes and will blog more on this when I get home.

I met a couple of bloggers too: Jim West (alas, minus a Zwingli hat), Michael Pahl (much taller than I thought), the very Aussie Michael Bird, and my old nemesis (see earlier discussions on Iraq and Islam) Ken Ristau (much, much taller than I thought). Have I missed anyone out?

There also seems to be popular support for the bed picture in both the comments section and from Mark Goodacre. I always knew that was a great idea.

First SBL paper today for me: social sciences I think.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

More from Philadelphia

KEANE!!!!! We got that news first thing yesterday morning. If it's over what he said on TV I don't see the problem: all fans seems to think he was dead right. At first the hig brow intellectual talk was all of Ballack. Then I noticed Jason's comment and remembered that other terrible rumour: Gravesen. Ballack yes, Gravesen no. I've a horrible feeling if looking at United's history means anything that it will be Gravesen. So if you're reading Fergie...

Oh and enjoying Philadelphia too, esp. Reading Market.

Off to an AAR historiography seminar this morning if anyone cares (and, as ever, why should they?) which I'll blog on. It doesn't have the same kind of exciting breaking news feel of an archaeological find as we got with Paul Nikkel's blog does it? Nevermind, it could keep me happy.

And that picture: a defence. I just got a new camera, tried it out, neither of us wanted ourselves pictured on the blog, and wanted to see if I could download a picture onto the blog, therefore this blog hit new lows with a picture of the room.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Live from Philadelphia

Well most of Sheffield arrived today. Not going to bore people with the flight as nothing unusual happened, although immigration did ask me if Jesus was married. Here's a picture of the room me and Keith Whitelam share. No pictures of either of us so the only fair thing is to pointlessly show a picture of the room.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Hugh Pyper: An Unsuitable Blogger

More from the Sheffield school of blogging! Here's a new blog from Hugh Pyper called An Unsuitable Blog. This is an allusion to his latest book, An Unsuitable Book by Hugh Pyper. Hugh is Hebrew Bible/OT but also known to delve into NT studies.

Here's what it's all about:

A collection of thoughts and resources on the wilder end of biblical studies, postcolonialism, postmodernism, kierkegaard studies and music, among others.

And here's what blogging is all about:

I think we're already on to the stage of metablogging, so roll on postmetablogging and long live unsuitability.

He also claims to live in the best flat in Sheffield. While I'd love to tell him he is wrong it is quite possibly an accurate truth claim. He is also the only scholar I know to OPENLY admit an interest in watching wrestling.

It should be serious fun, to steal a phrase from the man himself. So any bloggers who read this go ahead and list him!

More on white phosphorus used in Iraq

There is more on this story of the use of white phosphorus in the attack on Falluja here, includingan admission of use and its potential definition as a chemical weapon if used against civilians. Here's a bit of the Guardian report:

US forces yesterday made their clearest admission yet that white phosphorus was used as a weapon against insurgents in Iraq. A Pentagon spokesman told the BBC last night that it had been used as "an incendiary weapon" during the assault last year on Falluja in 2004.

Lieutenant Colonel Barry Venable said the substance, which can be used to lay smokescreens but burns down to the bone in contact with skin, was not covered by international conventions on chemical weapons.

But Paul Rodgers of the University of Bradford's Department of Peace Studies said the substance would probably fall into the category of chemical weapons if used directly against people.

The Pentagon spokesman's comments also appeared to contradict the US ambassador to London, Robert Tuttle, who denied in a letter to the Independent that white phosphorus was deployed as a weapon. Mr Tuttle said: "US forces participating in Operation Iraqi Freedom continue to use appropriate lawful conventional weapons against legitimate targets. US forces do not use napalm or white phosphorus as weapons."

Tonight Matthew I'm going to be...Rafael Rodriguez

Well on Monday morning anyway. Rafael has had to pull out of SBL (baby and all that) so it's being Rafael Rodriguez for me. I'll be reading out his paper, 'Discoursing Miracles: Jesus' Healings in Early Christian Memory', to the social sciences group (can't remember the precise name off the top of my head) on Monday morning. From what I can see in front of me it looks a great paper, what with arguments for an early date for Mark, a law observant Jesus, arguments against the resurrection, and the greatness of two of the best Man United players, Eric Cantona (man more than capable of producing miracles in his time) and Roy Keane. Probably.

The title of this post for the unsophisticated is an allusion to Shakesp... Stars in their Eyes, a fourth rate TV show which should never be watched.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Iraq and chemical warfare

The papers (e.g. here and a particularly good article by George Monbiot here) contain this latest important allegation that the US military comes near as could be hoped to admitting the use of white phosphorus and napalm in Iraq. There is accessible evidence of boasts from within the US military, particularly in the Falluja campaign. See for example the accounts of 3 soldiers writing in the March-April edition of a US military magazine, Field Artillery, here. There are also refers to marines who mention the use of napalm in 2003 despite the usual denials followed by admissions from the UK govt. Monbiot also strongly criticises at all those who used Saddam's use of chemical weapons (with US/UK approval let us NEVER forget) in the UK as a reason for going to war, from the British political establishment to those journalists and figures in the media who uncritically followed their leaders, did as they were told and towed the party line (e.g. David Aaronovitch, Nick Cohen, William Shawcross, and many more).

