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BIO: Ruth Miller is a Professor of History at the University of Massachusetts-Boston, with research and teaching interests in Ottoman history, comparative law, feminist theory, and science and technology studies.  Her recent books include Snarl: In Defense of Stalled Traffic and Faulty Networks (2013) and Seven Stories of Threatening Speech: Women’s Suffrage Meets Machine Code (2011).


ABSTRACT: This paper will explore Ottoman and Islamic juridical writing on non-human life.  An assumption underlying much scholarship on life as a political or legal category is that such life must necessarily be human.  Even apparent exceptions to this rule—for example, the animals that can achieve partial political or legal existence as honorary humans, possessed of rights and dignity—in many ways reinforces human-centric interpretations of political and legal life.  The rights-bearing human, after all, remains the norm and model for incorporating these non-human lives into political and legal structures.


But what about life that is not human and that cannot be made to resemble human life?  Can it—or has it—ever had legal salience in an Islamic context?  The hypothesis driving this paper is that it has.  Indeed, they hypothesis driving this paper is that we can find a robust legal narrative of the lives of germs, viruses, bacteria, and even inorganic particles throughout the late Ottoman period and into the twentieth century.  This paper will explore the implications of this narrative both for understanding theories of Ottoman political belonging and as a basis for analyzing contemporary, twenty-first century legal approaches to non-human life.  Earlier interpretations of bacteria and viruses as political or legal figures might help us to make sense of ongoing interpretations of the artificial or inorganic lives of clones, computers, and autonomous algorithms.



BIO: Timur Kuran is Professor of Economics and Political Science, and Gorter Family Professor of Islamic Studies at Duke University. His research focuses on social change, including the evolution of preferences and institutions. His most recent book, The Long Divergence: How Islamic Law Held Back the Middle East (Princeton University Press, 2011), addresses the role that Islamic institutions played in the economic rise of the Middle East and, subsequently, in the institutional stagnation that accompanied the region’s slip into underdevelopment. Some of the archival work on which this book was based has been published as a ten-volume tri-lingual set entitled Economic Life in Seventeenth-Century Istanbul, as Reflected in Court Registers (İş Bank Cultural Publications). Kuran’s earlier publications include Private Truths, Public Lies: The Social Consequences of Preference Falsification (Harvard University Press, 1995) and Islam and Mammon: The Economic Predicaments of Islamism (Princeton University Press, 2004), each translated into several languages.


ABSTRACT: In the pre-modern Middle East the closest thing to an autonomous private organization was the Islamic waqf. Paradoxically, this non-state institution inhibited political participation, collective action, transparency in governance, and rule of law, among other indicators of democratization. For a millennium it delayed and limited democratization through several mutually supportive mechanisms. Its activities were essentially set by its founder, which limited its capacity to meet political challenges. Being designed to provide a service on its own, it could not participate in lasting political coalitions. The waqf’s beneficiaries had no say in evaluating or selecting its officers. Circumventing waqf rules required a court’s permission, which incited corruption. Finally, the process of appointing officials promoted and legitimized nepotism. Thus, for all the resources it controlled, the Islamic waqf contributed minimally to advancing the rule of law or building civil society. As a core element of Islam’s classical institutional complex, it perpetuated authoritarian rule by keeping the state largely unrestrained. Therein lies a major reason why in the Middle East democratization is proving to be a drawn out process.


BIO: Mohammad H. Fadel is Associate Professor at the Faculty of Law, which he joined in January 2006. Professor Fadel wrote his Ph.D. dissertation on legal process in medieval Islamic law while at the University of Chicago. Professor Fadel was admitted to the Bar of New York in 2000 and practiced law with the firm of Sullivan & Cromwell LLP in New York, New York, where he worked on a wide variety of corporate finance transactions and securities-related regulatory investigations. Professor Fadel also served as a law clerk to the Honorable Paul V. Niemeyer of the United States Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit and the Honorable Anthony A. Alaimo of the United States District Court for the Southern District of Georgia. Professor Fadel has published numerous articles in Islamic legal history and Islam and liberalism.


