New Books in the Society of Fellows

Celebrating Recent Work by Murad Idris, Jordanna Bailkin and Ilana Feldman

Wednesday, April 3, 2019  6:15pm The Heyman Center, Second Floor Common Room

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New Books in the Society of Fellows:
Celebrating Recent Work by Murad Idris, Jordanna Bailkin and Ilana Feldman

War for Peace: Genealogies of a Violent Ideal in Western and Islamic Thought
By: Murad Idris

Peace is a universal ideal, but its political life is a great paradox: "peace" is the opposite of war, but it also enables war. If peace is the elimination of war, then what does it mean to wage war for the sake of peace? What does peace mean when some say that they are committed to it but that their enemies do not value it? Why is it that associating peace with other ideals, like justice, friendship, security, and law, does little to distance peace from war?  Although political theory has dealt extensively with most major concepts that today define "the political" it has paid relatively scant critical attention to peace, the very concept that is often said to be the major aim and ideal of humanity. In War for Peace, Murad Idris looks at the ways that peace has been treated across the writings of ten thinkers from ancient and modern political thought, from Plato to Immanuel Kant and Sayyid Qutb, to produce an original and striking account of what peace means and how it works. Idris argues that peace is parasitical in that the addition of other ideals into peace, such as law, security, and friendship, reduces it to consensus and actually facilitates war; it is provincial in that its universalized content reflects particularistic desires and fears, constructions of difference, and hierarchies within humanity; and it is polemical, in that its idealization is not only the product of antagonisms, but also enables hostility. War for Peace uncovers the basis of peace's moralities and the political functions of its idealizations, historically and into the present. This bold and ambitious book confronts readers with the impurity of peace as an ideal, and the pressing need to think beyond universal peace.

Unsettled: Refugee Camps and the Making of Multicultural Britain
By: Jordanna Bailkin

Today, no one really thinks of Britain as a land of camps. Camps seem to happen "elsewhere", from Greece, to Palestine, to the global South. Yet over the course of the twentieth century, dozens of British refugee camps housed hundreds of thousands of Belgians, Jews, Basques, Poles, Hungarians, Anglo-Egyptians, Ugandan Asians, and Vietnamese. Refugee camps in Britain were never only for refugees. Refugees shared a space with Britons who had been displaced by war and poverty, as well as thousands of civil servants and a fractious mix of volunteers. Unsettled: Refugee Camps and the Making of Multicultural Britain explores how these camps have shaped today's multicultural Britain. They generated unique intimacies and frictions, illuminating the closeness of individuals that have traditionally been kept separate--"citizens" and "migrants", but also refugee populations from diverse countries and conflicts. 

As the world's refugee crisis once again brings to Europe the challenges of mass encampment, Unsettled offers warnings from a liberal democracy's recent past. Through lively anecdotes from interviews with former camp residents and workers Unsettledconveys the vivid, everyday history of refugee camps, which witnessed births and deaths, love affairs and violent conflicts, strikes and protests, comedy and tragedy. Their story--like that of today's refugee crisis--is one of complicated intentions that played out in unpredictable ways. The aim of this book is not to redeem camps--nor, indeed, to condemn them. It is to refuse to ignore them. Unsettled speaks to all who are interested in the plight of the encamped, and the global uses of encampment in our present world.

Life Lived in Relief: Humanitarian Predicaments and Palestinian Refugee Politics
By: Ilana Feldman

Palestinian refugees’ experience of protracted displacement is among the lengthiest in history. In her breathtaking new book, Ilana Feldman explores this community’s engagement with humanitarian assistance over a seventy-year period and their persistent efforts to alter their present and future conditions. Based on extensive archival and ethnographic field research, Life Lived in Relief offers a comprehensive account of the Palestinian refugee experience living with humanitarian assistance in many spaces and across multiple generations. By exploring the complex world constituted through humanitarianism, and how that world is experienced by the many people who inhabit it, Feldman asks pressing questions about what it means for a temporary status to become chronic. How do people in these conditions assert the value of their lives? What does the Palestinian situation tell us about the world? Life Lived in Relief is essential reading for anyone interested in the history and practice of humanitarianism today.  

