Tag Archives: History of Religion

Coppa, “The Papacy in the Modern World”

This September, Reaktion Books published “The Papacy in the Modern World: A Political History” by Frank J. Coppa (St. John’s).  The publisher’s description follows:

The Papacy in the Modern WorldFor some two millennia the papacy has presided over the governance of the Roman Catholic Church and played a fundamentally important role in European and world affairs. Its impact has long transcended the religious realm and has influenced ideological, philosophic, national, social and political developments as well as international relations. This book considers the broad role of the papacy from the end of the eighteenth century to the present and the reaction and response it has evoked over the years, and explores its confrontation with and accommodation to the modern world.

Frank J. Coppa describes the triumphs, controversies and failures of a series of popes from Pius VI to Benedict XVI, including Pius IX, who was criticized for his ‘syllabus of Errors’ of 1864, his campaign against Italian unification and his proclamation of papal infallibility. Pius XII, on the other hand, was denounced for what he did not say – mainly his silence during the Holocaust and his impartiality during the Second World War. Pope John XXIII, by contrast, has been praised for his aggiornamento, or call for the updating of the Church, and for convoking the Second Vatican Council. This original history sheds new light on the papacy by examining sources only recently made available by the Vatican archives, offering valuable insights into events previously shrouded in mystery.

El-Menawy, “The Copts”

This September, Gilgamesh Publishing released “The Copts: An Investigation Into The Rift Between Muslims And Copts In Egypt” by Abdel Latif El-Menawy.  The publisher’s description follows:

The CoptsAbdel Latif Al Menawy met and interviewed late Pope Shnouda, the third Patriarch of Egypt many times during his rule. Throughout his career in journalism he was constantly in touch with leaders of the Coptic Society in Egypt. He had unparalleled access to developments of the various crises unravelling in the streets of Egypt as a result to confrontation between religion and politics.

The Copts explains how Christianity became so deeply rooted in Egypt that Islam was never able to overcome it, leading to an uneasy relationship between the two faiths. It will give accounts, never published before, of direct confrontations between  the Late Pope Shnouda and both Presidents Late Anwar Sadat and former President Hosni Mubarak.  Abdel Latif also reveals the role the Coptic Church has played in the recent uprising in Egypt.

“Atheism and Deism Revalued: Heterodox Religious Identities in Britain, 1650-1800″ (Hudson et al. eds.)

In December, Ashgate Publishing will release “Atheism and Deism Revalued: Heterodox Religious Identities in Britain, 1650-1800” edited by Wayne Hudson (Charles Sturt University), Diego Lucci (American University in Bulgaria), and Jeffrey R. Wigelsworth (Red Deer College). The publisher’s description follows:

Given the central role played by religion in early-modern Britain, it is perhaps surprising that historians have not always paid close attention to the shifting and nuanced subtleties of terms used in religious controversies. In this collection particular attention is focussed upon two of the most contentious of these terms: ‘atheism’ and ‘deism’, terms that have shaped significant parts of the scholarship on the Enlightenment.

This volume argues that in the seventeenth and eighteenth century atheism and deism involved fine distinctions that have not always been preserved by later scholars. The original deployment and usage of these terms were often more complicated than much of the historical scholarship suggests. Indeed, in much of the literature static definitions are often taken for granted, resulting in depictions of the past constructed upon anachronistic assumptions.

Offering reassessments of the historical figures most associated with ‘atheism’ and ‘deism’ in early modern Britain, this collection opens the subject up for debate and shows how the new historiography of deism changes our understanding of heterodox religious identities in Britain from 1650 to 1800. It problematises the older view that individuals were atheist or deists in a straightforward sense and instead explores the plurality and flexibility of religious identities during this period. Drawing on the most recent scholarship, the volume enriches the debate about heterodoxy, offering new perspectives on a range of prominent figures and providing an overview of major changes in the field.

Smith, “The First Great Awakening”

This December, Rowman & Littlefield Publishers will release “The First Great Awakening: Redefining Religion in British America, 1725-1775” by John Howard Smith (Texas A&M University).  The publisher’s description follows:

The First Great Awakening, an unprecedented surge in Protestant Christian revivalism in the Eighteenth Century, sparked enormous of controversy at the time and has been a source of scholarly debate ever since. Few historians have sought to write a synthetic history of the First Great Awakening, and in recent decades it has been challenged as having happened at all, being either an exaggeration or an “invention.” The First Great Awakening expands the movement’s geographical, theological, and sociopolitical scope. Rather than focus exclusively on the clerical elites, as earlier studies have done, it deals with them alongside ordinary people, and includes the experiences of women, African Americans, and Indians as the observers and participants they were. It challenges prevailing scholarly opinion concerning what the revivals were and what they meant to the formation of American religious identity and culture.