I was involved in a debate at the time of the invasion of Iraq in the local paper in Barrow with John Hutton, the new Work and Pensions secretary. I mentioned the use of chemical and related weapons (I'm pretty sure that bit was printed: they edited the final version), including those used in the first Gulf war and only later admitted. Hutton's position gave the usual defence at the time of the Iraq war and which looked to me as if it had come stright from Alistair Campbell's desk (put it this way, I'd be surprised if Hutton had any significant input). If this all turns out to be true and if he can take time from his new promotion, I hope Hutton will now spend time telling his constituants why he was so confident of the govt line on the Iraq war and if he ever cared really less about the impact his 'loyalty' to the party leader would have had on the people of Iraq. Even before the recent stuff on chemical use I seriously doubted his motivations (his beloved leader supported the monstrous Karimov for example and I can find no evidence -and why would I? - of Hutton being outraged at this). So come on, John, if you care so much let's have a full article or condemnation of your leaders (New Labour and US) on their foreign policy. Or is 'loyalty' to them more important?

Friday, November 11, 2005

Kittel and TDNT

Benjamin Myers praises Kittel's TDNT as a work of finest scholarship. I think some serious qualifications should always be made when mentioning this work. I agree that there are some useful reference articles. Yet most disturbingly some of the early reference articles are pretty anti-Jewish and some written by known antisemites. Kittel himself was a known Nazi supporter and he of all people wrote the article on Ioudaios if I remember rightly. And Grundmann, a Nazi party member and supporting member of the SS, was also an assistant in the TDNT project. In both these cases it is not so difficult to see how their racist ideology profoundly interfered with their academic work.

For all the details see e.g.:

G. Vermes, Jesus and the World of Judaism (1983).

S. Heschel, 'Nazifying Christian Theology: Walter Grundmann and the Institute for the Study and Eradication of Jewish Influenceon German Church Life', Church History 63 (1994), pp. 587-605.

M. Casey, 'Some Anti-Semitic Assumptions in the TDNT', NovT 41 (1999), pp. 280-291 and 'Who's Afraid of Jesus Christ?' in Crossley and Karner (eds.), Writing History, Constructing Religion, pp. 129-146 (an innocent plug, honest).

P. Head, 'The Nazi Quest for an Ayrian Jesus', JSHJ 2 (2004), pp. 55-89.

Second Temple Essay/Historians

Here is an article from Bible and Interpretation which I really should plug by Diana Edelman summarising her new book. Here's the abstract (via Jim West):

It is hard see what benefit would have accrued from rebuilding the temple under either Cyrus or Darius while Jerusalem remained unoccupied and in ruins. How would either king have benefited from a pilgrimage site in a destroyed city in an underdeveloped, distant province? A summary of the main arguments made in D. Edelman, The Origins of the 'Second' Temple: Persian Imperial Policy and the Rebuilding of Yehud (London: Equinox, 2005).

One general line from the in particular stands out as something ALL biblical scholars should have to deal with PROPERLY: "Contemporary history-writing grouns its interpretation of events in chains of logical cause and effect that does not include God as an active agent or motivation."
Such practice is often lacking, is it not, among historians in biblical studies (virgin birth, resurrection, floating axe heads, a load of bodies rising up from tombs etc.)?

Thursday, November 10, 2005

A new born Rodriguez

Here's some good news: Rafael of Verily, Verily fame has become a father. So congratulations Rafael. There are pictures here and thankfully Janelle Helena Rodriguez is far, far prettier than her father. For the faint hearted a warning: there is a picture of Rafael in bed with his best James Bond pose.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Evangelical Textual Critics of the World Unite!

Here a new-ish blog (Evangelical Textual Criticism) that I've noticed thanks to Michael Bird which includes some notable British NT scholars. It was founded by Peter Williams and the team includes Peter Head and a certain SJGathers (that must be none other than Simon Gathercole, surely?).