ABSTRACT: The Sunni response to the crisis of post-prophetic authority was the concept of the caliphate. In contrast to the Shi’a concept of divine election (nass), Sunni theologians maintained that succession to positions of public leadership of the community was a matter of the community’s choice (ikhtiyar). Yet, this was not an unbounded choice: through the rules set out in the theological and juridical discussions on the caliphate, Sunni scholars made clear that the community’s choice was to be guided by certain rules, standards and procedures. Dogmatic works of theology, and even juridical works such as al-Ahkam al-Sultaniyya of al-Mawardi, however, were interested more in the notion of how a legitimate post-Prophetic order is established rather than the details of how, once it comes into existence, its ongoing legitimacy, or the legitimacy of its actions, is to be measured. To find an answer to this question, this paper argues that Sunni jurists adopted a theory of public life that assumed public officials obtained their authority exclusively as agents of the Muslim public. Accordingly, the representational ideal of agency provided the moral basis for determining the legitimacy — or lack thereof — of the actions of public officials. The existence of this ideal is documented not in an explicit discussion of the nature of public offices in the fashion of political philosophy, but as befits jurists, manifests itself interstitially in the operation of numerous rules and doctrines in various chapters (abwab), jurisdictional and substantive, of the jurists’ positive law (fiqh). This paper outlines the source of the representational ideal of public offices, beginning with Sunni juridical discussions of the contract of the caliphate, and its operation as the crucial enabling and limiting principle on the powers of public officials through various examples from positive law.


BIO: Boğaç Ergene is Associate Professor of History at University of Vermont and Aga Khan Visiting Professor in Islamic Humanities at Brown University (Spring 2014). He is the author of Local Court, Provincial Society and Justice in the Ottoman Empire: Legal Practice and Dispute Resolution in Cankiri and Kastamonu (1652-1744). He also published articles in International Journal of Middle East Studies, Journal of Economic History, History of Family, Journal of Interdisciplinary History, Islamic Law and Society, Journal of Family History, Continuity and Change, Economic History Review, and others.


ABSTRACT: This paper explores how the Ottoman legal system, institutions, and practices changed during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Recently, Ottoman historians have intensified their efforts to better understand the socioeconomic dynamics and fiscal-administrative structures of this period. Once considered to be an era of general decline and degeneration, now the prevalent tendency in the field is to characterize these two centuries as an era of major institutional transformation and adjustment to new circumstances. These novel attempts of interpretation are based on impressive archival research and nuanced considerations of the information that this effort has generated in social, political and economic history. However, the progress achieved in these areas has yet to be attained in legal history-writing. Broadly speaking Ottomanists have yet to provide a comprehensive depiction of the ways in which Ottoman law, legal institutions, and practices might have changed between 1600 and 1800. This paper represents a preliminary attempt in this general direction, by offering a critical survey of the available literature and considering how historians approached and discussed legal structures and practices during this period.



BIO: Mahmoud A. El-Gamal, Ph.D., is a professor in the Department of Economics at Rice University, where he also holds the endowed Chair in Islamic Economics, Finance and Management. He is also a Rice scholar at the Baker Institute at Rice University. Before joining Rice in 1998, he was an associate professor of economics at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. He has also worked as an assistant professor at the University of Rochester and the California Institute of Technology; as an economist at the Middle East department of the International Monetary Fund (1995-1996); and as the first scholar-in-residence on Islamic finance at the U.S. Department of Treasury (2004). El-Gamal has published extensively on finance, econometrics, decision science, economics of the Middle East and Islamic transactions law. His recent books include Islamic Finance: Law, Economics and Practice (Cambridge University Press, 2006) and Oil, Dollars, Debt and Crises: The Global Curse of Black Gold with Amy Myers Jaffe (Cambridge University Press, 2010).


