Tag Archives: Religion and Culture

“Family, Religion and Law” (Shah, Foblets & Rohe, eds.)

This past June Ashgate publishing released Family, Religion and Law: Cultural Encounters in Europe, edited by Prakash Shah (Queen Mary University of London), Marie-Claire Foblets (Max Plank Institute for Social Anthropology) and Mathias Rohe (Erlangen-Nurnburg University).  The publisher’s description follows:

PPCspine22mmThis collection discusses how official legal systems do and should respond to the reality of a plurality of family types and origins within their jurisdictions. It further examines the challenges that arise for practitioners, including lawyers and judges, when faced with such plurality. Focussing on empirical research, the volume presents legal and sociological data of unprecedented comparative depth. It also includes a discussion of how members of minority families respond to the need to organise their legal relationships, and to resolve their disputes in the shadow of official legal systems which differ from those of their familial and communal traditions. The work invites reflection, and demonstrates the urgency and complexity of the questions regarding the search for justice in the field of family life in Europe today.

Nedilsky, “Converts to Civil Society”

This month, Baylor University Press released “Converts to Civil Society: Christianity and Political Culture in Contemporary Hong Kong” by Lida V. Nedilsky (North Park University).  The publisher’s description follows:

Converts to Civil SocietyLida V. Nedilsky captures the public ramifications of a personal, Christian faith at the time of Hong Kong’s pivotal political turmoil. From 1997 to 2008, in the much-anticipated reintegration of Hong Kong into Chinese sovereignty, she conducted detailed interviews of more than fifty Hong Kong people and then followed their daily lives, documenting their involvement at the intersection of church and state.

Citizens of Hong Kong enjoy abundant membership options, both social and religious, under Hong Kong’s free market culture. Whether identifying as Catholic or Protestant, or growing up in religious or secular households, Nedilsky’s interviewees share an important characteristic: a story of choosing faith. Across the spheres of family and church, as well as civic organizations and workplaces, Nedilsky shows how individuals break and forge bonds, enter and exit commitments, and transform the public ends of choice itself. From this intimate, firsthand vantage point, Converts to Civil Society reveals that people’s independent movements not only invigorate and shape religious community but also enliven a wider public life.

“Profane” (Grenda, Beneke, & Nash, eds.)

This month, University of California Press will release Profane: Sacrilegious Expression in a Multicultural Age, edited by Christopher Grenda (Bronx Community College and City University of New York), Chris Beneke (Bentley University), and David Nash (Oxford Brookes University).  The publisher’s description follows:

ProfaneHumans have been uttering profane words and incurring the consequences for millennia. But contemporary events—from the violence in 2006 that followed Danish newspaper cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammed to the 2012 furor over the Innocence of Muslims video—indicate that controversy concerning blasphemy has reemerged in explosive transnational form. In an age when electronic media transmit offense as rapidly as profane images and texts can be produced, blasphemy is bracingly relevant again.

In this volume, a distinguished cast of international scholars examines the profound difficulties blasphemy raises for modern societies. Contributors examine how the sacred is formed and maintained, how sacrilegious expression is conceived and regulated, and how the resulting conflicts resist easy adjudication. Their studies range across art, history, politics, law, literature, and theology. Because of the global nature of the problem, the volume’s approach is comparative, examining blasphemy across cultural and geopolitical boundaries.

Gibson & Karim, “Women of the Nation”

This month, New York University Press releases “Women of the Nation: Between Black Protest and Sunni Islam” by Dawn-Marie Gibson (Royal Holloway, University of London) and Jamillah Karim (international lecturer, formerly a professor at Spelman College). The publisher’s description follows:

With vocal public figures such as Malcolm X, Elijah Muhammad, and Louis Farrakhan, the Nation of Islam often appears to be a male-centric religious movement, and over 60 years of scholarship have perpetuated that notion. Yet, women have been pivotal in the NOI’s development, playing a major role in creating the public image that made it appealing and captivating.

Women of the Nation draws on oral histories and interviews with approximately 100 women across several cities to provide an overview of women’s historical contributions and their varied experiences of the NOI, including both its continuing community under Farrakhan and its offshoot into Sunni Islam under Imam W.D. Mohammed. The authors examine how women have interpreted and navigated the NOI’s gender ideologies and practices, illuminating the experiences of African-American, Latina, and Native American women within the NOI and their changing roles within this patriarchal movement. The book argues that the Nation of Islam experience for women has been characterized by an expression of Islam sensitive to American cultural messages about race and gender, but also by gender and race ideals in the Islamic tradition. It offers the first exhaustive study of women’s experiences in both the NOI and the W.D. Mohammed community.