Narayanan, “Religion, Heritage and the Sustainable City: Hinduism and Urbanisation in Jaipur”

This month, Routledge Publishing releases “Religion, Heritage and the Sustainable City: Hinduism and Urbanisation in Jaipur” by Yamini Narayanan (Deakin University). The publisher’s description follows:

The speed and scale of urbanisation in India is unprecedented almost anywhere in the world and has tremendous global implications. The religious influence on the urban experience has resonances for all aspects of urban sustainability in India and yet it remains a blind spot while articulating sustainable urban policy.

This book explores the historical and on-going influence of religion on urban planning, design, space utilisation, urban identities and communities. It argues that the conceptual and empirical approaches to planning sustainable cities in India need to be developed out of analytical concepts that define local sense of place and identity. Examining how Hindu religious heritage, beliefs and religiously influenced planning practices have impacted on sustainable urbanisation development in Jaipur and Indian cities in general, the book identifies the challenges and opportunities that ritualistic and belief resources pose for sustainability. It focuses on three key aspects: spatial segregation and ghettoisation; gender-inclusive urban development; and the nexus between religion, nature and urban development.

This cutting-edge book is one of the first case studies linking Hindu religion, heritage, urban development, women and the environment in a way that responds to the realities of Indian cities. It opens up discussion on the nexus of religion and development, drawing out insightful policy implications for the sustainable urban planning of many cities in India and elsewhere in South Asia and the developing world.

Kobani, Then and Now

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Kobani, Syria, Last Weekend

For the past several weeks, the world has been watching Kobani (in Kurdish, Kobanê), a small city on the Syrian-Turkish border. In September, militants from ISIS, the Sunni Islamist group that has declared a restored caliphate in the Middle East, laid siege to the city, which is mostly Kurdish and currently in the hands of the YPG, a Syrian Kurdish group that opposes the Assad government. Kobani’s strategic significance is debatable, but the city has symbolic importance, and its fall would be a huge morale boost for ISIS. Consequently, the US has instituted a bombing campaign to push ISIS back. As of this weekend, the siege was at a standstill.

A bewildering set of parties is involved. In addition to the two main antagonists, ISIS and the YPG, there are the Iraqi Kurds – who, unlike the YPG, do not have good relations with the PKK, the Kurdish militants who seek to establish a homeland in Turkey – the Free Syrian Army, part of the “moderate” secular opposition to Assad; the Assad regime itself; the Iraqi government; regional powers like Turkey and Iran; and the international anti-ISIS coalition, led by the US. Each of these parties has its own interests to protect, which makes cooperation very difficult. Most observers think the city will fall unless outsiders supply substantial ground troops. That seems unlikely. Although Turkey last week said it would open its border and allow some Iraqi Kurdish fighters, as well as members of the Free Syrian Army, to reinforce Kobani, it’s not clear whether that will occur.

One group that does not have a significant representation in Kobani is Christians. This is ironic, because Kobani was in fact founded by Christians during the last great wave of persecution in the region, about 100 years ago. In the wake of the Armenian Genocide of 1915, an ethnic-cleansing campaign that killed millions of Armenians and other Christians in the Ottoman Empire, Armenian refugees established a village near a recently-built train station on the Baghdad Railway, at a place called Ayn al-Arab in the Aleppo Province. The Kurds came later and called the village “Kobani,” apparently after the German company that had built the railway.

The Turks pushed many of Kobani’s Armenians further south. Those who avoided deportation built churches and schools in Kobani, but most eventually decided to move on, to other cities in Syria or to Soviet Armenia. Doubtless, many of them wished to leave a place with so many bad memories. According to political scientist Cengiz Aktar of the Istanbul Policy Center, the area surrounding Kobani is known as “‘the Armenian cemetery’ because of the thousands of Armenians who died there during the deportations. It was a terrible place when the Armenians arrived back then, and the area has a tragic history. It is being repeated now.”

