Early this year, Georgetown published Evolving Iran: An Introduction to Politics and Problems in the Islamic Republic, by Barbara Ann Rieffer-Flanagan (Central Washington University). The publisher’s description follows.
Evolving Iran presents an overview of how the politics and policy decisions in the Islamic Republic of Iran have developed since the 1979 revolution and how they are likely to evolve in the near future. Despite the fact that the revolution ushered in a theocracy, its political system has largely tended to prioritize self-interest and pragmatism over theology and religious values, while continuing to reinvent itself in the face of internal and international threats.
The author also examines the prospects for democratization in Iran. Since the early years of the twentieth century, Iranians have attempted to make their political system more democratic, yet various attempts to produce a system where citizens have a meaningful voice in political decisions have failed. This book argues that greater democratization is unlikely to occur in the short term, especially in light of increased threats from the international community.
This accessible overview of Iran’s political system covers a broad array of subjects, including foreign policy, human rights, women’s struggle for equality, the development and evolution of elections, and the institutions of the political system including the Revolutionary Guards and Assembly of Experts. It will appeal to undergraduates and the general public who seek to understand a country and regime that has mystified Westerners for decades.
Next month, Oxford will publish The Secular Spectacle: Performing Religion in a Southern Town, by Chad E. Seales (University of Texas at Austin). The publisher’s description follows.
Tracing the religious history of Siler City, North Carolina, Chad E. Seales argues that southern whites cultivated their own regional brand of American secularism and employed it, alongside public religious performances, to claim and regulate public spaces. Over the course of the twentieth century, they wielded secularism to segregate racialized bodies, to challenge local changes resulting from civil rights legislation, and to respond to the arrival of Latino migrants.
Combining ethnographic and archival sources, Seales studies the themes of industrialization, nationalism, civility, privatization, and migration through the local history of Siler City; its neighborhood patterns, Fourth of July parades, Confederate soldiers, minstrel shows, mock weddings, banking practices, police shootings, Good Friday processions, public protests, and downtown mural displays. Offering a spatial approach to the study of performative religion, The Secular Spectacle presents a generative narrative of secularism from the perspective of evangelical Protestants in the American South.
This month, the University of Chicago Press published Religious Bodies Politic: Rituals of Sovereignty in Buryat Buddhism, by Anya Bernstein (Harvard University). The publisher’s description follows.
Religious Bodies Politic examines the complex relationship between transnational religion and politics through the lens of one cosmopolitan community in Siberia: Buryats, who live in a semiautonomous republic within Russia with a large Buddhist population. Looking at religious transformation among Buryats across changing political economies, Anya Bernstein argues that under conditions of rapid social change—such as those that accompanied the Russian Revolution, the Cold War, and the fall of the Soviet Union—Buryats have used Buddhist “body politics” to articulate their relationship not only with the Russian state, but also with the larger Buddhist world.
During these periods, Bernstein shows, certain people and their bodies became key sites through which Buryats conformed to and challenged Russian political rule. She presents particular cases of these emblematic bodies—dead bodies of famous monks, temporary bodies of reincarnated lamas, ascetic and celibate bodies of Buddhist monastics, and dismembered bodies of lay disciples given as imaginary gifts to spirits—to investigate the specific ways in which religion and politics have intersected. Contributing to the growing literature on postsocialism and studies of sovereignty that focus on the body, Religious Bodies Politic is a fascinating illustration of how this community employed Buddhism to adapt to key moments of political change.
Next month, Georgetown will publish Vying for Allah’s Vote: Understanding Islamic Parties, Political Violence, and Extremism in Pakistan, by Haroon K. Ullah (U.S. State Department). The publisher’s description follows.
What is driving political extremism in Pakistan? In early 2011, the prominent Pakistani politician Salmaan Taseer was assassinated by a member of his own security team for insulting Islam by expressing views in support of the rights of women and religious minorities. Benazir Bhutto, the former prime minister, was killed by gunfire and explosive devices as she left a campaign event in December 2007; strong evidence links members of extremist organizations to her slaying.
These murders underscore the fact that religion, politics, and policy are inextricably linked in Pakistan. In this book, Haroon K. Ullah analyzes the origins, ideologies, bases of support, and electoral successes of the largest and most influential Islamic parties in Pakistan. Based on his extensive field work in Pakistan, he develops a new typology for understanding and comparing the discourses put forth by these parties in order to assess what drives them and what separates the moderate from the extreme. A better understanding of the range of parties is critical for knowing how the US and other Western nations can engage states where Islamic political parties hold both political and moral authority.
