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.
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
This month, Oxford University Press releases “Religions of the Constantinian Empire,” by Mark Edwards (University of Oxford). The publisher’s description follows:
Religions of the Constantinian Empire provides a synoptic review of Constantine’s relation to all the cultic and theological traditions of the Empire during the period from his seizure of power in the west in 306 CE to the end of his reign as autocrat of both east and west in 337 CE. Divided into three parts, the first considers the efforts of Christians to construct their own philosophy, and their own patterns of the philosophic life, in opposition to Platonism. The second assembles evidence of survival, variation or decay in religious practices which were never compulsory under Roman law. The “religious plurality” of the second section includes those cults which are represented as demonic burlesques of the sacraments by Firmicus Maternus. The third reviews the changes, both within the church and in the public sphere, which were undeniably prompted by the accession of a Christian monarch. In this section on “Christian polyphony,” Mark Edwards expertly moves on from this deliberate petrifaction of Judaism to the profound shift in relations between the church and the civic cult that followed the Emperor’s choice of a new divine protector.
The material in the first section will be most familiar to the historian of philosophy, that of the second to the historian of religion, and that of the third to the theologian. All three sections make reference to such factors as the persecution under Diocletian, the so-called “edict of Milan,”the subsequent legislation of Constantine, and the summoning of the council of Nicaea. Edwards does not maintain, however, that the religious and philosophical innovations of this period were mere by-products of political revolution; indeed, he often highlights that Christianity was more revolutionary in its expectations than any sovereign could afford to be in his acts.This authoritative study provides a comprehensive reference work for those studying the ecclesiastical and theological developments and controversies of the fourth century.
This month, Springer Press releases “Religion, Politics, and Values in Poland: Community and Change Since 1989” edited by Irena Borowik (Jagiellonian University) and Sabrina P. Ramet (Norwegian University of Science and Technology). The publisher’s description follows:
1989 brought a tectonic shift in Central and Southeastern Europe as Communism imploded and alternative political parties emerged. In Poland, religious institutions looked to take advantage of the new situation, as they were the countervailing force against Communist rule. This dynamic helped shape Polish culture for years and decades to come.
In February, the Cambridge University Press will release “The Unfree Exercise of Religion: A World Survey of Discrimination Against Religious Minorities,” by Jonathan Fox (Bar Ilan University). The publisher’s description follows:
Religious discrimination is the norm in many countries around the world, and the rate is rising. Nearly every country which discriminates does so unequally, singling out some religious minorities for more discrimination than others. Religious tradition does not explain this complex issue. For example, Muslim majority states include both the most discriminatory and tolerant states in the world, as is also the case with Christian majority states. Religious ideologies, nationalism, regime, culture, security issues, and political issues are also all part of the answer. In The Unfree Exercise of Religion Jonathan Fox examines how we understand concepts like religious discrimination and religious freedom, and why countries discriminate. He makes a study of religious discrimination against 597 religious minorities in 177 countries between 1990 and 2008. While 29 types of discrimination are discussed in this book, the most common include restrictions in places of worship, proselytizing, and religious education.
- Examines how we think about concepts like religious discrimination and religious freedom, which are often used but rarely examined and defined, helping readers think more systematically about these topics
- Discusses evidence that religious discrimination is the norm rather than the exception and is on the rise, even in democracies
- Seeks to help undermine incorrect stereotypes and assumptions on the topic of religious discrimination
In February, the Nordic University Press will release “Religion, Law and Democracy: New Challenges for Society and Research” edited by Anna-Sara Lind (University of Uppsala), Mia Lövenheim (University of Uppsala), and Ulf Zackariasson (University of Uppsala). The publisher’s description follows:
How are Western, mostly secular, societies handling religion in its increasingly pluralistic and complex forms? What different forms of interactions between and negotiations of religion and religious beliefs can we see in contemporary society? What are the primary contenders in these interactions and negotiations? The authors of Religion, Law and Democracy give ample examples of a variety of interaction processes between different expressions of religion and different spheres of society, such as the media, the judicial systems and state administration and policy. The authors primarily approach these questions from a North European but also to some extent a global perspective. A common denominator is a dynamic perspective on the relation between religious organizations, society and the individual actors – in other words how all of these levels are interconnected and transformed in these processes.
In March, the Oxford University Press will release “Islam and the State in Myanmar: Muslim-Buddhist Relations and the Politics of Belonging,” edited by Melissa Crouch (University of New South Wales). The publisher’s description follows:
This volume explores the relation between Islam, Buddhism, and the state in Myanmar from both an empirical and a comparative perspective. It provides an informed response to contemporary issues facing the Muslim communities of Myanmar furthering knowledge of the interaction between state institutions, government policies and Muslim communities of the past and the present.
This volume aims to provide scholarly insights into Islam and Buddhism in Myanmar, to emphasize the inherent diversity within and among Muslim communities, and to bring a scholarly perspective and insight into the complex issues raised by the position of Muslims in Myanmar. It brings together experts in the field from a diverse array of disciplinesareligious studies, international relations, political science, history, Islamic studies, law and anthropology. The volume is focused around the themes of colonialism and the state; the everyday experiences of Muslims; and the challenges of violence and security.
In February, the Yale University Press will release “Islamism: What it Means for the Middle East and the World,” by Tarek Osman. The publisher’s description follows:
A political, social, and cultural battle is currently raging in the Middle East. On one side are the Islamists, those who believe Islam should be the region’s primary identity. In opposition are nationalists, secularists, royal families, military establishments, and others who view Islamism as a serious threat to national security, historical identity, and a cohesive society.
This provocative, vitally important work explores the development of the largest, most influential Islamic groups in the Middle East over the past century. Tarek Osman examines why political Islam managed to win successive elections and how Islamist groups in various nations have responded after ascending to power. He dissects the alliances that have formed among Islamist factions and against them, addressing the important issues of Islamism’s compatibility with modernity, with the region’s experiences in the twentieth century, and its impact on social contracts and minorities. He explains what Salafism means, its evolution, and connections to jihadist groups in the Middle East. Osman speculates on what the Islamists’ prospects for the future will mean for the region and the rest of the world.