This month, the University of Minnesota Press releases “Unconditional Equality: Gandhi’s Religion of Resistance,” by Ajay Skaria (University of Minnesota). The publisher’s description follows:
Unconditional Equality examines Mahatma Gandhi’s critique of liberal ideas of freedom and equality and his own practice of a freedom and equality organized around religion. It reconceives satyagraha (passive resistance) as a politics that strives for the absolute equality of all beings. Liberal traditions usually affirm an abstract equality centered on some form of autonomy, the Kantian term for the everyday sovereignty that rational beings exercise by granting themselves universal law. But for Gandhi, such equality is an “equality of sword”—profoundly violent not only because it excludes those presumed to lack reason (such as animals or the colonized) but also because those included lose the power to love (which requires the surrender of autonomy or, more broadly, sovereignty).
Gandhi professes instead a politics organized around dharma, or religion. For him, there can be “no politics without religion.” This religion involves self-surrender, a freely offered surrender of autonomy and everyday sovereignty. For Gandhi, the “religion that stays in all religions” is satyagraha—the agraha (insistence) on or ofsatya (being or truth).
Ajay Skaria argues that, conceptually, satyagraha insists on equality without exception of all humans, animals, and things. This cannot be understood in terms of sovereignty: it must be an equality of the minor. This equality is simultaneously a resistance: satyagrahis (practitioners) must resist all that obscures absolute equality and do so passively, without sovereignty and in the spirit of absolute equality.
In March, the Oxford University Press will release “Salafism After the Arab Awakening: Contending with People’s Power,” edited by Francesco Cavatorta (Université Laval) and Fabio Merone (Dublin City University). The publisher’s description follows:
One of the most interesting consequences of the Arab awakening has been the central role of Salafists in a number of countries. In particular, there seems to have been a move away from traditional quietism towards an increasing degree of politicization. The arrival on the political scene of Salafist parties in Egypt, Tunisia, and Yemen, as well as the seemingly growing desire of Salafists in other Arab countries to enter institutional politics through the creation of political parties, highlights quite clearly the debates and divisions on how to react to the awakening within Salafist circles.
This book examines in detail how Salafism, both theologically and politically, is contending with the Arab uprisings across a number of countries. The focus is primarily on what kind of politicization, if any, has taken place and what forms it has adopted. As some of the contributions make clear, politicization does not necessarily diminish the role of jihad or the influence of quietism, revealing tensions and struggles within the complex world of Salafism.
In March, Cambridge University Press will release “Christianity and Freedom: Volume 1. Historical Perspectives” edited by Timothy Samuel Shah (Georgetown University) and Allen D. Hertzke (University of Oklahoma). The publisher’s description follows:
In Volume 1 of Christianity and Freedom, leading historians uncover the unappreciated role of Christianity in the development of basic human rights and freedoms from antiquity through today. These include radical notions of dignity and equality, religious freedom, liberty of conscience, limited government, consent of the governed, economic liberty, autonomous civil society, and church-state separation, as well as more recent advances in democracy, human rights, and human development. Acknowledging that the record is mixed, scholars document how the seeds of freedom in Christianity antedate and ultimately undermine later Christian justifications and practices of persecution. Drawing from history, political science, and sociology, this volume will become a standard reference work for historians, political scientists, theologians, students, journalists, business leaders, opinion shapers, and policy makers.
In March, Oxford University Press will release “Saudi Clerics and Shi’a Islam” by Raihan Ismail (Centre for Arab and Islamic Studies). The publisher’s description follows:
The Saudi “ulama” are known for their strong opposition to Shi’a theology, Shi’a communities in Saudi Arabia, and external Shi’a influences such as Iran and Hezbollah. Their potent hostility, combined with the influence of the ‘ulama’ within the Saudi state and the Muslim world, has led some commentators to blame the Saudi ‘ulama’ for what they see as growing sectarian conflict in the Middle East. However, there is very little understanding of what reasoning lies behind the positions of the ‘ulama’ and there is a significant gap in the literature dealing with the polemics directed at the Shi’a by the Saudi religious establishment.
In Saudi Clerics and Shi’a Islam, Raihan Ismail looks at the discourse of the Saudi “ulama” regarding Shiism and Shi’a communities, analysing their sermons, lectures, publications and religious rulings. The book finds that the attitudes of the “ulama” are not only governed by their theological convictions regarding Shiism, but are motivated by political events involving the Shi’a within the Saudi state and abroad. It also discovers that political events affect the intensity and frequency of the rhetoric of the ulama at any given time.
Professor Helge Årsheim (University of Oslo) writes to me with news of a very good new blog, Religion Going Public. The blog’s focus is primarily on religion, culture, and politics in Norway, Scandinavia, and Europe, with a very interesting group of contributors.
Welcome to the blogosphere, and check it out!
