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Articles, Reviews, Volume 3

Muslim Rap, Halal Soaps, and Revolutionary Theatre

Muslim Rap, Halal Soaps, and Revolutionary Theatre
Ed. by Karin van Nieuwkerk
A Book Review By Marvin Carlson
Austin: University of Texas Press, 2012. 
Pp. vi + 291, ISBN 978-0-292-74768-5. (Pbk $16.75).
Arab StagesVolume 2, Number 1 (Fall 2015)
©2015 by Martin E. Segal Theatre Center Publications

The vast majority of books currently on the market concerning the Arab world focus upon geopolitical, historical, or religious issues.  Very few engage popular culture in the Arab world, even though this is perhaps the best place to get some idea of what concerns and world views are being circulated among the generation involved with developing what has been called a “post-Islamist” cultural sphere.  Thus this wide-ranging, detailed and thoughtful collection of essays on current artistic developments in the Muslim world is particularly welcome and important.  It draws upon recent work not only in that world but also in the increasingly important Muslim diasporic communities, and thus offers examples not only from Egypt, Turkey, Syria, Lebanon and Iran, but also from Germany, France, and the United States.

The collection is drawn from a workshop on Islam and the Performing Arts in Western Europe and the Middle East held in Amsterdam in 2008 and includes scholars form a wide variety of cultural fields, including Islamic Studies, ethnomusicology, anthropology, sociology, cultural studies and political science.  What was revealed was, not surprisingly, that the general cultural stereotype of Islam as a culturally conservative force, opposed to the arts and dedicated to the suppression of them, is far too simplistic.  On the contrary, the role of the arts is central to discussions of the practice of Islam in the twenty-first century, and although these discussions vary widely in content and emphasis from community to community, most assume that the arts have a significant role to play in the Islamic cultural sphere.

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