Tag Archives: Religion and Culture

Billioud and Thoraval, “The Sage and the People”

In August, the Oxford University Press will release “The Sage and the People: The Confucian Revival in China,” by Sébastien Billioud (University Paris-Diderot, Sorbonne Paris Cité) and Joël Thoraval (Research Center on Modern and Contemporary China, School for Higher Studies in Social Sciences (EHESS)). The publisher’s description follows:

After a century during which Confucianism was viewed by academics as a relic of the imperial past or, at best, a philosophical resource, its striking comeback in Chinese society today raises a number of questions about the role that this ancient tradition might play in a contemporary context.

The Sage and the People is the first comprehensive enquiry into the “Confucian revival” that began in China during the 2000s. Based on extensive anthropological fieldwork carried out over eight years in various parts of the country, it explores the re-appropriation and reinvention of popular practices in fields as diverse as education, self-cultivation, religion, ritual, and politics.

The book analyzes the complexity of the “Confucian revival” within the broader context of emerging challenges to such categories as religion, philosophy, and science that prevailed in modernization narratives throughout the last century. Exploring state cults both in Mainland China and Taiwan, authors Sébastien Billioud and Joël Thoraval compare the interplay between politics and religion on the two shores of the Taiwan strait and attempt to shed light on possible future developments of Confucianism in Chinese society.

Smith, “Secular Faith”

In September, the University of Chicago Press will release “Secular Faith: How Culture has Trumped Religion in American Politics,” by Mark A. Smith (University of Washington). The publisher’s description follows: 

When Pope Francis recently answered “Who am I to judge?” when
asked about homosexuality, he ushered in a new era for the Catholic church. A decade ago, it would have been unthinkable for a pope to
express tolerance for homosexuality. Yet shifts of this kind are actually
common in the history of Christian groups. Within the United States, Christian leaders have regularly revised their teachings to match the beliefs and opinions gaining support among their members and larger society.

Mark A. Smith provocatively argues that religion is not nearly the unchanging conservative influence in American politics that we have come to think it is. In fact, in the long run, religion is best understood as responding to changing political and cultural values rather than shaping them. Smith makes his case by charting five contentious issues in America’s history: slavery, divorce, homosexuality, abortion, and women’s rights. For each, he shows how the political views of even the most conservative Christians evolved in the same direction as the rest of society—perhaps not as swiftly, but always on the same arc. During periods of cultural transition, Christian leaders do resist prevailing values and behaviors, but those same leaders inevitably acquiesce—often by reinterpreting the Bible—if their positions become no longer tenable. Secular ideas and influences thereby shape the ways Christians read and interpret their scriptures.

So powerful are the cultural and societal norms surrounding us that Christians in America today hold more in common morally and politically with their atheist neighbors than with the Christians of earlier centuries. In fact, the strongest predictors of people’s moral beliefs are not their religious commitments or lack thereof but rather when and where they were born. A thoroughly researched and ultimately hopeful book on the prospects for political harmony, Secular Faith demonstrates how, over the long run, boundaries of secular and religious cultures converge.

Atzori, “Islamism and Globalisation in Jordan: The Muslim Brotherhood’s Quest for Hegemony”

In June, Routledge released “Islamism and Globalisation in Jordan: The Muslim Brotherhood’s Quest for Hegemony” by Daniel Atzori (FC Business Intelligence). The publisher’s description follows:

This book explores the activities of the local Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan. It examines how the Brotherhood, working to establish an alternative social, political and moral order through a network of Islamic institutions, made a huge contribution to the transformation of Jordanian society. It reveals, however, that the Brotherhood’s involvement in the economic realm, in Islamic financial activities, led it to engage with the neo-liberal approach to the economy, with the result that the Islamic social institutions created by the Brotherhood, such as charities, lost their importance in favour of profit-oriented activities owned by leading Islamist individuals. The book thereby demonstrates the “hybridisation” of Islamism, and argues that Islamism is not an abstract set of beliefs, but rather a collection of historically constructed practices. The book also illustrates how globalisation is profoundly influencing culture and society in the Arab world, though modified by the adoption of an Islamic framework.

“Young Sikhs in a Global World: Negotiating Traditions, Identities and Authorities” (Jacobsen & Myrvold, eds.)

