Category Archives: Scholarship Roundup

“Buddhist Responses to Globalization” (Kalmanson & Shields, eds.)

In August, Lexington Books is releasing Buddhist Responses to Globalization, edited by Leah Kalmanson (Drake University) and James Mark Shields (Bucknell University). The publisher’s description follows:

This interdisciplinary collection of essays highlights the relevance of 0739180541Buddhist doctrine and practice to issues of globalization. From various philosophical, religious, historical, and political perspectives, the authors show that Buddhism—arguably the world’s first transnational religion—is a rich resource for navigating today’s interconnected world. Buddhist Responses to Globalization addresses globalization as a contemporary phenomenon, marked by economic, cultural, and political deterritorialization, and also proposes concrete strategies for improving global conditions in light of these facts. Topics include Buddhist analyses of both capitalist and materialist economies; Buddhist religious syncretism in highly multicultural areas such as Honolulu; the changing face of Buddhism through the work of public intellectuals such as Alice Walker; and Buddhist responses to a range of issues including reparations and restorative justice, economic inequality, spirituality and political activism, cultural homogenization and nihilism, and feminist critique. In short, the book looks to bring Buddhist ideas and practices into direct and meaningful, yet critical, engagement with both the facts and theories of globalization.

Gibson & Karim, “Women of the Nation”

This month, New York University Press releases “Women of the Nation: Between Black Protest and Sunni Islam” by Dawn-Marie Gibson (Royal Holloway, University of London) and Jamillah Karim (international lecturer, formerly a professor at Spelman College). The publisher’s description follows:

With vocal public figures such as Malcolm X, Elijah Muhammad, and Louis Farrakhan, the Nation of Islam often appears to be a male-centric religious movement, and over 60 years of scholarship have perpetuated that notion. Yet, women have been pivotal in the NOI’s development, playing a major role in creating the public image that made it appealing and captivating.

Women of the Nation draws on oral histories and interviews with approximately 100 women across several cities to provide an overview of women’s historical contributions and their varied experiences of the NOI, including both its continuing community under Farrakhan and its offshoot into Sunni Islam under Imam W.D. Mohammed. The authors examine how women have interpreted and navigated the NOI’s gender ideologies and practices, illuminating the experiences of African-American, Latina, and Native American women within the NOI and their changing roles within this patriarchal movement. The book argues that the Nation of Islam experience for women has been characterized by an expression of Islam sensitive to American cultural messages about race and gender, but also by gender and race ideals in the Islamic tradition. It offers the first exhaustive study of women’s experiences in both the NOI and the W.D. Mohammed community.

My Review of Steve Smith’s Rise and Decline of American Religious Freedom

I’ve got a review of Steve’s book over at The University Bookman. A bit from the beginning:

In legal scholarship, as in any literature, style matters as much as content. The subjects authors explore, their manners and patterns of thought, the metaphors and idioms they select, the grace with which they address the audience and carry it along—in sum, the personal qualities that emerge in the telling of the tale—are remembered long after the details of the argument have faded. Over the duration of a scholarly life, a writer constructs a personality. And as the relationship of author and reader matures across the years, the publication of a new piece is the occasion to look not so much for argumentative roundhouse punches that could have been thrown anywhere by anybody, as for an old friend.

This is the way I come to the work of Steven D. Smith, the most penetrating and thoughtful scholar of religious freedom of our generation, and that rare author in American legal academia whom it is a joy to read. His new book, The Rise and Decline of American Religious Freedom, represents a distinctively and recognizably Smith-esque contribution. His authorial method has always been primarily diagnostic: he describes the existing legal and historical landscape, and in so doing brings a particular critical perspective that generally runs more or less against the current. Toward the conclusion of his work, Smith often gestures toward several possible resolutions to the problems he has discussed, but they are rarely more than that: soft speculations, almost afterthoughts, about a few pathways out of the forest. But the heart of a Steve Smith book is in the careful exposition of a problem. He has cultivated this method over the years with consistent, wry panache to great effect—whether the subject is the healthful absence of a single theory of the religion clauses of the First Amendment, or the contemporary obsession with the value of equality, or the unsustainable claims about the “reason” that inheres in constitutional law and scholarship. Always, Smith offers an alternative historical and doctrinal description. Always, he hints suggestively at contrarian possibilities and ends. Always, the leitmotivs are skepticism and decline.

“Christian Faith and Social Justice” (McCracken, ed.)