ABSTRACT: Many observers were surprised when Egyptians took to the streets first to overthrow the Mubarak regime in early 2011 and then to overthrow the Muslim Brotherhood government in mid 2013. Bayesian Network analysis of public opinion surveys is used to uncover dependence structures in respondents’ attitudes. The analysis shows that the revolutionary moment leading up to 2011 was characterized by confounding of Islamism with egalitarianism, which was at the heart of Nasserist rhetoric. Muslim Brotherhood leaders had subscribed to this form of Islamism in the early twentieth century, but embraced premarket capitalism in later decades. Therefore, they pursued the same neoliberal economic policies of the Mubarak era, and likewise faced the wrath of an angry public. Data analysis shows that strong views favoring (re)distributive justice drive Egyptian antisecularism, as well as views on commutative justice and other aspects of society. Unlike in Turkey and Malaysia, theories of justice enshrined in today’s neoliberal economic policies were strongly rejected in Egypt. The solution for Egypt cannot be reduced simply to institutional reforms and rule of law, as most economists would suggest. An Egyptian social contract, given current sentiments, requires a different theory of justice.


BIO: Kristin Smith Diwan is Assistant Professor of Comparative and Regional Studies at the American University School of International Service. She holds regional expertise in the politics and policies of the Arab Gulf, and functional expertise in Islamic finance and the politics surrounding it. Her current projects concern Gulf political economy, the politics of sectarianism, youth movements and the evolution of Islamism in the GCC.


ABSTRACT: In the 1990’s a new movement emerged seeking to promote Islamic development through the revival of the traditional Islamic institution of religious endowments, or waqf (pl. awqaf).  The theoreticians behind this “new awqaf movement” saw its renewal in ambitious terms as a means to re-invigorate civil society though a revitalization of Islamic norms and institutions, recapturing the initiative for social development from the state. This paper chronicles the rapid rise and then restriction of this “new awqaf movement” through one of its most dynamic animators, the Kuwait Awqaf Public Foundation (KAPF).  In analyzing the denouement of the KAPF, I demonstrate how the promotion of an Islamic framework for development earned the “new awqaf movement” political enemies:  liberals unnerved by this new venue for expanding Islamist activism, and Salafi Islamists opposed to these innovations championed by the more modernist Muslim Brotherhood.  In the end these sociopolitical divisions invited the mediation of the ruling family-controlled government which severely curtailed the experiment in Islamic development.   Ultimately, then, the tale of the KAPF illustrates the challenge of third sector development in ideologically polarized societies, and underscores the enduring primacy of the rentier state.  


BIO: Nathan J. Brown is professor of political science and international affairs at George Washington University and nonresident senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.   Brown’s scholarly work over the years has focused on Egypt, Islamist movements, Palestinian politics, Arab law, and constitutionalism. Brown’s latest book, When Victory Is Not an Option: Islamist Movements in Arab Politics, was published by Cornell University Press in early 2012.

In 2009, Brown was named a Carnegie scholar by the Carnegie Corporation of New York. For the 2009–2010 academic year, he was a fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.  In 2013 he was named a Guggenheim fellow. In addition to his academic work, Brown has served on advisory committees for Human Rights Watch and the committees drafting the Palestinian and Iraqi constitutions. He has also served as a consultant to USAID, the United Nations Development Program, and several NGOs. Brown is the author of six books, among them Resuming Arab Palestine (University of California Press, 2003);Constitutions in a Non-Constitutional World: Arab Basic Laws and Prospects for Accountable Government (SUNY Press, 2001); and The Rule of Law in the Arab World: Courts in Egypt and the Arab States of the Gulf (Cambridge University Press, 1997).

ABSTRACT: Between the time the first written constitutions were written in the nineteenth century and the Arab uprisings in 2011, most countries experienced what might be called “Islamic inflation”–that is, a gradual increasing textual focus on religion and vague (sometimes unenforceable) commitments to Islamic religion, identity, and law. In 2011, a novel set of constitutional experiments in several Arab countries led to a departure from the past practice of existing regimes drafting constitutional documents. For the first time, constitutions were to be written with serious democratic mechanisms by political systems that were in flux.  Islamist movements were often critical participants in that process. Yet paradoxically the expected effects–longer and more detailed provisions of a religious nature–often did not occur.  In this paper, I explore the course of Islamic inflation after the Arab uprisings of 2011.