Here's some extra stuff from the site:
membership of this blog has initially been made up entirely from evangelicals involved in academic study of textual criticism who were known to the founder, P.J. Williams. It is sincerely hoped that in due time we may be able to have a wider membership. Those with appropriate expertise and theological convictions who wish to be considered for membership should contact Dr Williams at p dot j dot williams at abdn dot ac dot uk. Those applying for membership must indicate that they have read either the OT or the NT in its original language(s), and should give e-mail details of an academic and a pastoral referee, a summary of their academic and/or ministry involvement, a statement of their doctrinal commitment (which may be by reference to various classic evangelical statements of faith, e.g. 39 Articles, Westminster Confession), and an indication of their area of interest within textual criticism.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Writing History, Constructing Religion

I will answer some of the comments on other posts soon but I thought I should blog in order for a bit of free self publicity (why else?). I have just received my copy of a book I co edited with the sociologist/social anthropologist Christian Karner called Writing History, Constructing Religion (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2005). I think it is officially out on 21 November and is available at the, ahem, bargain £50. It has some stuff of relevance for biblical studies even though it is an interdisciplinary discussion of the nature of history and how it is used in a variety of contexts relating to religious studies.

Here are some of the details from the Ashgate site:

Writing History, Constructing Religion presents a much-needed interdisciplinary exploration of the significance of debates among historians, scholars of religion and cultural theorists over the 'nature' of history to the study of religion. The distinguished authors discuss issues related to definitions of history, postmodernism, critical theory, and the impact on the study and analysis of religious traditions; exploring the application of writing 'history from below', discussions of 'truth' and 'objectivity' as opposed to power and ideology, crises of representation, and the place of theory in the 'historicized' study of religion(s).

Addressing conceptual debates in a wide range of historical and empirical contexts, the authors critically engage with issues including religious nationalism, Nazism, Islam and the West, secularism, religion in post-Communist Russia, ethnicity and post modernity. This book constitutes a significant step towards the self-reflexive and interdisciplinary study of religions in history.

Here are the contributions:

James G. Crossley and Christian Karner, 'Writing History, Constructing Religion'

James G. Crossley, 'Defining History'

Christian Karner, 'Postmodernism and the Study of Religions'

Philip Goodchild, 'On "religion": speeches to its cultural despisers'

Alan Aldridge, 'Postmodernism Before and After: The Fate of Secularization'

Hugh Goddard, 'The Crisis of Representation in Islamic Studies'

Kathryn Tomlinson, 'Living Yesterday in Today and Tomorrow: Meskhetian Turks in Southern Russia'

Maurice Casey, 'Who's Afraid of Jesus Christ? Some Comments on Attempts to Write a Life of Jesus'

James G. Crossley, 'History from the Margins: The Death of John the Baptist'

Maria Varsam, '"If Isaac could speak…": Redefining Sacrifice'

Seth Kunin, 'Ideological "Destructuring' in Myth, History and Memory'

Christian Karner, 'Writing Hindutva History, Constructing Nationalist Religion'

Obviously a couple of these are directly relevant for biblical studies. Maurice Casey looks at the impact of a Christian discipline and Nazism on the scholarly quest for the historical Jesus. My article on the death of John the Baptist develops a few of Roger Aus' insights into the haggadic background along with general anthropological approaches to history. There's a fair bit of sex in it too for those who get bored with these things. Seth Kunin's article uses his Levi-Strauss influenced (neo-) structuralist approach to look at various texts from the Hebrew Bible, particularly the book of Judges, with some extra fieldwork material on the Crypto-Jews of New Mexico. Maria Varsam's article has a wide ranging discussion of sacrifice which also includes stuff on the binding of Isaac.

There is also some general interdisciplinary material which is of some relevance. My chapter on 'Defining History' discusses the various approaches to history and historiography (e.g. postmodernism, objectivity and neutrality, ideology, history from below, history and the social sciences etc. etc.) with some examples from biblical studies and early Judaism. Christian Karner's chapter on postmodernism analyses the contemporary debates surrounding the notion of postmodernism and related issues such as identity. Alan Aldridge's article has much to say on Bryan Wilson (of 'sects' fame) and on how some of the older sociology has been misunderstood by its critics. For those philosophically minded then Philip Goodchild's is the paper for you. In many ways it is how the study of religion can be practicised and how it is practised. The introductory chapter by me and Karner goes over how history is used in a variety of religious traditions.

Karner also shows in more detail how history is used in the context of modern day India and Hindu nationalism, applying various insights from postmodernism. There are also two articles on Islam, both of which show very strongly how much ignorance and misunderstanding there is about Muslims and their religion. Kathryn Tomlinson gives the examples of
Meskhetian Turks in Southern Russia (using some of her fieldwork) which due to my ignorance was nothing like what I had ever come across in discussions of Islam and some very interesting attitudes towards what we might think of as official religion. Hugh Goddard's article provides a variety of perceptions of Islam and Muslims from both insiders and outsiders. A broad range of opinions are covered on both 'sides'. It also shows that much of the polemics often peddled by the right, including the right wing press and media, is often factually inaccurate and misleading. I am obviously (to regular readers) pleased this article was in the volume because as regular readers of this blog will know (sometimes deliberately) distorting views of Islam is something that I have discussed a few times.