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Reading Religion: With Stones in Our Hands

By Ilyse R. Morgenstein Fuerst
Reading Religion

With Stones in Our Hands (Sohail Daulatzai and Junaid Rana, editors)With Stones in Our Hands combines academic voices with those of activists—though these labels are not, of course, mutually exclusive. Its editors, Sohail Daulatzai and Junaid Rana so clearly state their volume’s goal that I think it best to leave it in their own words: “The inspiration for this edited volume is not singular, much less unified, but there is a resolve that is unequivocally critical. It is not just a critical response to how knowledge of the world is produced but a crucial and, we hope, timely investigation of solidarity politics” (ix). From the very outset, we are told that this is a volume rooted in the theoretical—the production of knowledge—but also in the political, the activist: it is a volume examining solidarity. 

I find this refreshing, to say the least. We are living through a moment in which hate crimes are rising in the US and rising particularly on the bodies and communities of those identified as Muslims. (I am purposefully not merely saying “Muslims” here: Sikh and Indian Americans, identified by their attackers asMuslim, have borne physical and discursive violence. Being identified—racialized—as Muslim is a key element for these crimes and also for arguments of solidarity between and among communities and activists.) Of course, crimes are but one tangible way of measuring cultural climate, and perhaps the most extreme example of increased hostility. Yet even in this moment of palpable shifts in public discourse of hatred, of increased physical violence against non-white, Muslim-identified persons, there is still a tendency in the academy to demand so-called objectivity from scholars, especially perhaps scholars of Islam, Muslims, or folks of color or race more generally. There is a demand that scholars be scholars, activists be activists, to avoid cross-pollination and, perhaps most importantly, to keep one’s scholarship non-activist. Daulatzai and Rana’s volume nimbly shows what many have been arguing for years: scholarship is not and never has been neutral and perhaps it ought not to be.

 

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With Stones in Our Hands