“Christian Faith and Social Justice” (McCracken, ed.)

In June, Bloomsbury Publishing released Christian Faith and Social Justice: Five Views, edited by Vic McCracken (Abilene Christian University).  The publisher’s description follows:

Christian Faith and Social JusticeThe Judeo-Christian tradition testifies to a God that cries out, demanding that justice “roll down like waters, righteousness like an ever-flowing stream” (Amos 5:24). Christians agree that being advocates for justice is critical to the Christian witness. And yet one need not look widely to see that Christians disagree about what social justice entails. What does justice have to do with healthcare reform, illegal immigration, and same-sex marriage? Should Christians support tax policies that effectively require wealthy individuals to fund programs that benefit the poor? Does justice require that we acknowledge and address the inequalities borne out of histories of gender and ethnic exclusivity? Is the Christian vision distinct from non-Christian visions of social justice? Christians disagree over the proper answer to these questions. In short, Christians agree that justice is important but disagree about what a commitment to justice means.

Christian Faith and Social Justice makes sense of the disagreements among Christians over the meaning of justice by bringing together five highly regarded Christian philosophers to introduce and defend rival perspectives on social justice in the Christian tradition. While it aspires to offer a lucid introduction to these theories, the purpose of this book is more than informative. It is purposefully dialogical and is structured so that contributors are able to model for the reader reasoned exchange among philosophers who disagree about the meaning of social justice. The hope is that the reader is left with a better understanding of range of perspectives in the Christian tradition about social justice.

Ndzovuis, “Muslims in Kenyan Politics”

In September, Northwestern University Press will publish Muslims in Kenyan Politics: Political Involvement, Marginalization, and Minority Status by Hassan Ndzovuis (Moi University, Kenya).  The publisher’s description follows:

Muslims in KenyaMuslims in Kenyan Politics explores the changing relationship between Muslims and the state in Kenya from precolonial times to the present, culminating in the radicalization of a section of the Muslim population in recent decades. The politicization of Islam in Kenya is deeply connected with the sense of marginalization that shapes Muslims’ understanding of Kenyan politics and government policies.

Kenya’s Muslim population comprises ethnic Arabs, Indians, and black Africans, and its status has varied historically. Under British rule, an imposed racial hierarchy affected Muslims particularly, thwarting the development of a united political voice. Drawing on a broad range of interviews and historical research, Ndzovu presents a nuanced picture of political associations during the postcolonial period and explores the role of Kenyan Muslims as political actors.

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Joas, “Faith as an Option”

In August, Stanford University Press will release Faith as an Option by Hans Joas (Humboldt University, Berlin and University of Chicago).  The publisher’s description follows:

Faith as an OptionMany people these days regard religion as outdated and are unable to understand how believers can intellectually justify their faith. Nonbelievers have long assumed that progress in technology and the sciences renders religion irrelevant. Believers, in contrast, see religion as vital to society’s spiritual and moral well-being. But does modernization lead to secularization? Does secularization lead to moral decay? Sociologist Hans Joas argues that these two supposed certainties have kept scholars from serious contemporary debate and that people must put these old arguments aside in order for debate to move forward. The emergence of a “secular option” does not mean that religion must decline, but that even believers must now define their faith as one option among many.

In this book, Joas spells out some of the consequences of the abandonment of conventional assumptions for contemporary religion and develops an alternative to the cliché of an inevitable conflict between Christianity and modernity. Arguing that secularization comes in waves and stressing the increasing contingency of our worlds, he calls upon faith to articulate contemporary experiences. Churches and religious communities must take into account religious diversity, but the modern world is not a threat to Christianity or to faith in general. On the contrary, Joas says, modernity and faith can be mutually enriching.

Kopelson, “Faithful Bodies”

Next month, New York University Press will publish Faithful Bodies: Performing Religion and Race in the Puritan Atlantic by Heather Miyano Kopelson Faithful Bodies(University of Alabama).  The publisher’s description follows.

