Research: A field-changing view of divine kingship in Islam

'The Millennial Sovereign' by Azfar Moin, book coverIn a new and potentially field-changing study, SMU historian Azfar Moin explores why Muslim sovereigns in the early modern era began to imitate the exalted nature of Sufi saints.

Uncovering a startling but widespread phenomenon, Moin shows how the charismatic pull of sainthood (wilayat) — rather than the draw of religious law (sharia) or holy war (jihad) —inspired a new style of sovereignty in Islam. Moin’s research is published in his new book, The Millennial Sovereign (Columbia University Press, 2012).

At the end of the 16th century and the turn of the first Islamic millennium, the powerful Mughal emperor Akbar declared himself the most sacred being on earth. The holiest of all saints and above the distinctions of religion, he styled himself as the messiah reborn. Yet the Mughal emperor was not alone in doing so.

The title of the book reflects the Mughal emperors’ messianic and Sufi beliefs, which also led these Muslim rulers to explore European Christianity, says Moin, an expert on the history of South Asia who teaches in the Clements Department of History of SMU’s Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences.

“The Mughal emperors of 16th- and 17th-century India — of Taj Mahal fame — were also avid collectors of Christian art. They even invited Jesuit missionaries to discuss the Bible. At first the Catholic priests were delighted that such powerful Muslim kings were attracted to Christianity, but they eventually realized that their hosts were more interested in the millennium,” Moin says.

“The first millennium of Islam occurred at the end of the 16th century,” he says. “The Mughals used this religiously charged moment to style themselves as saintly and messianic sovereigns. They called their queens ‘The Mary of the Age’ and ‘Of the Stature of Mary.’ This didn’t mean that they had turned Christian, but that they were Jesus-like in their sacredness.”

“This is a brilliant book,” said South Asia expert Francis Robinson, a professor at Royal Holloway, University of London. “It is the most innovative contribution to our understanding of Mughal history of my time. As a work of the first importance, and a step change in our knowledge of 16th-century India, it must be read by anyone interested in the fields of Islamic kingship, millenarianism and astrology in the Muslim world, and in the early modern world in general.”— Columbia University Press

> Read the full story from the SMU Research blog

SMU graduates honor Jeremy Adams with endowed professorship

SMU History Professor Jeremy Adams
Jeremy duQuesnay Adams

Two SMU graduates are showing appreciation for a professor who made a lasting impact on their lives by establishing an endowed professorship in his honor.

The $1.25 million gift from Stephen L. and Kathryn Hedges Arata of Dallas will create the Jeremy duQuesnay Adams Centennial Professorship in Western European Medieval History in honor of the longtime SMU professor, who will continue to teach in the University’s Clements Department of History.

“We are honored to have an endowed professorship bearing the name of one of SMU’s most distinguished and revered faculty members,” said SMU President R. Gerald Turner. “We are grateful to the Aratas for their vision and generosity in providing this gift, which supports our Second Century Campaign goal to increase the number of endowed chairs to 100. With the Adams Professorship, the University is within 15 faculty positions of reaching that goal.”

Several other former students of Professor Adams have contributed toward the endowed professorship in his honor. Those contributing $25,000 and more include Cindy and Dr. David Stager Jr. ’87; Jo ’90 and Joe Goyne; and Renee Justice Standley ’90 and Kenneth Standley.

Both the Aratas majored in English and minored in medieval studies in SMU’s Dedman College. Kathryn earned her B.A. degree in 1987 and an M.A. in English from SMU in 1991. Stephen received two degrees from SMU in 1988 — a B.A. from Dedman College and B.B.A. from Cox School of Business. He also earned a Master’s of Management degree from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University.

Kathryn Arata said, “My parents, the Rev. Bill B. Hedges and Jane Hedges, graduated from SMU in 1960. All of my life I have loved this university, growing up steeped in the SMU culture and history. When I finally arrived on the campus, I was captivated by the quality and variety of the courses offered.

“Jeremy Adams created a sense of academic curiosity and desire for learning that I possess to this day. Now that Stephen and I are in a position to pay back (actually pay forward) the gifts he gave us, we wanted to do something that would be close to Jeremy’s heart. He is passionate about his subject, and we have given this endowment to ensure that his passion will continue to light the fires of academic curiosity in students for years to come.”

