Leisurely Islam: Negotiating Morality and Geography in Shi’ite South Beirut, a book co-authored by Mona Harb, associate professor of urban studies and politics at AUB, has won the British-Kuwait Friendship Society Book Prize in Middle Eastern Studies, administered by the Department for Middle Studies at the University of Cambridge.
In their book (published by Princeton University Press), Harb and co-author Lara Deeb, professor and Chair of the Department of Anthropology at Scripps College, addressed the changes caused by the recent explosion of cafes, restaurants, and venues of leisure in the southern suburb of Beirut, which is usually pigeonholed by news media as a Shia area and a Hezbollah stronghold.
Through the diverse voices of young Shia Muslims looking for places to hang out, or the Hezbollah officials who want this generation to be more politically involved, or the religious leaders who are worried Lebanese youth are losing their moral compasses, this book provides insights into the changing moral landscape through the lens of café culture.
The book attempts to answer the main question: What effects do these establishments have on the moral norms, spatial practices, and urban experiences of this Lebanese community?
"It is gratifying to receive an acknowledgement for a book that examines the leisurely aspects of Islam at times when dominating narratives about Muslim religiosity eclipse its capacities for flexibility and adaptability," said Harb.
“Leisurely Islam is a superb book,” said the reviewer of the book prize. “[It is a book] that surpasses most studies of contemporary Middle Eastern cities with its sensitivity, its aliveness to theoretical exposition, with the coherence and fluidity of its writing, and with its extraordinary contribution not only to scholarship but to our general understanding – both political and social – of what leisure might mean in the context of a given neighbourhood, what the politics of a neighbourhood are, and how youth participate in both quotidian and high-level politics of their time.’
There were two runner up titles: Asma Afsaruddin’s Striving in the Path of God: Jihad and Martyrdom in Islamic Thought (Oxford University Press) and Remke Kruk’s The Warrior Women of Islam: Female Empowerment in Arabic Popular Literature (IB Tauris).
Founded in 2004 with an endowment of the Abdullah Al-Mubarak Al-Sabah Foundation, the annual prize awards £10,000 to the best scholarly work or works about the Middle East, published in their first edition in the United Kingdom
The book is available at AUB Bookstore and Antoine.