Tag Archives: Religion and Culture

Romano, “Markets and Marketplaces in Medieval Italy, c. 1100 to c. 1440″

Apropos of recent posts by Mark and our guest, Professor Nathan Oman, here isRomano an interesting book by Professor Dennis Romano (Syracuse) on the cultural and moral importance of the market and the marketplace in the high medieval and early renaissance period, Markets and Marketplaces in Medieval Italy, c. 1100 to c. 1440, published by Yale University Press last month. The publisher’s description follows.

Cathedrals and civic palaces stand to this day as symbols of the dynamism and creativity of the city-states that flourished in Italy during the Middle Ages. Markets and Marketplaces in Medieval Italy argues that the bustling yet impermanent sites of markets played an equally significant role, not only in the economic life of the Italian communes, but in their political, social, and cultural life as well. Drawing on a range of evidence from cities and towns across northern and central Italy, Dennis Romano explores the significance of the marketplace as the symbolic embodiment of the common good; its regulation and organization; the ethics of economic exchange; and how governments and guilds sought to promote market values. With a special focus on the spatial, architectural, and artistic elements of the marketplace, Romano adds new dimensions to our understanding of the evolution of the market economy and the origins of commercial capitalism and Renaissance individualism.

Miller, “Mappila Muslim Culture”

This June, SUNY Press will release “Mappila Muslim Culture: How a Historic Muslim Community in India Has Blended Tradition and Modernity” by Roland E. Miller (Emeritus Professor at Luther College, University of Regina, and Luther Seminary).  The publisher’s description follows:

Mappila MuslimsThis book provides a comprehensive account of the distinct culture of the Mappila Muslims, a large community from the southern Indian state of Kerala. Although they were the first Muslim community in South Asia, the Mappilas are little-known in the West. Roland E. Miller explores the Mappilas’ fourteen-century-long history of social adaptation and their current status as a successful example of Muslim interaction with modernity. Once feared, now admired, Kerala’s Mappilas have produced an intellectual renaissance and renewed their ancient status as a model of social harmony. Miller provides an account of Mappila history and looks at the formation of Mappila culture, which has developed through the interaction of Islamic and Malayali influences. Descriptions of current day life cycles, religion, ritual, work life, education, and leadership are included.

“Reinhold Niebuhr: Major Works on Religion and Politics” (Sifton, ed.)

This month, the Library of America released “Reinhold Niebuhr: Major Works on Religion and Politics” edited by Elisabeth Sifton. The publisher’s description follows:

From the 1920s through the 1960s, the Protestant theologian Reinhold Niebuhr was among America’s most prominent public intellectuals. As a pastor, teacher, and writer, he bridged the divide between religion and politics with perspicacity, grace, and singular intelligence, whether writing about pacifism and “just war” theory, the problem of evil in history, or the crises of war, the Depression, and social conflict. His provocative essays, lectures, and sermons from before and during World War II, in the postwar years, and at the time of the Civil Rights Movement offered searching analyses of the forces shaping American life and politics. Their profound insights into the causes of economic inequality, the challenges of achieving social justice, and the risks of adventurism in the international sphere are as relevant today as they were when he composed them.

This volume, prepared with extensive notes and a chronology by the author’s daughter, Elisabeth Sifton, is the largest, most comprehensive edition of Niebuhr’s writings ever published. It brings together the books Leaves from the Notebook of a Tamed Cynic (1929), his personal reflections on his experiences as a young pastor in Detroit as it was being transformed by the explosive growth of the auto industry; Moral Man and Immoral Society (1932), a brilliant and tough-minded work that draws out the implications of Niebuhr’s view that while individuals can sometimes overcome the temptations of self-interest, larger groups never can; The Children of Light and the Children of Darkness (1944), a passionate defense of democracy written during World War II; and the essential study that Andrew Bacevich has called “the most important book ever written on U.S. foreign policy”: The Irony of American History (1952), a consideration of American conduct in the early Cold War years that takes equal aim at Soviet communism and at the moral complacency of the United States in its newfound global ascendancy.