Hardly anyone today remembers the Christian presence in Kobani. I didn’t know the story, myself, until a friend said his grandfather, one of the refugees, once had a shop there. The churches are gone. New humanitarian disasters succeed the ones of 100 years ago; history moves on. Still, it’s worth pausing to reflect on the great suffering that led to Kobani’s foundation, and the great suffering that continues there now. It will have blood, they say. Blood will have blood.

Photo from CNN

Bergin, “The Politics of Religion in Early Modern France”

This November, Yale University Press will release “The Politics of Religion in Early Modern France” by Joseph Bergin (University of Manchester).  The publisher’s description follows:

The Politics of Religion in FranceRich in detail and broad in scope, this majestic book is the first to reveal the interaction of politics and religion in France during the crucial years of the long seventeenth century. Joseph Bergin begins with the Wars of Religion, which proved to be longer and more violent in France than elsewhere in Europe and left a legacy of unresolved tensions between church and state with serious repercussions for each. He then draws together a series of unresolved problems—both practical and ideological—that challenged French leaders thereafter, arriving at an original and comprehensive view of the close interrelations between the political and spiritual spheres of the time.

The author considers the powerful religious dimension of French royal power even in the seventeenth century, the shift from reluctant toleration of a Protestant minority to increasing aversion, conflicts over the independence of the Catholic church and the power of the pope over secular rulers, and a wealth of other interconnected topics.

Mullin, “Constructing Political Islam as the New Other: America and Its Post-War on Terror Politics”

In December, I. B. Tauris Publishers will release “Constructing Political Islam as the New Other: America and Its Post-War on Terror Politics” by Corinna Mullin (Richmond American International University in London). The publisher’s description follows:

Why did political Islam so readily occupy the position of enemy ‘other’ for the United States in the context of what the American political leadership of the time labelled the ‘War on Terror’? In a wide-ranging analysis of the historical and ideological roots of U.S. discourse on political Islam, Corinna Mullin examines the ways in which this new ‘other’ came to perform both an identity-constructing role for Americans and a politically expedient, rhetorical justification for mainstream U.S. political thought and action concerning the Muslim world. After a new U.S. administration under President Barack Obama was inaugurated in 2009, Mullin explores the prospects for a truly ‘post-war on terror’ politics.

Abraham, “Islamic Reform and Colonial Discourse on Modernity in India”

This December, Palgrave Macmillan will release  “Islamic Reform and Colonial Discourse on Modernity in India: Socio-Political and Religious Thought of Vakkom Moulavi” by Jose Abraham (Concordia University).  The publisher’s description follows:

Islamic ReformColonialism was much more than another account of imperialism in human history. It introduced European categories and concepts into everyday habits of thought of the colonized. Focusing on writings of Vakkom Moulavi, who is known as the father of ‘Islamic reform’ in Kerala, South India, Abraham argues that the socio-religious reform movements of the colonial period was largely shaped by the discourse on modernity. In the wake of the socio-political changes initiated by colonial rule in Kerala, Vakkom Moulavi motivated Muslims to embrace modernity, especially modern education, in order to reap maximum benefit. In this process, to counter the opposition of conservative leaders and their followers, he initiated religious reform arguing that the major themes of colonial discourse were fully compatible with Islamic traditions. However, though modernization was the overall purpose of his socio-reform movement, he held fairly ambivalent attitudes towards individualism, materialism and secularization and defended Islam against the attacks of Christian missionaries.

O’Connell, “God Wills It”

This November, Transaction Publishing will release “God Wills It: Presidents and the Political Use of Religion” by David O’Connell (Dickinson College).  The publisher’s description follows:

God Wills ItGod Wills It is a comprehensive study of presidential religious rhetoric. Using careful analysis of hundreds of transcripts, David O’Connell reveals the hidden strategy behind presidential religious speech. He asks when and why religious language is used, and when it is, whether such language is influential.

Case studies explore the religious arguments presidents have made to defend their decisions on issues like defense spending, environmental protection, and presidential scandals. O’Connell provides strong evidence that when religious rhetoric is used public opinion typically goes against the president, the media reacts harshly to his words, and Congress fails to do as he wants. An experimental chapter casts even further doubt on the persuasiveness of religious rhetoric.

God Wills It shows that presidents do not talk this way because they want to. Presidents like Jimmy Carter and George H.W. Bush were quite uncomfortable using faith to promote their agendas. They did so because they felt they must. God Wills It shows that even if presidents attempt to call on the deity, the more important question remains: Will God come when they do?