At the First Things site today, I have post about why the future of tradition, and traditional institutions, may be brighter than we imagine. Notwithstanding the power of markets and technology to weaken tradition, I argue, the human need for stability and continuity with the past remain:
Moreover, traditions and traditional institutions have survived, and will continue to survive, because they speak to human nature. They fulfill basic human needs: family; community; a sense of belonging; an attachment to place; a link to the transcendent. Perhaps some people can do without these things, or can invent them for themselves. The Nones, I gather, think they can fashion their own religions. But most of us cannot. Most of us need the stability the past provides, the guidance of received wisdom. Some very smart people think technology is on the brink of altering human nature forever—that we are about to create a new sort of being, a transhuman hybrid of man and computer, that will inherit the future. Well, it hasn’t happened yet. For the moment, old-fashioned human nature endures; and tradition, however much we neglect or try to erase it, endures too.
Read the whole thing here.
This month, Ashgate releases “The European Wars of Religion: An Interdisciplinary Reassessment of Sources, Interpretations, and Myths,” edited by Wolfgang Palaver (University of Innsbruck), Dieter Regensburger (University of Innsbruck), and Harriet Rudolph (University of Regensburg). The publisher’s description follows:
In recent years religion has resurfaced amongst academics, in many ways replacing class as the key to understanding Europe’s historical development. This
has resulted in an explosion of studies revisiting issues of religious change, confessional violence and holy war during the early modern period. But the interpretation of the European wars of religion still remains largely defined by national boundaries, tied to specific processes of state building as well as nation building. In order to more thoroughly interrogate these concepts and assumptions, this volume focusses on terms repeatedly used and misused in public debates such as ‘religious violence’ and ‘holy warfare’ within the context of military conflicts commonly labelled ‘religious wars’. The chapters not only focus on the role of religion, but also on the emerging state as a driver of the escalation of violence in the so-called age of religious war. By using different methodological and theoretical approaches historians, philosophers, and theologians engage in an interdisciplinary debate that contributes to a better understanding of the religio-political situation of early modern Europe and the interpretation of violent conflicts interpreted as religious conflicts today. By adopting a multi-disciplinary approach, new and innovative perspectives are opened up that question if in fact religion was a primary driving force behind these conflicts.
In November, the Cambridge University Press released “Pagans and Christians in Late Antique Rome: Conflict, Competition, and Coexistence in the Fourth Century,” edited by Michele Renee Salzman (University of California, Riverside), Marianne Sághy (Central European University), and Rita Lizzi Testa (Università degli Studi di Perugia). The publisher’s description follows:
This book sheds new light on the religious and consequently social changes taking place in late antique Rome. The essays in this volume argue that the once-dominant notion of pagan-Christian religious conflict cannot fully explain the texts and artifacts, as well as the social, religious, and political realities of late antique Rome. Together, the essays demonstrate that the fourth-century city was a more fluid, vibrant, and complex place than was previously thought. Competition between diverse groups in Roman society – be it pagans with Christians, Christians with Christians, or pagans with pagans – did create tensions and hostility, but it also allowed for coexistence and reduced the likelihood of overt violent, physical conflict. Competition and coexistence, along with conflict, emerge as still central paradigms for those who seek to understand the transformations of Rome from the age of Constantine through the early fifth century.
- The most up-to-date analysis of the texts and archaeological evidence from late antique Rome
- Written by an international team of scholars with diverse backgrounds and approaches
- Illuminates new approaches to ancient history by addressing the nature of religious change in the largest city in the Mediterranean world – Rome
In December, Oxford University Press released “Catholic Europe, 1592-1648” by Tadhg O hAnnrachain (University College Dublin). The publisher’s description follows:
Catholic Europe, 1592-1648 examines the processes of Catholic renewal from a unique perspective; rather than concentrating on the much studied heartlands of Catholic Europe, it focuses primarily on a series of societies on the European periphery and examines how Catholicism adapted to very different conditions in areas such as Ireland, Britain, the Netherlands, East-Central Europe, and the Balkans. In certain of these societies, such as Austria and Bohemia, the Catholic Reformation advanced alongside very rigorous processes of state coercion. In other Habsburg territories, most notably Royal Hungary, and in Poland, Catholic monarchs were forced to deploy less confrontational methods, which nevertheless enjoyed significant measures of success. On the Western fringe of the continent, Catholic renewal recorded its greatest advances in Ireland but even in the Netherlands it maintained a significant body of adherents, despite considerable state hostility. In the Balkans, O hAnnrachain examines the manner in which the papacy invested substantially more resources and diplomatic efforts in pursuing military strategies against the Ottoman Empire than in supporting missionary and educational activity.
The chronological focus of the book is also unusual because on the peripheries of Europe the timing of Catholic reform occurred differently. Catholic Europe, 1592-1648 begins with the pontificate of Clement VIII and, rather than treating religious renewal in the later sixteenth and seventeenth centuries as essentially a continuation of established patterns of reform, it argues for the need to understand the contingency of this process and its constant adaptation to contemporary events and preoccupations.