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The Politics of Islamic Death Rituals in the COVID-19 Era

The Case of Egypt

Nadeem Ahmed Moonakal and Matthew Ryan Sparks


Throughout the Islamic world, the era of COVID-19 has witnessed controversial changes to highly ritualised traditional Islamic funeral rites. To combat the pandemic in Egypt, the government and Al-Azhar implemented restrictions surrounding group prayer and burial which many Egyptians viewed as impinging on their religious duties as well as on their ability to mourn. Utilising participant observation, interviews, and deductive research, this article explores the social and anthropological ramifications involved in the modification of traditional Islamic burial rituals in the era of COVID-19 and the negotiations involved amongst different actors, looking specifically at cases in Egypt.

Open access

Reinventing a Traditional Ritual

Commemorating Karbala's Youngest Martyr in Iran

Atefeh Seyed Mousavi


This article explores recent ritual developments in the Iranian religious culture honouring Ali-Asqar (d. 680 CE), the infant son of Imam Husayn. In 2003, a new ritual, the Husayni Infancy Conference, was introduced. The ritual is the only public Muharram assembly dedicated to women and their infants. Based on observation and interviews, I identify ritual transformations, terms of institutionalisation, and the staging of rituals and their structure, and I also examine the objectives behind the Conference from the perspectives of the organisers and participants. I argue that the organisers seek to promote new interpretations of the significance of the Battle of Karbala. This objective is shared by some participants whereas many continue to seek out traditional reasons to commemorate the Battle, such as receiving God's blessings. Attending large ritual gatherings also offers opportunities for socialising and empowerment.

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Rose Wellman and Max Klimburg

Marjo Buitelaar, Manja Stephan-Emmrich and Viola Thimm (eds), Muslim Women's Pilgrimage to Mecca and Beyond: Reconfiguring Gender, Religion, and Mobility (London: Routledge, 2021), 213 pp.

Erika Friedl, Religion and Daily Life in the Mountains of Iran: Theology, Saints, People (London: I.B. Tauris, 2021), xix + 178 pp.

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Scale Matters

Relating Wetland Loss and Commercial Fishing Activity in Louisiana across Spatial Scales

Amy Freitag, Suzana Blake, Patricia M. Clay, Alan C. Haynie, Chris Kelble, Michael Jepson, Stephen Kasperski, Kirsten M. Leong, Jamal H. Moss, and Seann D. Regan


Interdisciplinary science and environmental management involve bringing together data and expertise at multiple spatial scales. The most challenging part of merging scales is aligning the scale of inquiry with the research application. Through the Louisiana case study relating wetland loss and commercial fishing, we examine how the nature and strength of the relationship changes depending on the scale of investigation. Resulting management implications also vary because of tradeoffs in choosing the scale of inquiry. State-level fisheries managers may miss effects of wetland loss in fishing communities because they are looking at aggregate data. Scientific information must directly address the constituent scale, where managers can enact policy. The case study demonstrates why scalar considerations should be an explicit part of the planning process for both science and management.

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Tuna Tales

Narratives that Persuade as They Explain International Fisheries Management

D. G. Webster

Steven Adolf. 2019. Tuna Wars: Powers Around the Fish We Love to Conserve. New York: Springer.

Jennifer E. Telesca. 2020. Red Gold: The Managed Extinction of the Giant Bluefin Tuna. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Open access

With the Best of Intentions

Divorced Custodian Mothers Negotiating Access to Housing in Egypt

Mennatullah Hendawy and Monika Lindbekk


This article contributes to a growing literature on the implementation of shariʿa-derived state legislation in Egypt by exploring how differently positioned divorced mothers navigate Egypt's highly gendered personal status codes under circumstances where many men are increasingly unable to discharge their part of the ‘patriarchal bargain’ due to a shortage in affordable housing. We highlight two discrepancies between legislative rules and social practice: The first is the divergence between state law and everyday norms, and the second looks at the limits of implementation and compliance in terms of actions taken by courts and other officials. We consider how and why Muslim personal status law reforms have sought to enhance divorced women's bargaining position in the family where the relevant laws often have unintended, unforeseen and contradictory consequences when it comes to divorced custodian mothers’ access to housing.

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Building Walls, Destroying Borderlands

Repertoires of Militarization on the United States–Mexico Border

Jennifer G. Correa and Joseph M. Simpson


Checkpoints, barriers, surveillance technologies, and military-police enforcement constitute the current stage of militarization on the United States–Mexico border. Previous literature in environmental sociology and United States–Mexico border studies overlooks how militarization ravages communities through its environmental disruptions. Our aim is to identify what we describe as repertoires of militarization used by the state to facilitate militarized buildup and exacerbate environmental degradation in the Texas Lower Rio Grande Valley (LRGV). We use ethnographic methods, document analysis, and participant observation to reveal three interrelated repertoires that threaten the environment and the peoples who inhabit it—a violation of international treaties, a waiving of environmental laws, and expansionary law enforcement powers.

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Certification Regimes in the Global Agro-Food System and the Transformation of the Nature-Society Relationship

Ecological Modernization or Modernization of Ecology?

Md Saidul Islam


Recent years have witnessed a proliferation of environmental certification regimes in the global agro-food system—a trend characterized as an example of the ecological modernization approach—which emerged largely because of the rise of consumer sovereignty and the neoliberal push for environmental and social “quality” in food production and processing. Based on a robust analysis of global aquaculture, the article argues that the environmental certification regimes privilege some actors, species, and cultures while marginalizing others. While the fundamental tenet of the ecological modernization approach is to shape capitalism by ecological principles, I argue instead that through environmental certification, ecology or nature itself is largely shaped, transformed and restructured to fit into and thereby serve neoliberal global governance and accumulation in a normalized manner. The example of certification regimes is therefore more like a “modernization of ecology” rather than ecological modernization.

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The Story of Homo Resiliens in Film Documentaries on the Anthropocene

Florentine Schoog


This article examines a selection of documentary films on the “Anthropocene” to carve out their common plot structure against the backdrop of prominent Anthropocene narratives. I subsequently trace Anthropos—the typification of a collective subject of humankind—and its story: the principal success story of the past that views humankind's glory in gaining dominance over nature is followed by a moment of shock revealing a potential collapse of the world as we know it. The story comes nevertheless to a happy ending by emphasizing the ingenuity of humans in a paradigmatic logic of resilience. I propose to call this figure Homo resiliens as it represents the anthropologized human capability of surviving. I argue that this figure conceals global inequality and social hegemonies in totalizing humankind as one collective resilient subject.

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The Value of Ecocriticism?

Kaitlin Mondello

Timothy Clark. 2019. The Value of Ecocriticism. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Eduardo V. Oyarzun, Rebeca G. Valverde, Noelia M. García, María C. Jiménez, and Rebeca C. Sánchez, eds. 2020. Avenging Nature: The Role of Nature in Modern and Contemporary Art and Literature. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books.