Category Archives: Scholarship Roundup

Ebel, “G.I. Messiahs”

In November, Yale University Press releases “G.I. Messiahs: Soldiering, War, and American Civil Religion,” by Jonathan H. Ebel (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign).  The publisher’s description follows:

Jonathan Ebel has long been interested in how religion helps individuals and communities render meaningful the traumatic experiences of violence and war. In this new work, he examines cases from the Great War to the present day and argues that our notions of what it means to be an American soldier are not just strongly religious, but strongly Christian.

Drawing on a vast array of sources, he further reveals the effects of soldier veneration on the men and women so often cast as heroes. Imagined as the embodiments of American ideals, described as redeemers of the nation, adored as the ones willing to suffer and die that we, the nation, may live—soldiers have often lived in subtle but significant tension with civil religious expectations of them. With chapters on prominent soldiers past and present, Ebel recovers and re-narrates the stories of the common American men and women that live and die at both the center and edges of public consciousness.

Ali, “Islam and Colonialism”

In December, the University of Edinburgh Press will release “Islam and Colonialism: Becoming Modern in Indonesia and Malaya,” by Muhamad Ali (University of California, Riverside).  The publisher’s description follows:

Focusing on Indonesia and Malaysia, this book looks at how European colonial and Islamic modernising powers operated in the common and parallel domains of government and politics, law and education in the first half of the twentieth century. It shows that colonialisation was able to co-exist with Islamisation, arguing that Islamic movements were not necessarily antithetical to modernisation, nor that Western modernity was always anathema to Islamic and local custom. Rather, in distinguishing religious from worldly affairs, they were able to adopt and adapt modern ideas and practices that were useful or relevant while maintaining the Islamic faith and ritual that they believed to be essential.

In developing an understanding of the common ways in which Islam was defined and treated in Indonesia and Malaysia, we can gain a new insight to Muslim politics and culture in Southeast Asia.

Serajuddin, “Cases on Muslim Law of India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh”

In September, Oxford University Press released “Cases on Muslim Law of India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh,” by Alamgir Muhammad Serajuddin (University of Chittagong, Bangladesh).   The publisher’s description follows:

Muslim law is an integral part of the South Asian legal system, and case law plays a major role in its interpretation, application, and development. Through a selection of principal judicial decisions and significant fact situations from pre- and post-independent India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh, this volume provides an easy access to the basic principles and rules of Muslim law, and shows how case law acts as a social barometer and an instrument of change.

The cases discussed cover such diverse areas as sources and interpretation of law, institution of marriage, polygamous marriages, dower, restitution of conjugal rights, talaq, khula, irreconcilable breakdown of marriage, legitimacy, guardianship, and maintenance of wives and divorced wives. Among the important legislations, it covers Dissolution of Muslim Marriages Act 1939, Muslim Family Laws Ordinance 1961, and Muslim Women Act 1986.

The book also shows how religion-based rules of personal law have been interpreted by secular courts during certain epochs in history and how the trend of interpretation has changed over the last 150 years.

“A Companion to the Reformation in Central Europe” (Louthan & Murdock, eds.)

Last month, Brill released “A Companion to the Reformation in Central Europe” edited by Howard Louthan (Princeton University) and Graeme Murdock (University of Oxford). The publisher’s description follows:

A Companion to the Reformation in Central Europe analyses the diverse Christian cultures of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, the Czech lands, Austria, and lands of the Hungarian kingdom between the 15th and 18th centuries. It establishes the geography of Reformation movements across this region, and then considers different movements of reform and the role played by Protestant, Catholic, and Orthodox clergy. This volume examines different contexts and social settings for reform movements, and investigates how cities, princely courts, universities, schools, books, and images helped spread ideas about reform. This volume brings together expertise on diverse lands and churches to provide the first integrated account of religious life in Central Europe during the early modern period.

Thomas, “Evangelising the Nation”

This month, Rutledge releases  “Evangelising the Nation: Religion and the Formation of Naga Political Identity” by John Thomas (Indian Institute of Technology). The publisher’s description follows:

Northeast India has witnessed several nationality movements during the 20th century. The oldest and one of the most formidable has been that of the Nagas — inhabiting the hill tracts between the Brahmaputra river in India and the Chindwin river in Burma (now Myanmar). Rallying behind the slogan, ‘Nagaland for Christ’, this movement has been the site of an ambiguous relation between a particular understanding of Christianity and nation-making.

This book, based on meticulous archival research, traces the making of this relation and offers fresh perspectives on the workings of religion in the formation of political and cultural identities among the Nagas. It tracks the transmutations of Protestantism from the United States to the hill tracts of Northeast India, and its impact on the form and content of the nation that was imagined and longed for by the Nagas. The volume also examines the role of missionaries, local church leaders, and colonial and post-colonial states in facilitating this process.

Rugh, “Christians in Egypt”

In November, Palgrave-MacMillan will release “Christians in Egypt: Strategies and Survival,” by Andrea B. Rugh (Middle East Institute, Washington, D.C.).  The publisher’s description follows:

Christians in the Middle East have come under increasing pressure in recent years with the rise of radical Islam. Nowhere is this truer than in Egypt, where the large Coptic Christian community has traditionally played an important role in the country’s history and politics. This book examines Christian responses to sectarian pressures in two contexts: nationally as Church leaders deal with Egyptian presidents and locally as a community of poor Christians cope in a mostly-Muslim quarter of Cairo. This intensive study, based on the author’s five years of research in Bulaq, looks at existential questions surrounding the role of religion in poor communities. The book concludes with a review of strategies Egyptian Christians have used to improve their minority status, showing that although expressed differently, both Church leaders and members of the Bulaq community ultimately have worked toward similar goals. The study suggests that under the al-Sisi Government, Christians may be emerging into a more active period after a relative quiescence before the events of the 2011 Uprising.