About the Authors:

Murad Idris is an Assistant Professor of Politics at the University of Virginia. He has wide-ranging interests in political theory and the history of political thought, including war and peace, language and politics, empire and postcolonialism, political theology and secularism, comparative political theory, and Arabic and Islamic political thought. Idris’s first book, War for Peace: Genealogies of a Violent Ideal in Western and Islamic Thought(Oxford University Press, 2018) examines idealizations of “peace” across canonical works of ancient and modern political thought, from Plato to Immanuel Kant and Sayyid Qutb. Idris argues that the dominant, moralized ideal of peace sanitizes violence, reinscribes global hierarchy, and facilitates hostility. He has published articles on Erasmus’s political theology in Theory & Event, Ibn Tufayl’s twelfth-century allegory in European Journal of Political Theory and Journal of Islamic Philosophy, and the politics of comparison in comparative political theory in Political Theory, as well as a number of chapters in edited volumes. Idris is also co-editor of The Oxford Handbook of Comparative Political Theory, with Leigh K. Jenco and Megan C. Thomas.

Jordanna Bailkin is a scholar of modern Britain and empire, who has been dedicated to exploring the global dimensions of British studies and participating in scholarly and public conversations about Britain’s shifting status in the world. She teaches in the Department of History at the University of Washington, where she is the Jere L. Bacharach Endowed Professor in International Studies. Her research interests include decolonization, comparative colonialisms, legal history, urban identity, gender history, the history of emotion, and the history of material culture. She is the author of The Culture of Property (Chicago, 2004), the prizewinning The Afterlife of Empire (Berkeley, 2012), and most recently, Unsettled (Oxford, 2018). 

Ilana Feldman is a cultural and historical anthropologist who works in the Middle East. Her research has focused on the Palestinian experience, both inside and outside of historic Palestine, examining practices of government, humanitarianism, policing, displacement, and citizenship. Professor Feldman has conducted ethnographic and archival research in Gaza, the West Bank, Jordan, Lebanon, and Egypt. Her first book, an historical ethnography of the civil service in Gaza during the British Mandate and Egyptian Administration, explored how everyday bureaucracy and ordinary governing practices contributed to shaping people and place in the often extraordinary circumstances prevailing in Gaza.

About the Speakers:

Jesús R. Velasco teaches Medieval and Early Modern Studies at Columbia. He has taught at the University of California, Berkeley, Universidad de Salamanca, Université de Paris III (Sorbonne Nouvelle), and the École Normale Supérieure (Lettres et Sciences Humaines). Among his publications are books and articles on Medieval and Early Modern knighthood, history of the book and reading, medieval political theory, law and culture, Occitan poetry, etc. He has been one of the executive directors of the Journal of Medieval Iberian Studies and a member of the MLA Committee on Scholarly Editions. He was the recipient of the 2010 John K. Walsh award for his article "La urgente presencia de las Siete Partidas". He writes the column "Isla Fluvial" for El Norte de Castilla, Spain's oldest daily newspaper, founded in 1854. He has been elected as a member of the Executive Committee of the MLA LLC Occitan Forum. He is one of the fellows of the 2015 The Op-Ed Project. He served as Chair of the Department of Latin American and Iberian Cultures between 2013 and 2016.

Susan Pedersen, Gouverneur Morris Professor of History, specializes in British history, the British empire, comparative European history, and international history.  Her book about the League of Nations and its impact on the imperial order, The Guardians:  The League of Nations and the Crisis of Empire, appeared from Oxford University Press in summer 2015.  For that book, click here. In 2014, Pedersen founded a graduate training collaboration in Twentieth-Century British history with Guy Ortolano of NYU and Peter Mandler of Cambridge University. PhD students working in this field participate in regular dissertation workshops and book discussions across all three institutions.

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