These four works are supplemented with essays, lectures, and sermons drawn from Niebuhr’s many other books, as well as prayers—among them the well-known Serenity Prayer. The volume also includes a chronologically arranged selection of his journalism about current events, many of the pieces appearing here in book form for the first time. “We are bound to go back to Niebuhr,” the historian Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr. once wrote, “because we cannot escape the dark heart of man and because we cannot permit an awareness of this darkness to inhibit action and abolish hope.”

Witte, “The Western Case for Monogamy Over Polygamy”

In May, Cambridge University Press will release “The Western Case for Monogamy Over Polygamy” by John Witte, Jr. (Emory University). The publisher’s description follows:

For more than 2,500 years, the Western tradition has embraced monogamous marriage as an essential institution for the flourishing of men and women, parents and children, society and the state. At the same time, polygamy has been considered a serious crime that harms wives and children, correlates with sundry other crimes and abuses, and threatens good citizenship and political stability. The West has thus long punished all manner of plural marriages and denounced the polygamous teachings of selected Jews, Muslims, Anabaptists, Mormons, and others. John Witte, Jr. carefully documents the Western case for monogamy over polygamy from antiquity until today. He analyzes the historical claims that polygamy is biblical, natural, and useful alongside modern claims that anti-polygamy laws violate personal and religious freedom. While giving the arguments pro and con a full hearing, Witte concludes that the Western historical case against polygamy remains compelling and urges Western nations to hold the line on monogamy.

Kidd & Hankins, “Baptists in America”

This May, Oxford University Press will release “Baptists in America” by Thomas S. Kidd (Baylor University) and Barry Hankins (Baylor University).  The publisher’s description follows:

Baptists in AmericaThe Puritans called Baptists “the troublers of churches in all places” and hounded them out of Massachusetts Bay Colony. Four hundred years later, Baptists are the second-largest religious group in America, and their influence matches their numbers. They have built strong institutions, from megachurches to publishing houses to charities to mission organizations, and have firmly established themselves in the mainstream of American culture. Yet the historical legacy of outsider status lingers, and the inherently fractured nature of their faith makes Baptists ever wary of threats from within as well as without.

In Baptists in America, Thomas S. Kidd and Barry Hankins explore the long-running tensions between church, state, and culture that Baptists have shaped and navigated. Despite the moment of unity that their early persecution provided, their history has been marked by internal battles and schisms that were microcosms of national events, from the conflict over slavery that divided North from South to the conservative revolution of the 1970s and 80s. Baptists have made an indelible impact on American religious and cultural history, from their early insistence that America should have no established church to their place in the modern-day culture wars, where they frequently advocate greater religious involvement in politics. Yet the more mainstream they have become, the more they have been pressured to conform to the mainstream, a paradox that defines–and is essential to understanding–the Baptist experience in America.

Kidd and Hankins, both practicing Baptists, weave the threads of Baptist history alongside those of American history. Baptists in America is a remarkable story of how one religious denomination was transformed from persecuted minority into a leading actor on the national stage, with profound implications for American society and culture.

Alavi, “Muslim Cosmopolitanism in the Age of Empire”

This month, Harvard University Press releases “Muslim Cosmopolitanism in the Age of Empire” by Seema Alavi (University of Delhi). The publisher’s description follows:

Muslim Cosmopolitanism in the Age of Empire recovers the stories of five Indian Muslim scholars who, in the aftermath of the uprising of 1857, were hunted by British authorities, fled their homes in India for such destinations as Cairo, Mecca, and Istanbul, and became active participants in a flourishing pan-Islamic intellectual network at the cusp of the British and Ottoman empires. Seema Alavi traces this network, born in the age of empire, which became the basis of a global Muslim sensibility—a form of political and cultural affiliation that competes with ideas of nationhood today as it did in the previous century.

By demonstrating that these Muslim networks depended on European empires and that their sensibility was shaped by the West in many subtle ways, Alavi challenges the idea that all pan-Islamic configurations are anti-Western or pro-Caliphate. Indeed, Western imperial hegemony empowered the very inter-Asian Muslim connections that went on to outlive European empires. Diverging from the medieval idea of the umma, this new cosmopolitan community stressed consensus in matters of belief, ritual, and devotion and found inspiration in the liberal reforms then gaining traction in the Ottoman world. Alavi breaks new ground in the writing of nineteenth-century history by engaging equally with the South Asian and Ottoman worlds, and by telling a non-Eurocentric story of global modernity without overlooking the importance of the British Empire.