Pakistan’s current democratic transition will hinge on how well Islamic parties contribute to civilian rule, shun violence, and mobilize support for political reform. Ullah’s political-party typology may also shed light on the politics of other majority-Muslim democracies, such as Egypt and Tunisia, where Islamist political parties have recently won elections.
This month, Cambridge will publish Churchmen and Urban Government in Late Medieval Italy, c.1200-c. 1450: Cases and Contexts, edited by Frances Andrews (University of St. Andrew’s) with contributions from Agata Pincelli (University of St. Andrew’s) and others. The publisher’s description follows.
Why, when so driven by the impetus for autonomy, did the city elites of thirteenth-century Italy turn to men bound to religious orders whose purpose and reach stretched far beyond the boundaries of their often disputed territories? Churchmen and Urban Government in Late Medieval Italy, c.1200–c.1450 brings together a team of international contributors to provide the first comparative response to this pivotal question. Presenting a series of urban cases and contexts, the book explores the secular-religious boundaries of the period and evaluates the role of the clergy in the administration and government of Italy’s city-states. With an extensive introduction and epilogue, it exposes for consideration the beginnings of the phenomenon, the varying responses of churchmen, the reasons why practices changed and how politics and religious identity relate to each other. This important new study has significant implications for our understanding of power, negotiation, bureaucracy and religious identity.
- The first comprehensive study of the employment of men of religion, including penitents, monks, and other viri religiosi in late medieval Italy
- A broad-ranging comparative history including case studies across thirteen different Italian city-states and regions
- Includes studies of the phenomenon of employment beyond the cloister from the perspective of individual religious orders
Next month, Stanford University will publish Rhinestones, Religion, and the Republic: Fashioning Jewishness in France, by Kimberly A. Arkin (Boston University). The publisher’s description follows.
During the course of her fieldwork in Paris, anthropologist Kimberly Arkin heard what she thought was a surprising admission. A French-born, North African Jewish (Sephardi) teenage girl laughingly told Arkin she was a racist. When asked what she meant by that, the girl responded, “It means I hate Arabs.”
This girl was not unique. She and other Sephardi youth in Paris insisted, again and again, that they were not French, though born in France, and that they could not imagine their Jewish future in France. Fueled by her candid and compelling informants, Arkin’s analysis delves into the connections and disjunctures between Jews and Muslims, religion and secular Republicanism, race and national community, and identity and culture in post-colonial France. Rhinestones argues that Sephardi youth, as both “Arabs” and “Jews,” fall between categories of class, religion, and culture. Many reacted to this liminality by going beyond religion and culture to categorize their Jewishness as race, distinguishing Sephardi Jews from “Arab” Muslims, regardless of similarities they shared, while linking them to “European” Jews (Ashkenazim), regardless of their differences. But while racializing Jewishness might have made Sephardi Frenchness possible, it produced the opposite result: it re-grounded national community in religion-as-race, thereby making pluri-religious community appear threatening. Rhinestones thus sheds light on the production of race, alienation, and intolerance within marginalized French and European populations.
This summer, Oxford published The Jews of Andhra Pradesh: Contesting Caste and Religion in South India, by Yulia Egorova (Durham University) and Shahid Perwez (Durham University). The publisher’s description follows.
What does it mean to be Jewish in contemporary world? This book casts a new theoretical light on this question by exploring the Bene Ephraim community of Madiga Dalits from rural Andhra Pradesh, India, who at the end of the twentieth century declared their affiliation to the Lost Tribes of Israel. Yulia Egorova and Shahid Perwez present an engaging and sophisticated ethnographic account of this community and argue that by embracing the Jewish tradition the Bene Ephraim have both expanded conventional definitions of ‘Who is a Jew’ and found a new way to celebrate their Dalit heritage and to fight caste inequality.