In August, Ashgate Publishing will release “Young Sikhs in a Global World: Negotiating Traditions, Identities and Authorities” edited by Knut A. Jacobsen (University of Bergen, Norway) and Kristina Myrvold (Linnaeus University, Sweden). The publisher’s description follows:

In attempting to carve out a place for themselves in local and global contexts, young Sikhs mobilize efforts to construct, choose, and emphasize different aspects of religious and cultural identification depending on their social setting and context. Young Sikhs in a Global World presents current research on young Sikhs with multicultural and transnational life-styles and considers how they interpret, shape and negotiate religious identities, traditions, and authority on an individual and collective level.

With a particular focus on the experiences of second generation Sikhs as they interact with various people in different social fields and cultural contexts, the book is constructed around three parts: ‘family and home’, ‘public display and gender’, and ‘reflexivity and translations’. New scholarly voices and established academics present qualitative research and ethnographic fieldwork and analyse how young Sikhs try to solve social, intellectual and psychological tensions between the family and the expectations of the majority society, between Punjabi culture and religious values.

“Diasporas of the Modern Middle East: Contextualising Community” (Gorman & Kasbarian, eds.)

This month, Edinburgh University Press releases “Diasporas of the Modern Middle East: Contextualising Community” edited by Anthony Gorman (University of Edinburgh) and Sossie Kasbarian (University of Lancaster). The publisher’s description follows:

Approaching the Middle East through the lens of Diaspora Studies, the 11 detailed case studies in this volume explore the experiences of different diasporic communities in and of the region, and look at the changing conceptions and practice of diaspora in the modern Middle East. They show how concepts central to diaspora such as ‘homeland’, ‘host state’, ‘exile’, ‘longing’, ‘memory’ and ‘return’ have been deconstructed and reinstated with new meaning through each complex diasporic experience. They also examine how different groups have struggled to claim and negotiate a space for themselves in the Middle East, and the ways in which these efforts have been aided and hampered by the historical, social, legal, political, economic, colonial and post-colonial specificities of the region.

In situating these different communities within their own narratives – of conflict, resistance, war, genocide, persecution, displacement, migration – these studies stress both the common elements of diaspora but also their individual specificity in a way that challenges, complements and at times subverts the dominant nationalist historiography of the region.

Urban-Mead, “The Gender of Piety: Family, Faith, and Colonial Rule in Matabeleland, Zimbabwe”

In July, Ohio University Press will release “The Gender of Piety: Family, Faith, and Colonial Rule in Matabeleland, Zimbabwe” by Wendy Urban-Mead (Bard College). The publisher’s description follows:

The Gender of Piety is an intimate history of the Brethren in Christ Church in Zimbabwe, or BICC, as related through six individual life histories that extend from the early colonial years through the first decade after independence. Taken together, these six lives show how men and women of the BICC experienced and sequenced their piety in different ways. Women usually remained tied to the church throughout their lives, while men often had a more strained relationship with it. Church doctrine was not always flexible enough to accommodate expected masculine gender roles, particularly male membership in political and economic institutions or participation in important male communal practices.

The study is based on more than fifteen years of extensive oral history research supported by archival work in Zimbabwe, the United Kingdom, and the United States. The oral accounts make it clear, official versions to the contrary, that the church was led by spiritually powerful women and that maleness and mission-church notions of piety were often incompatible.

The life-history approach illustrates how the tension of gender roles both within and without the church manifested itself in sometimes unexpected ways: for example, how a single family could produce both a legendary woman pastor credited with mediating multiple miracles and a man — her son —  who joined the armed wing of the Zimbabwe African People’s Union nationalist political party and fought in Zimbabwe’s liberation war in the 1970s. Investigating the lives of men and women in equal measure, The Gender of Piety uses a gendered interpretive lens to analyze the complex relationship between the church and broader social change in this region of southern Africa.

Stoll, “Inherit the Holy Mountain”

In May, the Oxford University Press released “Inherit the Holy Mountain: Religion and the Rise of American Environmentalism,” by Mark Stoll (Texas Tech University). The publisher’s description follows: 

In Inherit the Holy Mountain, historian Mark Stoll introduces us to the religious roots of the American environmental movement. Religion, he shows, provided environmentalists both with deeply-embedded moral and cultural ways of viewing the world and with content, direction, and tone for the causes they espoused.