“Secularism, Catholicism, and the Future of Public Life” (Adler, ed.)

This June, Oxford University Press will release “Secularism, Catholicism, and the Future of Public Life: A Dialogue with Ambassador Douglas W. Kmiec” edited by Gary J. Adler, Jr. (University of Southern California).  The publisher’s description follows:

Secularism, Catholicism and the Future of Public LIfeHow can religion contribute to democracy in a secular age? And what can the millennia-old Catholic tradition say to church-state controversies in the United States and around the world? Secularism, Catholicism, and the Future of Public Life, organized through the work of the Institute for Advanced Catholic Studies (www.ifacs.com), responds to these questions by presenting a dialogue between Douglas W. Kmiec, a leading scholar of American constitutional law and Catholic legal thought, and an international cast of experts from a range of fields, including legal theory, international relations, journalism, religion, and social science.

“Crossings and Crosses” (Strandbrink et al., eds.)

This April, De Gruyter Press will release “Crossings and Crosses: Borders, Educations and Religions in Northern Europe” edited by Peter Strandbrink, Jenny Berglund, and Thomas Lundén, (Södertörn University, Stockholm, Sweden). The publisher’s description follows:

Crossings and CrossesDealing with different regions and cases, the contributions in this volume address and critically explore the theme of borders, educations, and religions in northern Europe. As shown in different ways, and contrary to popular ideas, there seems to be little reason to believe that religious and civic identity formation through public education is becoming less parochial and more culturally open. Even where state borders are porous, where commerce, culture, and trade as well as associative, personal, and social life display stronger liminal traits, normative education remains surprisingly national. This situation is remarkable and goes against the grain of current notions of both accelerating globalisation and a European regional renaissance. The book also takes issue with the foundational tenet that liberal democracies are by definition uninvolved in matters concerning faith and belief. Instead, an implied conclusion is that secular liberal democracy is less than secular and liberal – at least in education, which is a major arena for political-cultural-ethical socialisation, as it aims to confer worldviews and frameworks of identity on young people who will eventually become full citizens and bearers/sharers of prevailing normative communities.

Penn, “When Christians First Met Muslims: A Sourcebook of the Earliest Syriac Writings on Islam”

In March, the University of California Press released “When Christians First Met Muslims: A Sourcebook of the Earliest Syriac Writings on Islam” by Michael Philip Penn (Mount Holyoke College). The publisher’s description follows:

The first Christians to meet Muslims were not Latin-speaking Christians from the western Mediterranean or Greek-speaking Christians from Constantinople but rather Christians from northern Mesopotamia who spoke the Aramaic dialect of Syriac. Living under Muslim rule from the seventh century to the present, Syriac Christians wrote the first and most extensive accounts of Islam, describing a complicated set of religious and cultural exchanges not reducible to the solely antagonistic.

Through its critical introductions and new translations of this invaluable historical material, When Christians First Met Muslims allows scholars, students, and the general public to explore the earliest interactions between what eventually became the world’s two largest religions, shedding new light on Islamic history and Christian-Muslim relations.

“Buddhism beyond Borders” (Mitchell & Quli, eds.)

This June, SUNY Press will release “Buddhism beyond Borders: New Perspectives on Buddhism in the United States” by Scott A. Mitchell (Institute of Buddhist Studies) and Natalie E. F. Quli (Institute of Buddhist Studies).  The publisher’s description follows:

Buddhism Beyond BordersBuddhism beyond Borders provides a fresh consideration of Buddhism in the American context. It includes both theoretical discussions and case studies to highlight the tension between studies that locate Buddhist communities in regionally specific areas and those that highlight the translocal nature of an increasingly interconnected world. Whereas previous examinations of Buddhism in North America have assumed a more or less essentialized and homogeneous “American” culture, the essays in this volume offer a corrective, situating American Buddhist groups within the framework of globalized cultural flows, while exploring the effects of local forces. Contributors examine regionalism within American Buddhisms, Buddhist identity and ethnicity as academic typologies, Buddhist modernities, the secularization and hybridization of Buddhism, Buddhist fiction, and Buddhist controversies involving the Internet, among other issues.