Experimental books

Raphael Perez, book art

This forum features four books that raise important questions about experimentation in scholarship, including what rethinking the scholarly book opens up for the study of religion and public life. The four books are Lata Mani’s Myriad Intimacies (Duke University Press, 2022), the multi-authored The Abyss or Life Is Simple (University of Chicago Press, 2022), Shahzad Bashir’s A New Vision for Islamic Pasts and Futures (MIT Press, 2022), and Shannon Lee Dawdy’s American Afterlives (Princeton University Press, 2021).

As Mona Oraby, TIF editor, writes in her introduction to the forum, “Each of the four books featured in this forum … is an invitation to collaborative thinking. Each demonstrates the possibilities for thinking together in a time of constriction, of not giving in to an ever-smaller intellectual world. They traverse the fields of film and media studies, creative nonfiction, Islamic studies, religion and literature, cultural anthropology, and philosophy of religion. All differ from traditional single-authored monographs in significant ways, though all are also published by university presses and therefore bear the imprint of peer review, which distinguishes scholarship from other creative work. Their shape toggles between multiple dimensions of experience. Whether through QR codes, uncaptioned stills, or clickable links, references to other modalities of argumentation elasticize the books’ boundaries and boundedness.”

Continue by reading Oraby’s introduction here. Then, check back weekly as a new book is featured. Included in the forum are contributions by the book authors, responses by scholars who were invited to read the featured books, and for the first time on The Immanent Frame, reflections from acquisitions editors and producers. The forum concludes with an essay by William Robert.


American Afterlives concludes with the ritualized disinterment of the author’s decomposed corpse. An archaeologist is excavating a twenty-first century cemetery,…