Dorrien, “The New Abolition”

This month, the Yale University Press releases “The New Abolition: W.E.B. Du Bois and the Black Social Gospel,” by Gary Dorrien (Union Theological Seminary and Columbia University).  The publisher’s description follows: 

The black social gospel emerged from the trauma of Reconstruction to ask what a “new abolition” would require in American society. It became an important tradition of religious thought and resistance, helping to create an alternative public sphere of excluded voices and providing the intellectual underpinnings of the civil rights movement. This tradition has been seriously overlooked, despite its immense legacy.

In this groundbreaking work, Gary Dorrien describes the early history of the black social gospel from its nineteenth-century founding to its close association in the twentieth century with W. E. B. Du Bois. He offers a new perspective on modern Christianity and the civil rights era by delineating the tradition of social justice theology and activism that led to Martin Luther King Jr.

In the mail: Witte’s “Western Case for Monogamy Over Polygamy”

I was pleased to receive Professor John Witte’s new volume, released earlier this year, The Western Case for Monogamy Over PolygamyWitte, Monogamy and Polygamy, in which, with at least half an eye cocked at the coming legal contests over polygamous marriage, John explores the following questions:

What is the Western tradition’s case for monogamy over polygamy, and is that case still convincing in a post-modern and globalized world? Are there sufficiently compelling reasons to relax Western laws against polygamy, and is this a desirable policy given the global trends away from polygamy and given the social, economic, and psychological conditions that often attend its practice? Or, are there sufficiently compelling reasons, reconstructed in part from the tradition, to maintain and even strengthen these anti-polygamy measures, in part as an effort to hasten the global demise of this practice?

I’ve only had a chance to glance at the book but from that quick scan, it appears that the primary justifications advanced in the book as a historical matter for monogamy over polygamy relate to “joint parental investment in children” and ensuring “that men and women are treated with equal dignity and respect within the domestic sphere,” the latter logic of which, the book claims, “applies to dyadic same-sex couples, who have gained increasing rights in the West in recent years, including the right to marry and to parent in some places.”

The book is immensely and richly detailed and comprehensive, with chapters including “From Polygamy to Monogamy in Judaism,” “The Case for Monogamy Over Polygamy in the Church Fathers,” “Polygamy in the Laws of State and Church in the First Millennium,” “Polygamous Experiments in Early Protestantism,” and “The Liberal Enlightenment Case Against Polygamy.”

Wright & Palmer, “Storming Zion: Government Raids on Religious Communities”

In December, Oxford University Press will release “Storming Zion: Government Raids on Religious Communities” by Stuart A. Wright (Lamar University) and Susan J. Palmer (Concordia University). The publisher’s description follows:

While scholars, media, and the public may be aware of a few extraordinary government raids on religious communities, such as the U.S. federal raid on the Branch Davidians in 1993, very few people are aware of the scope and frequency with which these raids occur. Following the Texas state raid on the Fundamentalist Church of Latter-day Saints in 2008, authors Stuart Wright and Susan Palmer decided to study these raids in the aggregate–rather than as individual cases–by collecting data on raids that have taken place over the last six decades. They did this both to establish for the first time an archive of raided groups, and to determine if any patterns could be identified. Even they were surprised at their findings; there were far more raids than expected, and the vast majority of them had occurred since 1990, reflecting a sharp, almost exponential increase. What could account for this sudden and dramatic increase in state control of minority religions?

In Storming Zion, Wright and Palmer argue that the increased use of these high-risk and extreme types of enforcement corresponds to expanded organization and initiatives by opponents of unconventional religions. Anti-cult organizations provide strategic “frames” that define potential conflicts or problems in a given community as inherently dangerous, and construct narratives that draw on stereotypes of child and sexual abuse, brainwashing, and even mass suicide. The targeted group is made to appear more dangerous than it is, resulting in an overreaction by authorities. Wright and Palmer explore the implications of heightened state repression and control of minority religions in an increasingly multicultural, globalized world. At a time of rapidly shifting demographics within Western societies this book cautions against state control of marginalized groups and offers insight about why the responses to these groups is often so reactionary.

“State and Nation-Building in Pakistan: Beyond Islam and Security” (Long et al., eds.)

In September, Routledge released “State and Nation-Building in Pakistan: Beyond Islam and Security” edited by Roger D. Long (Eastern Michigan University), Gurharpal Singh (University of London), Yunas Samad (University of Bradford, UK), and Ian Talbot (University of Southampton, UK). The publisher’s description follows:

Religion, violence, and ethnicity are all intertwined in the history of Pakistan. The entrenchment of landed interests, operationalized through violence, ethnic identity, and power through successive regimes has created a system of ‘authoritarian clientalism.’ This book offers comparative, historicist, and multidisciplinary views on the role of identity politics in the development of Pakistan.

Bringing together perspectives on the dynamics of state-building, the book provides insights into contemporary processes of national contestation which are crucially affected by their treatment in the world media, and by the reactions they elicit within an increasingly globalised polity. It investigates the resilience of landed elites to political and social change, and, in the years after partition, looks at the impact on land holdings of population transfer. It goes on to discuss religious identities and their role in both the construction of national identity and in the development of sectarianism. The book highlights how ethnicity and identity politics are an enduring marker in Pakistani politics, and why they are increasingly powerful and influential.

An insightful collection on a range of perspectives on the dynamics of identity politics and the nation-state, this book on Pakistan will be a useful contribution to South Asian Politics, South Asian History, and Islamic Studies.