Here’s news of an excellent joint project of the Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana (founded in 1451 by Pope Nicholas V) and Oxford University’s Bodleian Library (which opened in 1602) to put online a number of very ancient and rare religious and other texts housed in their respective libraries. These include the Bodleian’s 1455 Gutenberg Bible as well as the oldest Hebrew codex in existence and a copy of the Bible written in Italy circa 1100 (housed in the Vatican library).
The website where some of these documents may already be viewed is here.
Next month, Oxford University Press will publish Dissent and the Bible in Britain, c.1650-1950 by Scott Mandelbrote (University of Cambridge) and Michael Ledger-Lomas (King’s College). The publisher’s description follows.
The claim that the Bible was “the Christian’s only rule of faith and practice” has been fundamental to Protestant dissent. Dissenters first braved persecution and then justified their adversarial status in British society with the claim that they alone remained true to the biblical model of Christ’s Church. They produced much of the literature that guided millions of people in their everyday reading of Scripture, while the voluntary societies that distributed millions of Bibles to the British and across the world were heavily indebted to Dissent. Yet no single book has explored either what the Bible did for dissenters or what dissenters did to establish the hegemony of the Bible in British culture. The protracted conflicts over biblical interpretation that resulted from the bewildering proliferation of dissenting denominations have made it difficult to grasp their contribution as a whole. This volume evokes the great variety in the dissenting study and use of the Bible while insisting on the factors that gave it importance and underlying unity. Its ten essays range across the period from the later seventeenth to the mid-twentieth century and make reference to all the major dissenting denominations of the United Kingdom. The essays are woven together by a thematic introduction which places the Bible at the center of dissenting ecclesiology, eschatology, public worship, and “family religion,” while charting the political and theological divisions that made the cry of “the Bible only” so divisive for dissenters in practice.
Next month, NYU Press will publish The Divided Mind of the Black Church: Theology, Piety, and Public Witness by Raphael Warnock (Ebenezer Baptist Church). The publisher’s description follows.
What is the true nature and mission of the church? Is its proper Christian purpose to save souls, or to transform the social order? This question is especially fraught when the church is one built by an enslaved people and formed, from its beginning, at the center of an oppressed community’s fight for personhood and freedom. Such is the central tension in the identity and mission of the black church in the United States.
For decades the black church and black theology have held each other at arm’s length. Black theology has emphasized the role of Christian faith in addressing racism and other forms of oppression, arguing that Jesus urged his disciples to seek the freedom of all peoples. Meanwhile, the black church, even when focused on social concerns, has often emphasized personal piety rather than social protest. With the rising influence of white evangelicalism, biblical fundamentalism, and the prosperity gospel, the divide has become even more pronounced.
In Piety or Protest, Raphael G. Warnock, Senior Pastor of the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church, the spiritual home of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.,traces the historical significance of the rise and development of black theology as an important conversation partner for the black church. Calling for honest dialogue between black and womanist theologians and black pastors, this fresh theological treatment demands a new look at the church’s essential mission.
This month, Stanford University Press published Refugees of the Revolution: Experiences of Palestinian Exile by Diana Allan (Cornell University). The publisher’s description follows.
Some sixty-five years after 750,000 Palestinians fled or were expelled from their homeland, the popular conception of Palestinian refugees still emphasizes their fierce commitment to exercising their “right of return.” Exile has come to seem a kind of historical amber, preserving refugees in a way of life that ended abruptly with “the catastrophe” of 1948 and their camps—inhabited now for four generations—as mere zones of waiting. While reducing refugees to symbols of steadfast single-mindedness has been politically expedient to both sides of the Arab-Israeli conflict it comes at a tremendous cost for refugees themselves, overlooking their individual memories and aspirations and obscuring their collective culture in exile.
Refugees of the Revolution is an evocative and provocative examination of everyday life in Shatila, a refugee camp in Beirut. Challenging common assumptions about Palestinian identity and nationalist politics, Diana Allan provides an immersive account of camp experience, of communal and economic life as well as inner lives, tracking how residents relate across generations, cope with poverty and marginalization, and plan––pragmatically and speculatively—for the future. She gives unprecedented attention to credit associations, debt relations, electricity bartering, emigration networks, and NGO provisions, arguing that a distinct Palestinian identity is being forged in the crucible of local pressures.