The Adams Professorship is the first Centennial Professorship to be established in Dedman College. The “Centennial” designation is a special gift category during SMU’s 100th anniversary commemoration, 2011-15. It requires that gifts meet elevated giving levels and provide a combination of endowment and annual support. Because a faculty position designated as “Centennial” enables the appointment to be made sooner, SMU has initiated a search to fill the Adams Professorship in the 2013-14 academic year.

> Read the full story from SMU News

Jeffrey Engel named SMU’s Director of Presidential History Projects

Jeffrey A. Engel, new director of Presidential History Projects at SMUJeffrey A. Engel, an award-winning American history scholar, has been selected as SMU’s new director of Presidential History Projects and associate professor of presidential studies in Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences.

Engel will join SMU on July 1, 2012, from Texas A&M University, where he serves as an associate professor of history and public policy and as the Verlin and Howard Kruse ’52 Founders Professor. Engel also has served as director of programming for the Scowcroft Institute for International Affairs at Texas A&M.

Engel’s wife, Katherine C. Engel, also will join the Dedman College faculty as an associate professor of religious studies. She currently serves as an associate professor of history at Texas A&M and as an affiliate fellow of the Center for the Study of Religion at Princeton University.

In addition to his role as a tenured faculty member of SMU’s William P. Clements Department of History, Jeffrey Engel will be the founding director of the SMU Presidential History Project. The director will oversee a team of scholars who will interview individuals involved in formulating and implementing U.S. presidential policies.

“With the opening of the George W. Bush Presidential Center in the near future, it is fitting that SMU have an academic center devoted to the study of the presidency,” said SMU Provost Paul Ludden. “With his broad range of experience and outstanding academic credentials, Dr. Jeffrey Engel is the perfect choice to lead this new effort. Engel is recognized for his insightful writings on the presidency. Most recently, he received the Bernath Lecture Prize as the outstanding young historian writing on foreign affairs.

“At the same time, we are pleased to welcome Katherine Engel, one of the rising young scholars of American religious history working in the field today. Her transnational approach to the study of religion, deploying numerous languages and work on several continents, sets the standard for interdisciplinary scholarship.”

Jeffrey Engel received a Ph.D. in American history from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2001, and a Master of Arts in American history from Wisconsin-Madison in 1996. He graduated magna cum laude from Cornell University in 1995 with a Bachelor of Arts in history and attended St. Catherine’s College at Oxford University in 1994.  He was also a John M. Olin Postdoctoral Fellow at Yale University’s program in International Security Studies.

“I am honored indeed to join SMU’s prestigious faculty, filled with scholars engaged in studying the United States and beyond,” Jeffrey Engel said. “The American presidency has in many ways become a global office in the 20th century and beyond. I look forward to working with my SMU colleagues to explore the innumerable ways presidents have shaped our country, and our world.”

Jeffrey Engel is the editor of Into the Desert: Reflections on the Gulf War (Oxford University Press, 2012); The Fall of the Berlin Wall: The Revolutionary Legacy of 1989 (Oxford University Press, 2009); The China Diary of George H.W. Bush: The Making of a Global President (Princeton University Press, 2008); and Local Consequences of the Global Cold War (Stanford University Press and Woodrow Wilson Center Press, 2008).

He is the author of Cold War at 30,000 Feet: The Anglo-American Fight for Aviation Supremacy (Harvard University Press, 2007), which received the American Historical Association’s 2008 Paul Birdsall Prize, awarded biannually to honor important work in European military and strategic history. In addition, he is the author or co-author of 40 academic and professional articles and book reviews and has presented more than 40 scholarly presentations and lectures on American foreign relations, international relations and military history to more than 25 universities and professional associations. Currently, he is writing When the World Seemed New: American Foreign Policy in the Age of George H.W. Bush, to be published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Katherine C. Engel, associate professor of religious studies at SMUKatherine Engel has served as an assistant professor of history at Rutgers University and holds a prestigious Charles A. Ryskamp Fellowship from the American Council of Learned Societies. Her recent research has focused on international Protestantism during the American Revolution.

She is the author of the prize-winning Religion and Profit: Moravians in Early America (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2009) and numerous articles and book chapters.

