Majid, Anouar 1960-
Majid, Anouar 1960-
Born August 29, 1960, in Tangier, Morocco; immigrated to the United States, 1983; son of Mohamed and Aisha Majid. Education: University of Fez, Morocco, B.A., 1983; City College of New York, M.A., 1986; Syracuse University, Ph.D., 1991. Hobbies and other interests: Soccer and film.
Educator and writer. City College of New York, New York, NY, instructor, 1986-87; Syracuse University, Syracuse, NY, teaching assistant, 1987-91; Auburn Correctional Facility, Auburn, NY, instructor, 1988-91; University of New England, Biddeford, ME, assistant professor, then associate professor, then professor of humanities and cultural studies, 1991—, founding chair and professor of English, 2000—.
Modern Language Association, American Academy of Religion.
Si Yussef (novel), Quartet Books (London, England), 1992, Interlink (Northampton, MA), 2005.
Unveiling Traditions: Postcolonial Islam in a Polycentric World, Duke University Press (Durham, NC), 2000.
Freedom and Orthodoxy: Islam and Difference in the Post-Andalusian Age, Stanford University Press (Stanford, CA), 2004.
A Call for Heresy: Why Dissent Is Vital to Islam and America, University of Minnesota Press (Minneapolis, MN), 2007.
Contributor to periodicals, including Cultural Critique, Signs, and Chronicle of Higher Education; cofounder and editor of Tingis.
Anouar Majid is a leading figure in the study of the place of religion and Islam in postcolonial theory and the culture of globalization. Writing in the Middle East Journal, Jon Armajani commented that the author is "part of a burgeoning group of late 20th and early 21st century liberal Muslim scholars … who have directed their works to Muslims and non-Muslims in the West and have opposed the contrasting worldviews of Islamists and authoritarian governments in the majority Muslim world." Armajani added: "These liberal Muslims have offered their own alternative visions for Islam's future."
In his writings, the author explores themes such as Islam and human rights. He also writes and teaches in the areas of global literatures and cultures, postcolonial theory and studies, and intellectual history in general. Majid's first book was the novel Si Yussef, or "Mr. Yussef," which is one of the first novels in postcolonial Moroccan literature to be written in English.
The author's next book, Unveiling Traditions: Postcolonial Islam in a Polycentric World was recommended by the American Association of University Professors as a book for understanding the context of 9/11. Writing in Al Jadid, Pamela Nice commented on the book, noting: "This book tries to challenge secular academics to include the world's nonsecular expressions as equally worthy of consideration and valid alternatives, and Muslim scholars to rethink their attachment to texts and canons that have obscured the egalitarian and viable legacies of Islam."
In the book, the author offers his analysis of globalization's deculturing effects and discusses reactionary Arab and Muslim nationalism. "The author analyses the historical record of Islamic history and disagrees with the conservative Muslims that Islamic revivalism around the world is a mainstream movement, not a cultural conflict between the West and Islamic civilization," wrote A.Z. Hilali in the Journal of Third World Studies. "His description of Muslim revivalist movements and post-colonial theory is provocative and eloquent."
Overall, the author ponders the reasons why Western values and social and political institutions have come to dominate the world. In the book's preface, the author writes: "Unveiling Traditions was conceived as a project to examine the extent to which Islam shapes intellectual practices in primarily Muslim societies and to give Islamic cultures a more prominent role in postcolonial and multicultural theories."
Unveiling Traditions received many favorable reviews. Pamela Nice, writing in Al Jadid, noted that the author's "wide-ranging critique of Western capitalism, Muslim revivalist movements, and postcolonial theory is provocative and eloquent," adding: "It is a profound challenge both to those who champion globalization and those of Samuel Huntington's ilk, who see Islam as the future global adversary of the West. Majid's critique also deserves a careful reading by anyone who makes a living interpreting Muslim cultures." V.M. Moghadam, writing in the Middle East Journal, referred to Unveiling Traditions as "a fascinating, eloquent, and highly readable book."
In his 2004 book Freedom and Orthodoxy: Islam and Difference in the Post-Andalusian Age, the author provides five hundred years of history and cultural contact to trace the evolving roots of discord and extremism. Tracing the origins of extremism in the Middle East to the defeat of Islam in Spain in 1492, the author writes that from that moment on all who did not embrace Western religious and cultural thought became the other that needed to be defeated. As a result, notes the author, this Western ideology has driven Muslim and other provincialisms, including messianic movements. Majid also argues that the modern clash among civilizations is primarily caused by the domination of one state over its allies that has characterized world history since 1492, a cultural outlook that the author calls "post-Andalusianism."
"This book is an attempt to explore the rise and effects of European universalist and messianic ideologies after the defeat of Islam in Spain and how such ideologies have inspired the various forms of extremism that have erupted regularly in the course of modern history since 1492," the author writes in the book's preface. He goes on in the preface to write: "The focus will be on the reconfiguration of Islam in this new global order, both the ways Islam came to be perceived by Western imperial societies and the ways Muslims have redefined themselves in the process of defending their identities."
John Voll, writing in the American Historical Review, noted: "This book continues Majid's critiques of modern secularist scholars and conservative Muslim thinkers." Voll then added: "It provides an important alternative to conceptualizations based on the assumptions of what Majid defines as universalist ideologies, whether Euro-American or militant Muslim."
