2013 Book Award in Citizenship Studies

The Center for the Study of Citizenship is pleased to award Jonah Steinberg (University of Vermont) the 2013 Book Award in the Study of Citizenship for his work Isma'ili Modern: Globalization and Identity in a Muslim Community, 2011 (UNC Press)

For scholars of citizenship today, few questions loom larger than whether the ordering of the world primarily as a system of sovereign nation-states is giving way to different forms of political community, and what the consequences of any such transformations may be.  For people around the world, few issues are more pressing than whether there is an irrepressible “clash of civilizations” between Islam and the forms of democracy and capitalism associated with what is called “the West.” 

Both these topics are illuminated with fresh and compelling clarity by Jonah Steinberg’s Isma’ili Modern: Globalization and Identity in a Muslim Community.  Based on years of ethnographic fieldwork ranging from remote Himalayan villages to “global cities” and written with unpretentious grace, Isma’ili Modern explores the history, ideology, institutions, and political, economic, and cultural practices of a transnational Muslim community that commands the allegiance and shapes the lives of many of its members as much or more than their national states--and does so on behalf of a version of Islam that embraces capitalist practices, extensive individual autonomy and equality, and substantial forms of scientific rationality and local participatory self-governance.  Steinberg shows, however, that the Isma’ili transnational community as it exists today is in part the product of British imperial policies; that it coexists with more than displaces nation-states; and that it is shaped by internal tensions between its leadership and the diverse participants in the far-flung, often marginalized local communities its leadership seeks to aid and guide through the provision of educational, financial, health, and infrastructural development programs, as well as spiritual direction. 

Theoretically and empirically, Isma’ili Modern provides a marvelous template for analyzing the great variety of transnational forms of community that appear to be proliferating today.  It also shatters many misleading stereotypes about “global Islam,” without pretending that either the Isma’ili or any other available form of political community has all the answers needed to guide the construction of desirable forms of citizenship in the transforming world of the 21st century.     

 About the Book Award in the Study of Citizenship

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