She holds both a Ph.D. (2003) and a Master of Arts (1996) in American history from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She received a Bachelor of Arts in history from Haverford College in 1994.

> Read the full story from SMU News

Sunbelt prisons are focus of 2012 Clements Center Symposium

Logo image for 2011-12 Clements Center SymposiumDeclaring that today’s racially disproportionate rates of incarceration represent “a New Jim Crow,” scholar Michelle Alexander has argued that “we have not ended racial caste in America; we have merely redesigned it.” This assertion, and its exploration, provide the theme of the 2011-12 Annual Public Symposium presented by SMU’s William P. Clements Center for Southwest Studies.

“Sunbelt Prisons and the Carceral State: New Frontiers of State Power, Resistance and Racial Oppression” is cosponsored by the Clements Center, SMU’s Embrey Human Rights Program and The Center for the American West at the University of Colorado. It will take place 8:15 a.m.-5 p.m. March 24 in McCord Auditorium, 306 Dallas Hall.

The event brings together historians, legal experts, civil rights veterans and formerly imprisoned activists to discuss “The Age of Mass Incarceration” in the American Southwest. The international slate of presenters and panelists includes U.S. Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson ’76 and 2010 Clements Book Prize winner Kelly Lytle Hernández.

The symposium is open to the public and has been approved for Continuing Education Credit for teachers.

The $10 registration includes the conference fee, refreshment breaks and a light buffet lunch. Read more about how to register or contact the Clements Center for Southwest Studies, 214-768-3684.

Find a complete schedule at the Clements Center Annual Symposium homepage

‘Contested Spaces’ key to 2010-11 Clements Center symposium on the early Americas

Antonio Pereiro map, 1545, courtesy of the John Carter Brown LibraryThe common history of the Americas – bridging conceptions of borderlands both continental and hemispheric – is the theme of the 2010-11 Annual Public Symposium, presented by SMU’s William P. Clements Center for Southwest Studies.

“The Contested Spaces of Early America” is cosponsored by the McNeil Center for Early American Studies at the University of Pennsylvania and the Clements Center. It will take place 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m. April 2 in McCord Auditorium, 306 Dallas Hall.

This year’s event takes as its model and inspiration the work of the late David J. Weber, Clements Center founding director and Dedman Professor of History in SMU’s William P. Clements Department of History. The symposium theme was originally organized to honor Weber upon his retirement.

“We wanted a theme that would transcend some of our usual models for understanding the histories of the Americas and the borderlands,” says symposium co-organizer Juliana Barr, associate professor of history at the University of Florida and former Clements Center Fellow. “David was expansive in his own work in using a larger framework to understand the histories of those lands that were colonies of New Spain, as well as the borders of Mexico and the U.S. Southwest.

“There are a number of interesting commonalities across the histories of North and South America,” she adds. “It’s a good exercise to step back and take a larger look and think in new ways about framing these histories.”

An initial meeting and program took place in Fall 2010 at the McNeil Center. The participants will gather at SMU this Saturday to present their revised papers.

One highlight of the conference is its diversity of both scholars and scholarship, Barr says. “Our presenters include a Canadian scholar who specializes in the history of New France, scholars from Mexico and Argentina, a literature scholar, a Native American scholar, one former Ph.D. student of David Weber’s, and three former Clements Center Fellows, as well as traditional ethnohistorians,” she says. “With that kind of diversity, you begin to build bridges among these seemingly disparate areas of scholarship. It’s the conversation among them all that will be the most exciting.”

The symposium is open to the public and has been approved for Continuing Education Credit for teachers. “Texas teachers face a lot of challenges in the classroom,” says Barr, herself a native Texan. “The state is such a crossroads for so many histories. It’s one of the most fascinating states to teach about because of its own diversity. How can we look at all these individual communities and link them across borders that include everything from European empires to Native American lands?

“These larger frameworks may help teachers help their students create those bridges between the histories of the larger American and global worlds.”

Preregistration cost is $5 for general admission ($20 including lunch at the SMU Faculty Club) and $2 for graduate students ($10 including lunch). Register online or contact the Clements Center for Southwest Studies, 214-768-3684.

> Find a complete schedule at the Clements Center Annual Symposium homepage

Above, Antonio Pereira’s 1545 map of the Americas, courtesy of the John Carter Brown Library.