New Books Network

Jamal Elias

Alef is for Allah

Childhood, Emotion, and Visual Culture in Islamic Societies

University of California Press 2018

New Books in AnthropologyNew Books in Islamic StudiesNew Books in Middle Eastern StudiesNew Books in Peoples & PlacesNew Books in Politics & SocietyNew Books in ReligionNew Books in Religion & FaithNew Books in SociologyNew Books Network January 23, 2019 SherAli Tareen

In his groundbreaking new book, Alef is for Allah: Childhood, Emotion, and Visual Culture in Islamic Societies (University of California Press, 2018), Jamal Elias takes...

In his groundbreaking new book, Alef is for Allah: Childhood, Emotion, and Visual Culture in Islamic Societies (University of California Press, 2018), Jamal Elias takes his readers on a riveting intellectual tour thematically centered on the interaction of childhood, visual culture, and affect in contemporary Muslim majority societies, and in Muslim intellectual thought more broadly. Drawing on while also significantly extending and reworking recent theoretical explorations in the field of affect theory, Elias interrogates, with lucidity as well as with dazzling insight, the promises, aspirations, and tensions invested in childhood and the figure of the child in Muslim visual culture. Elias convincingly shows that not only is childhood itself a concept and construct fraught with ambiguity, but also that the mobilization of the ideal child through material and visual culture can take remarkably malleable forms and purposes. Alef is for Allah moves seamlessly between such varied contexts as Iran, Turkey, and Pakistan to illumine the depth and diversity of the intersection of piety, nationalism, and visual culture in Islam and Muslim societies. This lyrically written book also includes incredible and excellently presented images making it particularly well suited for undergraduate and graduate seminars on material Islam, Muslim visual culture, affect studies, and childhood studies.


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 at https://fandm.academia.edu/SheraliTareen/. He can be reached at stareen@fandm.edu. Listener feedback is most welcome.