In June, Bloomsbury Publishing released Christian Faith and Social Justice: Five Views, edited by Vic McCracken (Abilene Christian University).  The publisher’s description follows:

Christian Faith and Social JusticeThe Judeo-Christian tradition testifies to a God that cries out, demanding that justice “roll down like waters, righteousness like an ever-flowing stream” (Amos 5:24). Christians agree that being advocates for justice is critical to the Christian witness. And yet one need not look widely to see that Christians disagree about what social justice entails. What does justice have to do with healthcare reform, illegal immigration, and same-sex marriage? Should Christians support tax policies that effectively require wealthy individuals to fund programs that benefit the poor? Does justice require that we acknowledge and address the inequalities borne out of histories of gender and ethnic exclusivity? Is the Christian vision distinct from non-Christian visions of social justice? Christians disagree over the proper answer to these questions. In short, Christians agree that justice is important but disagree about what a commitment to justice means.

Christian Faith and Social Justice makes sense of the disagreements among Christians over the meaning of justice by bringing together five highly regarded Christian philosophers to introduce and defend rival perspectives on social justice in the Christian tradition. While it aspires to offer a lucid introduction to these theories, the purpose of this book is more than informative. It is purposefully dialogical and is structured so that contributors are able to model for the reader reasoned exchange among philosophers who disagree about the meaning of social justice. The hope is that the reader is left with a better understanding of range of perspectives in the Christian tradition about social justice.

Ndzovuis, “Muslims in Kenyan Politics”

In September, Northwestern University Press will publish Muslims in Kenyan Politics: Political Involvement, Marginalization, and Minority Status by Hassan Ndzovuis (Moi University, Kenya).  The publisher’s description follows:

Muslims in KenyaMuslims in Kenyan Politics explores the changing relationship between Muslims and the state in Kenya from precolonial times to the present, culminating in the radicalization of a section of the Muslim population in recent decades. The politicization of Islam in Kenya is deeply connected with the sense of marginalization that shapes Muslims’ understanding of Kenyan politics and government policies.

Kenya’s Muslim population comprises ethnic Arabs, Indians, and black Africans, and its status has varied historically. Under British rule, an imposed racial hierarchy affected Muslims particularly, thwarting the development of a united political voice. Drawing on a broad range of interviews and historical research, Ndzovu presents a nuanced picture of political associations during the postcolonial period and explores the role of Kenyan Muslims as political actors.

“Money as God?” (von Hagen & Welker, eds.)

Last month, Cambridge University Press released Money as God: The Monetization of the Market and its Impact on Religion, Politics, Law, and Ethics edited by Jürgen von Hagen (Universität Bonn) and Michael Welker (Universität Heidelberg). The publisher’s description follows:money as god

The nature of money and its impact on society has long interested scholars of economics, history, philosophy, law, and theology alike, and the recent financial crisis has moved these issues to the forefront of current public debate. In this study, authors from a range of backgrounds provide a unified examination of the nature and the purpose of money. Chapters cover the economic and social foundations of money; the historical origins of money in ancient Greece, China, the ancient Middle East, and medieval Europe; problems of justice connected to the use of money in legal systems and legal settlements, with examples both from ancient history and today; and theological aspects of monetary and market exchange. This stimulating interdisciplinary book, with its nontechnical and lively discussion, will appeal to a global readership working in the interfaces of economics, law and religion.

Kinnard, “Places in Motion”

Later this month, Oxford University Press is releasing Places in Motion: The Fluid Identities of Temples, Images, and Pilgrims by Jacob N. Kinnard (Iliff School of Theology ). The publisher’s description follows:

Jacob Kinnard offers an in-depth examination of the complex dynamics places in motionof religiously charged places. Focusing on several important shared and contested pilgrimage places-Ground Zero and Devils Tower in the United States, Ayodhya and Bodhgaya in India, Karbala in Iraq-he poses a number of crucial questions. What and who has made these sites important, and why? How are they shared, and how and why are they contested? What is at stake in their contestation? How are the particular identities of place and space established? How are individual and collective identity intertwined with space and place?

Challenging long-accepted, clean divisions of the religious world, Kinnard explores specific instances of the vibrant messiness of religious practice, the multivocality of religious objects, the fluid and hybrid dynamics of religious places, and the shifting and tangled identities of religious actors. He contends that sacred space is a constructed idea: places are not sacred in and of themselves, but are sacred because we make them sacred. As such, they are in perpetual motion, transforming themselves from moment to moment and generation to generation.

Places in Motion moves comfortably across and between a variety of historical and cultural settings as well as academic disciplines, providing a deft and sensitive approach to the topic of sacred places, with awareness of political, economic, and social realities as these exist in relation to questions of identity. It is a lively and much needed critical advance in analytical reflections on sacred space and pilgrimage.