Stoll discovers that specific denominational origins corresponded with characteristic sets of ideas about nature and the environment as well as distinctive aesthetic reactions to nature, as can be seen in key works of art analyzed throughout the book.

Stoll also provides insight into the possible future of environmentalism in the United States, concluding with an examination of the current religious scene and what it portends for the future. By debunking the supposed divide between religion and American environmentalism, Inherit the Holy Mountain opens up a fundamentally new narrative in environmental studies.

“Material Religion in Modern Britain: The Spirit of Things” (Jones & Matthews-Jones, eds.)

In August, Palgrave Macmillan will release “Material Religion in Modern Britain: The Spirit of Things”  edited by Timothy Willem Jones (La Trobe University, Australia) and Lucinda Matthews-Jones (Liverpool John Moores University, UK). The publisher’s description follows:

A growing awareness of religious plurality and religious conflict in 9781137540553
contemporary society has led to a search for new ways to understand religious change beyond traditional subjects of British ecclesiology. Narratives of the gradual decline of Christianity dominate this field; yet many scholars now concede that Britain’s religious landscape was more varied and rich than these narratives would suggest. Material Religion in Modern Britain responds to this challenge by bringing emerging scholarship on material culture to bear on studies of religion and spirituality. The collection is the first to apply this suite of analytical methods to the traditional subjects of British religious studies and the full spectrum of religious denominations, sects, and movements that constituted Britain’s multi-faith landscape in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The book reveals how, across this religious spectrum, objects were, and continue to be, used in the performance and production of religious faith and subjectivity. In doing so it expands our understanding of the persistence of religious belief and culture in a secularising, secularized, and post-secular society.

Levin, “Collectivization and Social Engineering: Soviet Administration and the Jews of Uzbekistan, 1917-1939″

In July, Brill will release “Collectivization and Social Engineering: Soviet Administration and the Jews of Uzbekistan, 1917-1939” by Zeev Levin (Hebrew University of Jerusalem). The publisher’s description follows:

Zeev Levin seeks to provide a comprehensive picture of government efforts to socialize the Jewish masses in Uzbekistan, a process in which the central Soviet government took part, together with the local, republican and regional administrations and Soviet Jewish activists. This research presents a chapter in the history of the Jews in Uzbekistan, as well as contributing to the study of the socialization process of the Jewish population in the USSR in general. It also contributes to the study of relations among political and government bodies and decision makers. The study is based on archival documents and provides a unique glance at the implementation of Soviet nationalities policy towards Bukharan Jews while comparing it to other national minority groups in Uzbekistan.

“Handbook of Religion and the Asian City” (van der Veer, ed.)

Last month, the University of California Press released “Handbook of Religion and the Asian City: Aspiration and Urbanization in the Twenty-First Century,”  edited by Peter van der Veer (Director at the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity in Göttingen and University Professor at Large at Utrecht University). The publisher’s description follows: 

Handbook of Religion and the Asian City highlights the creative and innovative role of urban aspirations in Asian world cities. It does notassume that religion is of the past and that the urban is secular, but instead points out that urban politics and governance often manifest religious boundaries and sensibilities—in short, that public religion is politics. The essays in this book show how projects of secularism come up against projects and ambitions of a religious nature, a particular form of contestation that takes the city as its public arena.

Questioning the limits of cities like Mumbai, Singapore, Seoul, Beijing, Bangkok, and Shanghai, the authors assert that Asian cities have to be understood not as global models of futuristic city planning but as larger landscapes of spatial imagination that have specific cultural and political trajectories. Religion plays a central role in the politics of heritage that is emerging from the debris of modernist city planning.

Megacities are arenas for the assertion of national and transnational aspirations as Asia confronts modernity. Cities are also sites of speculation, not only for those who invest in real estate but also for those who look for housing, employment, and salvation. In its potential and actual mobility, the sacred creates social space in which they all can meet. Handbook of Religion and the Asian City makes the comparative case that one cannot study the historical patterns of urbanization in Asia without paying attention to the role of religion in urban aspirations.