Hello and welcome to the Columbia University Press virtual exhibit booth for this year’s meeting of the Middle East Studies Association. This year is unusual in more than one way for MESA. Not only are we all attending the conference virtually, but we’ll be attending over the course of two weeks. It’s a bonus for us booklovers, though: now you’ll have two weeks to browse the selections on offer from Columbia.
My name is Caelyn Cobb, and I’m the editor at the press for books on Middle East history and Middle East politics. I usually attend MESA on behalf of our press to showcase our wide range of works in history, philosophy, religion, and politics in this field. I’ll be your host for the next few days as you take in our new releases, award winners, and beloved backlist classics in Middle East Studies.
Since our blog editor has given me the honor of introducing the booth, I’ll take the opportunity to tell you about my favorite new books in Middle East Studies. First up: Imperial Mecca: Ottoman Arabia and the Indian Ocean Hajj by Michael Christopher Low. This book officially releases on October 6 and is the latest addition to our global history series Columbia Studies in International and Global History. Exploring disputes over regulating the hajj during the steamship era, this book is a prescient exploration of imperial competition, religious conflicts in an increasingly globalized world, and—very relevant today—the effect of public-health concerns on transnational mobility.
Another new work of Middle East history that’s worth a look: Oil Powers: A History of the U.S.-Saudi Alliance by Victor McFarland. Tackling the relationship between the United States and Saudi Arabia from its roots in the Cold War, this book provides a stark perspective on the outsize influence this alliance has had on global and domestic politics in the twentieth century.
Lastly, Wael Hallaq’s latest: Reforming Modernity: Ethics and the New Human in the Philosophy of Abdurrahman Taha. This book is an ambitious examination of the work of the thinker Hallaq calls one of the most significant philosophers in the Islamic world since the colonial era, situating his work as the leader in the groundbreaking philosophical tradition coming out of the Middle East..