Political Islam Observed

July 2010 9781849040600 244pp
Temporarily out of stock
July 2010 9781849040617 244pp


This book offers a framework for understanding the interaction between the academic disciplines ‘observing’ contemporary political Islam and the individuals and communities being ‘observed’ practising it. Volpi investigates how different disciplinary approaches in the social sciences explain and understand their ‘Islamic’ subject matter, revealing how political Islam is a phenomenon that each academic discipline analyses using its own dominant paradigms. He offers a multidisciplinary account of political Islam based on the insights provided by postorientalism, international studies, sociology of religion, democratisation studies, multiculturalism studies, security studies, and globalisation studies. His book outlines the areas of convergence and the synergies between these approaches and highlights the gaps and misunderstanding that still exist between parallel narratives on Islamism.


‘It is an irony of scholarship that the more a concept is debated, the more ambiguous and harder to define it becomes. Hence, any effort aiming at creating some analytical order is a very welcome addition. Political Islam Observed aims exactly at that. Indeed, its goal is not to offer a comprehensive account of political Islam “out there”, but to map or better to “observe”, as the title suggests, how social scientists have analysed it “in here”. . . Volpi scrupulously maps debates taking place in seven distinct yet overlapping fields.’ — International Affairs

‘Has the potential of becoming a very significant contribution to the study of political Islam’. – Dr Francesco Cavatorta, Dublin City University

‘Going beyond the subtle irony of the title, Volpi digs deeper than any other work to date into the myriad latent issues-theoretical, historical, contemporary-buried behind the reassuring category of ‘political Islam’ and offers us nothing less than the best available map to navigate the political tensions and conceptual ambiguities evoked by the idea of Islam gone ‘political.’ Patiently guided up the impervious interdisciplinary slope from which ‘political Islam’ can be ‘observed,’ we also receive, on the way down, a precious transdisciplinary knowledge bonus: an articulate understanding of the fine synapses of a complex phenomenon-a sometimes culturally oriented, sometimes resentment-driven call for justice and quest for participation’. –– Armando Salvatore, author of The Public Sphere: Liberal Modernity, Catholicism, Islam

‘If the maturity of a discipline is determined by the quality of its secondary literature, then Volpi’s book signals the coming of age of Islamism studies. He provides a multidisciplinary critique that is epistemologically rich and fruitful. By bringing together in one volume the major attempts to comprehend political Islam, this book demonstrates how complex a phenomenon it is and how radical is its challenge to conventional Eurocentric social sciences. His book is a must-read for all interested in political Islam and its place in the world’. –– S.Sayyid, author of A Fundamental Fear

‘Even for someone who has studied political Islam from an interdisciplinary perspective for more than a decade, there is so much new and exciting in this book that it will certainly move to the top of a voluminous field of scholarship to take its rightful place among the “must-read” core texts … Engaging and illuminating, this book should be essential reading for any scholar concerned with recognizing the complex ways in which their own epistemological commitments shape the questions they ask and the conclusions they reach.’ — Jillian Schwedler, Perspectives on Politics


Frédéric Volpi is Senior Lecturer in International Politics in the School of International Relations at the University of St Andrews. He is the author of Political Islam Observed, and has written for the Journal of Democracy, the Middle East Journal, Democratization, and International Studies Review, among others.

Request an academic inspection copy Request a press review copy
Inspection Copy Request
Review Copy Request
Join our mailing list

Subscribers receive exclusive discounts and early access to new books from Hurst.