Audi, “Democratic Authority and the Separation of Church and State”

Earlier this month, Oxford University Press released Democratic Authority and the Separation of Church and Stateby Robert Audi (Notre Dame). The publisher’s description follows:

Democratic states must protect the liberty of citizens Audiand must accommodate both religious liberty and cultural diversity. This democratic imperative is one reason for the increasing secularity of most modern democracies. Religious citizens, however, commonly see a secular state as unfriendly toward religion. This book articulates principles that enable secular governments to protect liberty in a way that judiciously separates church and state and fully respects religious citizens.

After presenting a brief account of the relation between religion and ethics, the book shows how ethics can be independent of religion-evidentially autonomous in a way that makes moral knowledge possible for secular citizens–without denying religious sources a moral authority of their own. With this account in view, it portrays a church-state separation that requires governments not only to avoid religious establishment but also to maintain religious neutrality. The book shows how religious neutrality is related to such issues as teaching evolutionary biology in public schools, the legitimacy of vouchers to fund private schooling, and governmental support of “faith-based initiatives.” The final chapter shows how the proposed theory of religion and politics incorporates toleration and forgiveness as elements in flourishing democracies. Tolerance and forgiveness are described; their role in democratic citizenship is clarified; and in this light a conception of civic virtue is proposed.

Overall, the book advances the theory of liberal democracy, clarifies the relation between religion and ethics, provides distinctive principles governing religion in politics, and provides a theory of toleration for pluralistic societies. It frames institutional principles to guide governmental policy toward religion; it articulates citizenship standards for political conduct by individuals; it examines the case for affirming these two kinds of standards on the basis of what, historically, has been called natural reason; and it defends an account of toleration that enhances the practical application of the ethical framework both in individual nations and in the international realm.

Some Notes on the Libertas Project’s Religious Freedom Workshop

I am just back from passing a wonderful few days of fellowship and reflection at the Libertas Project’s workshop on religious freedom, hosted by the gracious and erudite Michael Moreland at Villanova Law School and sponsored by the generous Templeton Foundation. Together with other MOJ denizens Kevin Walsh and Michael Scaperlanda, I had the pleasure of talking together with a terrific group of learned political theorists, historians, theologians, and law professors about various issues–old and new–concerning the historical trajectory and current condition of the right of religious freedom.

Zak Calo and I had the privilege of moderating the seven sessions of the workshop. And the three of us–Michael, Zak, and I–worked together to assemble a panoramic set of readings to direct the group’s attentions and reflections:

  • Chapters from Brad Gregory’s The Unintended Reformation and Mark Lilla’s The Stillborn God kicked things off
  • A historical session on Burke, the relationship of establishment and regimes of religious toleration, and the intellectual history of the maxim, “Christianity is part of the common law”
  • A session that included readings by Murray and Niebuhr set against United States v. Seeger
  • A session that considered Pope Benedict XVI’s Regensburg Address, Micah Schwartzman’s article about the moral justifiability of religion’s special constitutional protection, and Town of Greece v. Galloway
  • And finally a few sessions devoted to Steve Smith’s recent book, The Rise and Decline of American Religious Freedom, with applications and speculations about various contemporary controversies

In all it was an extremely successful and productive event bringing together a broad range of disciplinary expertise and insight. I’ll have a bit more to say about some of the more particular subjects that interested me, but for now just want to congratulate Michael on organizing this excellent conference.

Katz, “Women in the Mosque”

In September, Columbia University Press will publish Women in the Mosque: A History of Legal Thought and Social Practice by Marion Holmes Katz (New York University).  The publisher’s description follows: Women in the Mosque

Juxtaposing Muslim scholars’ debates over women’s attendance in mosques with historical descriptions of women’s activities within Middle Eastern and North African mosques, Marion Holmes Katz shows how over the centuries legal scholars’ arguments have often reacted to rather than dictated Muslim women’s behavior.

Tracing Sunni legal positions on women in mosques from the second century of the Islamic calendar to the modern period, Katz connects shifts in scholarly terminology and argumentation to changing constructions of gender. Over time, assumptions about women’s changing behavior through the lifecycle gave way to a global preoccupation with sexual temptation, which then became the central rationale for limits on women’s mosque access. At the same time, travel narratives, biographical dictionaries, and religious polemics suggest that women’s usage of mosque space often diverged in both timing and content from the ritual models constructed by scholars. Katz demonstrates both the concrete social and political implications of Islamic legal discourse and the autonomy of women’s mosque-based activities. She also examines women’s mosque access as a trope in Western travelers’ narratives and the evolving significance of women’s mosque attendance among different Islamic currents in the twentieth century.