An interactive, open-access born-digital publication, this groundbreaking book’s interface encourages engagement with rich visual material and multimedia evidence
The MIT Press and Brown University Library’s Digital Publications Initiative announce the publication of A New Vision for Islamic Pasts and Futures by Shahzad Bashir. An interactive, open-access born-digital work, this groundbreaking book decenters Islam from a geographical identification with the Middle East, an articulation through men’s authority alone, and the assumption that premodern expressions are more authentically Islamic than modern ones. Aimed at a wide international audience, the book consists of engaging stories and audiovisual materials that will enable readers at all levels to appreciate Islam as an aspect of global history for centuries. The book URL is islamic-pasts-futures.org.
In A New Vision for Islamic Pasts and Futures, Bashir discusses Islam as phenomenon and as discourse—observed in the built environment, material objects, paintings, linguistic traces, narratives, and social situations. He draws on literary genres, including epics, devotional poetry and prayers, and modern novels; art and architecture in varied forms; material culture, from luxury objects to cheap trinkets; and such forms of media as photographs, graffiti, and films.
“Ideas pertaining to Islam and other matters of social significance are enmeshed in structures of power. Understandings of history, including our own, are changeable; they appear and dissolve in tandem with particular human circumstances,” explains Bashir, Aga Khan Professor of Islamic Humanities and Professor of History and Religious Studies at Brown University. “This book urges us to see pasts and futures as fields of unlimited possibility that come alive through a combination of close observation and ethical positioning.”
Through multimedia enhancements and an interactive navigation system, A New Vision for Islamic Pasts and Futures allows for an exploration of and engagement with rich visual material and multimedia evidence not possible in a printed volume. The book encourages readers to enter Islam through a diverse set of doorways, each leading to different time periods across different parts of the world.
“The MIT Press has a long and rich history of publishing books that give unique form to unique arguments,” says Amy Brand, Director and Publisher of the MIT Press. “We are thrilled to partner with Brown University Library’s Digital Publications Initiative on this book, which creates exciting new opportunities to share knowledge.”
“With A New Vision for Islamic Pasts and Futures, Professor Bashir not only advances new ways of conceptualizing time as a human construct, but also puts theory into action within a dynamic digital structure that breaks free of the linearity that has always seemed an inescapable given in history writing,” says Joseph Meisel, Joukowsky Family University Librarian at Brown University. “To realize this reimagining of historical analysis in four dimensions, Professor Bashir has also enlarged how we can think about the possibilities and practices of digital scholarly publication.”
The publication of A New Vision for Islamic Pasts and Futures brings together the MIT Press’s global publishing experience and the Brown University Library’s digital publication expertise. This cross-institutional collaboration extends to the recently announced On Seeing series, an experiment in multimodal publishing that will explore how we see, comprehend, and participate in visual culture. The series will center the lived experience and knowledge of diverse authors.
The publication of A New Vision for Islamic Pasts and Futures is supported by the Mellon Foundation, the Carnegie Corporation of New York, the MIT Press, and the Brown University Library’s Digital Publications Initiative.
Established in 1962, the MIT Press is one of the largest and most distinguished university presses in the world and a leading publisher of books and journals at the intersection of science, technology, art, social science, and design. MIT Press books and journals are known for their intellectual daring, scholarly standards, interdisciplinary focus, and distinctive design.
The Brown University Library is central to Brown’s academic mission to support teaching and learning at the highest level, and in a spirit of free and open inquiry. The Library is home to the Center for Digital Scholarship, a hub for the creation of new scholarly forms and other innovations in scholarly communication, including the Mellon- and NEH-supported Digital Publications Initiative. An area of distinction for the Library and Brown, the Digital Publications Initiative is helping to set the standards for the future of scholarship in the digital age.