In the seventeenth-century English Atlantic, religious beliefs and practices played a central role in creating racial identity. English Protestantism provided a vocabulary and structure to describe and maintain boundaries between insider and outsider. In this path-breaking study, Heather Miyano Kopelson peels back the layers of conflicting definitions of bodies and competing practices of faith in the puritan Atlantic, demonstrating how the categories of “white,” “black,” and “Indian” developed alongside religious boundaries between “Christian” and “heathen” and between “Catholic” and “Protestant.”

Faithful Bodies focuses on three communities of Protestant dissent in the Atlantic World: Bermuda, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island. In this “puritan Atlantic,” religion determined insider and outsider status: at times Africans and Natives could belong as long as they embraced the Protestant faith, while Irish Catholics and English Quakers remained suspect. Colonists’ interactions with indigenous peoples of the Americas and with West Central Africans shaped their understandings of human difference and its acceptable boundaries. Prayer, religious instruction, sexual behavior, and other public and private acts became markers of whether or not blacks and Indians were sinning Christians or godless heathens. As slavery became law, transgressing people of color counted less and less as sinners in English puritans’ eyes, even as some of them made Christianity an integral part of their communities. As Kopelson shows, this transformation proceeded unevenly but inexorably during the long seventeenth century.

Sherkat, “Changing Faith: The Dynamics and Consequences of Americans’ Shifting Religious Identities”

This August, NYU Press will publish Changing Faith: The Dynamics and Consequences of Americans’ Shifting Religious Identities by Darren Sherkat (Southern Illinois University). The publisher’s description follows.

More than anywhere else in the Western world, religious attachments in America are quite flexible, with over 40 percent of U.S. citizens shifting their religious identification at least once in their lives. In Changing Faith, Darren E. Sherkat draws on empirical data from large-scale national studies to provide a comprehensive portrait of religious change and its consequences in the United States.
With analysis spanning across generations and ethnic groups, the volume traces the evolution of the experience of Protestantism and Catholicism in the United States, the dramatic growth of Hinduism, Buddhism, and Islam, and the rise of non-identification, now the second most common religious affiliation in the country. Drawing on that wealth of data, it details the impact of religious commitments on broad arenas of American social life, including family and sexuality, economic well-being, political commitments, and social values.
Exploring religious change among those of European heritage as well as of Eastern and Western European immigrants, African Americans, Asians, Latin Americans, and Native Americans, Changing Faith not only provides a comprehensive and ethnically inclusive demographic overview of the juncture between religion and ethnicity within both the private and public sphere, but also brings empirical analysis back to the sociology of religion.

History Goes On

At the Liberty Law Blog, my friend John McGinnis has posted a very perceptive criticism of Francis Fukuyama’s recent essay on the 25th anniversary of his famous article, “The End of History.” That extremely influential article, which Fukuyama wrote in the heady days of 1989, argued that liberal democracy owned the future. After the fall of the Berlin Wall, many commentators believed this. All other forms of social ordering had failed and nations across the globe seemed to be falling in line. Cultural differences that once mattered no longer did. From Bangkok to Ankara to Moscow, everyone wanted to be a liberal democrat. And even if they didn’t, the logic of liberal democracy was inescapable and its appeal irresistible.

Not everyone at the time felt this way, of course. The late Samuel Huntington wrote a great book, “The Clash of Civilizations,” that responded to Fukuyama and argued that old cultural patterns would remain relevant. For example, Huntington wrote, profound cultural differences divide Western and Orthodox Christian civilizations, and divide those civilizations from Islamic and Hindu civilizations. For writing this, Huntington was disparaged as a know-nothing by leading academics and commentators–the People Who Knew Better.

Twenty-five years later, Huntington appears to have made the better bet. The world hasn’t turned out as Fukuyama predicted. To his credit, John writes, Fukuyama concedes this. But he still maintains that liberal democracy is the only plausible system for modern society. John responds–correctly, in my view–that Fukuyama is wrong. There is an inherent tension between the two components of liberal democracy: liberalism, which privileges the individual, and democracy, which privileges the community. Different societies resolve the tension differently, depending on historical, geopolitical, and cultural traditions, including religious traditions. Russia and India provide powerful recent examples.

From the belief that everyone in the world should share your values, it’s an easy leap to the conclusion that everyone in the world does. John’s essay is a helpful correction. History goes on.