In her stunning new book, Giving to God: Islamic Charity in Revolutionary Times
(University of California Press, 2019), Amira Mittermaier
, Associate Professor of Religion and Anthropology at the University of Toronto, conducts a dazzling and at many times moving ethnography of an Islamic economy of giving and charity in Egypt. By presenting an intimate portrait of a range of actors and organizations, who both give and receive charity, Mittermaier highlights often unrecognized political practices and horizons that disrupt dominant liberal secular logics of humanitarian charity. In our conversation, we discussed a range of topics including the productive tension between revolutionary politics and everyday practices of giving, competing visions of the “poor” and of the interaction of charity and justice, intersections of social and divine justice, the relationship between eschatology, pious practices of charity, and the materiality of the everyday, and the political possibilities offered by “Giving to God” in a moment in Egypt marked by the rise and dominance of neoliberal authoritarianism. This splendidly written book will be widely discussed and debated by scholars of Islam, anthropology, religion, and the Middle East; it will also make a terrific text for courses on these and other topics.
SherAli Tareen is Associate Professor of Religious Studies at Franklin and Marshall College. His research focuses on Muslim intellectual traditions and debates in early modern and modern South Asia. His academic publications are available here. He can be reached at email@example.com. Listener feedback is most welcome.