The Jews of Andhra Pradesh focuses on the life of the community in the village, but also explores a wider range of ethnographic sites, including Israel and the USA, where it discusses how the time old Lost Tribes tradition is embraced today by groups and organization which support the Bene Ephraim and similar communities that declared Jewish descent in the twentieth century. Egorova and Perwez demonstrate how the example of the Bene Ephraim can throw light on a wide range of issues in national and international politics, such as the caste system and social mobility in India, the conflict in the Middle East, the rhetoric of the ‘war on terror’, and debates surrounding the Law of Return in Israel. The book will be of interest to scholars of Jewish and South Asian Studies as well as to general readers.
Last month, Cornell published All Good Books Are Catholic Books: Print Culture, Censorship, and Modernity in Twentieth-Century America, by Una M. Cadegan (University of Dayton). The publisher’s description follows.
Until the close of the Second Vatican Council in 1965, the stance of the Roman Catholic Church toward the social, cultural, economic, and political developments of the twentieth century was largely antagonistic. Naturally opposed to secularization, skeptical of capitalist markets indifferent to questions of justice, confused and appalled by new forms of high and low culture, and resistant to the social and economic freedom of women—in all of these ways the Catholic Church set itself up as a thoroughly anti-modern institution. Yet, in and through the period from World War I to Vatican II, the Church did engage with, react to, and even accommodate various aspects of modernity. In All Good Books Are Catholic Books, Una M. Cadegan shows how the Church’s official position on literary culture developed over this crucial period.
The Catholic Church in the United States maintained an Index of Prohibited Books and the National Legion of Decency (founded in 1933) lobbied Hollywood to edit or ban movies, pulp magazines, and comic books that were morally suspect. These regulations posed an obstacle for the self-understanding of Catholic American readers, writers, and scholars. But as Cadegan finds, Catholics developed a rationale by which they could both respect the laws of the Church as it sought to protect the integrity of doctrine and also engage the culture of artistic and commercial freedom in which they operated as Americans. Catholic literary figures including Flannery O’Connor and Thomas Merton are important to Cadegan’s argument, particularly as their careers and the reception of their work demonstrate shifts in the relationship between Catholicism and literary culture. Cadegan trains her attention on American critics, editors, and university professors and administrators who mediated the relationship among the Church, parishioners, and the culture at large.
Next month, Oxford will publish Christians and the Color Line: Race and Religion after Divided by Faith, edited by J. Russell Hawkins (Indiana Wesleyan University) and Phillip Luke Sinitiere (College of Biblical Studies, Texas). The publisher’s description follows.
Christians and the Color Line analyzes the complex entanglement of race and religion in the United States. Drawing on historical and contemporary examples of racialized religion, the essays in this volume consider the problem of race both in Christian congregations and in American society as a whole.
Belying the notion that a post-racial America has arrived, congregations in the US are showing an unprecedented degree of interest in overcoming the deep racial divisions that exist within American Protestantism. In one recent poll, for instance, nearly 70 percent of church leaders expressed a strong desire for their congregations to become racially and culturally diverse. To date, reality has eluded this professed desire as fewer than 10 percent of American Protestant churches have actually achieved multiracial status.
Employing innovative research from sociology, history, philosophy, and religious studies, the contributors to this volume use Michael Emerson and Christian Smith’s groundbreaking study Divided by Faith (Oxford, 2000) as their starting point to acknowledge important historical, sociological, and theological causations for racial divisions in Christian communities. Collectively, however, these scholars also offer constructive steps that Christians of all races might take to overcome the color line and usher in a new era of cross-racial engagement.
This month, Cambridge will publish The Origins of Global Humanitarianism: Religion, Empires, and Advocacy, by Peter Stamatov (Yale University). The publisher’s description follows.
Whether lauded and encouraged or criticized and maligned, action in solidarity with culturally and geographically distant strangers has been an integral part of European modernity. Traversing the complex political landscape of early modern European empires, this book locates the historical origins of modern global humanitarianism in the recurrent conflict over the ethical treatment of non-Europeans that pitted religious reformers against secular imperial networks. Since the sixteenth-century beginnings of European expansion overseas and in marked opposition to the exploitative logic of predatory imperialism, these reformers – members of Catholic orders and, later, Quakers and other reformist Protestants – developed an ideology and a political practice in defense of the rights and interests of distant “others.” They also increasingly made the question of imperial injustice relevant to growing “domestic” publics in Europe. A distinctive institutional model of long-distance advocacy crystallized out of these persistent struggles, becoming the standard weapon of transnational activists.