What would it mean for the generations born in exile to return to a place they never left? Allan addresses this question by rethinking the relationship between home and homeland. In so doing, she reveals how refugees are themselves pushing back against identities rooted in a purely nationalist discourse. This groundbreaking book offers a richly nuanced account of Palestinian exile, and presents new possibilities for the future of the community.
This month, Fordham University Press published Empowering the People of God: Catholic Action Before and After Vatican II, edited by Jeremy Bonner, Christopher D. Denny, and Mary Beth Fraser Connolly. The publisher’s description follows:
The early 1960s were a heady time for Catholic laypeople. Pope Pius XII’s assurance “You do not belong to the Church. You are the Church” emboldened the laity to challenge Church authority in ways previously considered unthinkable. Empowering the People of God offers a fresh look at the Catholic laity and its relationship with the hierarchy in the period immediately preceding the Second Vatican Council and in the turbulent era that followed. This collection of essays explores a diverse assortment of manifestations of Catholic action, ranging from genteel reform to radical activism, and an equally wide variety of locales, apostolates, and movements.
This December, Oxford University Press will publish Constitutional Secularism in an Age of Religious Revival edited by Susanna Mancini (University of Bologna Law) and Michel Rosenfeld (Yeshiva University). The publisher’s description follows.
The global movement of culture and religion has brought about a serious challenge to traditional constitutional secularism. This challenge comes in the form of a political and institutional struggle against secular constitutionalism, and a two pronged assault on the very legitimacy and viability of the concept. On the one hand, constitutional secularism has been attacked as inherently hostile rather than neutral toward religion; and, on the other hand, constitutional secularism has been criticized as inevitably favouring one religion (or set of religions) over others.
The contributors to this book come from a variety of different disciplines including law, anthropology, history, philosophy and political theory. They provide accounts of, and explanations for, present predicaments; critiques of contemporary institutional, political and cultural arrangements, justifications and practices; and suggestions with a view to overcoming or circumventing several of the seemingly intractable or insurmountable current controversies and deadlocks.
The book is separated in to five parts. Part I provides theoretical perspectives on the present day conflicts between secularism and religion. Part II focuses on the relationship between religion, secularism and the public sphere. Part III examines the nexus between religion, secularism and women’s equality. Part IV concentrates on religious perspectives on constraints on, and accommodations of, religion within the precincts of the liberal state. Finally, Part V zeroes in on conflicts between religion and secularism in specific contexts, namely education and freedom of speech.
This December, Routledge will publish A Sociological Theory of Law by Niklas Luhmann (University of Bonn). The publisher’s description follows.
Niklas Luhmann is recognised as a major social theorist, and his treatise on the sociology of law is a classic text. For Luhmann, law provides the framework of the state, lawyers are the main human resource for the state, and legal theory provides the most suitable base from which to theorize on the nature of society. He explores the concept of law in the light of a general theory of social systems, showing the important part law plays in resolving fundamental problems a society may face. He then goes on to discuss in detail how modern ‘positive’ – as opposed to ‘natural’ – law comes to fulfil this function. The work as a whole is not only a contribution to legal sociology, but a major work in social theory. With a revised translation, and a new introduction by Martin Albrow.
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, Edinburgh University Press will publish Twelver Shi’ism: Unity and Diversity in the Life of Islam, 632 to 1722 by Andrew Newman (University of Edinburgh). The publisher’s description follows.
As many as 40 different Shi`i groups existed in the ninth and tenth centuries yet only 3 forms have survived. Why is Twelver Shi`ism one of them?
As the established faith in modern Iran, the majority faith in Iraq and areas in the Gulf and with its adherents forming sizeable minorities elsewhere in the region, it is arguably the most successful branch of Shi’ism. This book charts its history and the development of the key distinctive doctrines and practices which ensured its survival in the face of repeated challenges. It argues that the key to the faith’s endurance has been its ability to institutionalise responses to the changing, often localised circumstances in which the community has found itself, thereby remaining remarkably resilient in the face of both internal disagreements and external opposition.