A Call for Heresy: Why Dissent Is Vital to Islam and America was published in 2007 and explores the deepening conflict between the Islamic world and the United States. Exploring fundamentalism in both Islam and the United States through traditions of dissent, the author presents his argument that both the United States and the Islamic world are in decline because their cultures have silenced many of their most creative thinkers, including nonconformists to radicals and revolutionaries. According to the author, the clash of civilizations between these two cultures is actually a reflection of competing fundamentalisms. In a review in Publishers Weekly, a contributor noted that the author "argues that the practice of discussion and dissent, which he … dubs ‘heresy,’ has died in Islamic cultures and in America."
In the book, the author draws interesting parallels between the histories and cultures of Islam and the United States. The author goes on to offer suggestions on solving the problems between Islam and the United States. The author's prescription is a revival of dissent that gathers from a history of progressive intellectual tradition in both cultures. According to Majid, this is not only the way to stop the decline of both Islam and the United States but also provide them an opportunity to work together on global justice. Writing in the book's preface, the author notes: "My goal here is to address scholars and general readers from any discipline, culture, religion and (if translated) language who want to understand how Muslims and Americans are trapped in the nightmares of their own histories."
Majid told CA: "I have always let my imagination wander, but it was a class on script writing in the fall of 1983 at the School of Visual Arts in New York City that demystified the creative process for me. I get a good amount of pleasure from writing because, on a lucky day, or perhaps moment, I surprise myself. I find such moments very exciting. They are actually thrilling.
"In fiction, when I started out, there is no doubt at all that I was influenced by William Faulkner. In nonfiction, I am not quite sure. I was somewhat influenced by Frantz Fanon when I wrote my first academic article because Fanon, to me, was a cross between a critic and a poet. Research and scholarship in his case were part of a broader mission to heal badly injured humans. He had impeccable ideas, but he also expressed outrage at the violence of colonialism and racism. Since then, I have found inspiration in a variety of writers, mostly historians who seem to be riding horses and commenting on the doings of nations.
"When I write fiction, I proceed from an idea, a vision, and work out the plot and characters as I proceed. I am, actually, quite disorganized as a creative writer. I guess I keep looking for that poetic moment, the thrill. Writing, in this sense, is as much for my own pleasure—I can feel the juices flowing when I am on a stretch—as it about sharing and communication.
"When I write academic books (and I have done more of them), I read as much as possible, take notes, then write a chapter or article. I repeat the process till I have enough chapters for a book, then I connect them all to my main thesis or argument, which inspired the project in the first place.
"I also get moments of pleasure writing critical work, but it's a different kind of pleasure. The kind of scholarship I do is closer to creative work. It's about perspective, different angles.
"The most surprising thing I have learned about writing is that writing is about itself. It's a quixotic activity without aim, really. Books, in the end, are like theatrical flourishes—now seen on stage, now hidden behind curtains. In a way, a writer expends so much energy writing a book for a mere fifteen minutes of fame. Vanity keeps people hoping that they have great things to say, but the truth is the pleasure is in the act. I write my convictions, but, deep down, I know whatever I say doesn't matter in the larger scheme of life.
"I write to keep the conversation going, for conversations are the basis of relationships. I have been saying lately that there is nothing more revolutionary than a good conversation, a dialogue without end or final truths. If you think about, it is certainty that gets us into trouble. A real conversation works against that.
"I want to make people think, feel, and laugh. Laughing may make no sense, particularly since I deal with things like the clash of civilizations; but I'd rather be a trickster, a kokopelli (what I call my second son) than a serious author. I feel for others, but there is nothing prophetic about me."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Al Jadid, winter, 2001, Pamela Nice, "A Critical Narrative of Hope," review of Unveiling Traditions: Postcolonial Islam in a Polycentric World; profile of author and works.
American Historical Review, February 1, 2005, John Voll, review of Freedom and Orthodoxy: Islam and Difference in the Post-Andalusian Age, p. 105.
Canadian Journal of History, spring-summer, 2006, Diana Steigerwald, review of Freedom and Orthodoxy, p. 199.
Journal of Third World Studies, September 22, 2003, A.Z. Hilali, review of Unveiling Traditions, p. 247.
Jouvert, Volume 6, issues 1-2, fall, 2001, Waïl Hassan, review of Unveiling Traditions, p. 247.
Middle East Journal, June 22, 2001, V.M. Moghadam, review of Unveiling Traditions, p. 521; January 1, 2005, Jon Armajani, "Western Muslims and the Future of Islam," p. 158.
Publishers Weekly, July 23, 2007, review of A Call for Heresy: Why Dissent Is Vital to Islam and America, p. 64.
Reference & Research Book News, May 1, 2004, review of Freedom and Orthodoxy, p. 46.
Women's Studies, October 1, 2001, Jeffrey Williams, review of Unveiling Traditions, p. 719.
Space and Place Web log,http://interactive-worlds.blogspot.com/ (March 28, 2008), Mohamed Elkouche, review of Si Yussef.
University of Minnesota Press Web site,http://www.upress.umn.edu/ (May 12, 2008), publisher's description of A Call for Heresy and author interview.
University of New England, News Web site,http://www.une.edu/ur/news/ (April 17, 2008), "UNE Scholar and Author Anouar Majid Examines the Place of Religion and Islam in the Culture of Globalization."
University of New England Web site,http://www.une.edu/ (April 17, 2008), faculty profile.