This January, Little, Brown and Company Publishing will release “One Nation, Under Gods: The Hidden History of the Religious United States” by Peter Manseau (Smithsonian Fellow). The publisher’s description follows:
At the heart of the nation’s spiritual history are audacious and often violent scenes. But the Puritans and the shining city on the hill give us just one way to understand the United States. Rather than recite American history from a Christian vantage point, Peter Manseau proves that what really happened is worth a close, fresh look.
Thomas Jefferson himself collected books on all religions and required that the brand new Library of Congress take his books, since Americans needed to consider the “twenty gods or no god” he famously noted were revered by his neighbors. Looking at the Americans who believed in these gods, Manseau fills in America’s story of itself, from the persecuted “witches” at Salem and who they really were, to the persecuted Buddhists in WWII California, from spirituality and cults in the ’60s to the recent presidential election where both candidates were for the first time non-traditional Christians.
One Nation, Under Gods shows how much more there is to the history we tell ourselves, right back to the country’s earliest days. Dazzling in its scope and sweep, it is an American history unlike any you’ve read.
This month, Ashgate Publishing releases “Sociological Theory and the Question of Religion” edited by Andrew McKinnon and Marta Trzebiatowska (both at the University of Aberdeen, UK). The publisher’s description follows:
Religion lies near the heart of the classical sociological tradition, yet it no longer occupies the same place within the contemporary sociological enterprise. This relative absence has left sociology under-prepared for thinking about religion’s continuing importance in new issues, movements, and events in the twenty-first century. This book seeks to address this lacunae by offering a variety of theoretical perspectives on the study of religion that bridge the gap between mainstream concerns of sociologists and the sociology of religion.
Following an assessment of the current state of the field, the authors develop an emerging critical perspective within the sociology of religion with particular focus on the importance of historical background. Re-assessing the themes of aesthetics, listening and different degrees of spiritual self-discipline, the authors draw on ethnographic studies of religious involvement in Norway and the UK. They highlight the importance of power in the sociology of religion with help from Pierre Bourdieu, Marx and Critical Discourse Analysis. This book points to emerging currents in the field and offers a productive and lively way forward, not just for sociological theory of religion, but for the sociology of religion more generally.
In December, Routledge Press will release “Tibetan Buddhism in Diaspora: Cultural Re-signification in Practice and Institutions” by Ana Cristina O. Lopes (University of São Paulo). The publisher’s description follows:
The imperialist ambitions of China – which invaded Tibet in the late 1940s – have sparked the spectacular spread of Tibetan Buddhism worldwide, and especially in western countries. This work is a study on the malleability of a particular Buddhist tradition; on its adaptability in new contexts.
The book analyses the nature of the Tibetan Buddhism in the Diaspora. It examines how the re-signification of Tibetan Buddhist practices and organizational structures in the present refers back to the dismantlement of the Tibetan state headed by the Dalai Lama and the fragmentation of Tibetan Buddhist religious organizations in general. It includes extensive multi-sited fieldwork conducted in the United States, Brazil, Europe, and Asia and a detailed analysis of contemporary documents relating to the global spread of Tibetan Buddhism. The author demonstrates that there is a “de-institutionalized” and “de-territorialized” project of political power and religious organization, which, among several other consequences, engenders the gradual “autonomization” of lamas and lineages inside the religious field of Tibetan Buddhism. Thus, a spectre of these previous institutions continues to exist outside their original contexts, and they are continually activated in ever-new settings.
Using a combination of two different academic traditions – namely, the Brazilian anthropological tradition and the American Buddhist studies tradition – it investigates the “process of cultural re-signification” of Tibetan Buddhism in the context of its Diaspora. Thus, it will be a valuable resource to students and scholars of Asian Religion, Asian Studies and Buddhism.
This January, Oxford University Press will release “Provincial Hinduism: Religion and Community in Gwalior City” by Daniel Gold (Cornell University). The publisher’s description follows:
Provincial Hinduism explores intersecting religious worlds in an ordinary Indian city that remains close to its traditional roots, while bearing witness to the impact of globalization. Daniel Gold looks at modern religious life in the central Indian city of Gwalior, drawing attention to the often complex religious sensibilities behind ordinary Hindu practice. Gold describes temples of different types, their legendary histories, and the people who patronize them. He also explores the attraction of Sufi shrines for many Gwalior Hindus. Delicate issues of socioreligious identity are highlighted through an examination of neighbors living together in a locality mixed in religion, caste, and class. Pursuing issues of community and identity, Gold turns to Gwalior’s Maharashtrians and Sindhis, groups with roots in other parts of the subcontinent that have settled in the city for generations. These groups function as internal diasporas, organizing in different ways and making distinctive contributions to local religious life. The book concludes with a focus on new religious institutions invoking nineteenth-century innovators: three religious service organizations inspired by the great Swami Vivekenanda, and two contemporary guru-centered groups tracing lineages to Radhasoami Maharaj of Agra.
Gold offers the first book-length study to analyze religious life in an ordinary, midsized Indian city, and in so doing has created an invaluable resource for scholars of contemporary Indian religion, culture, and society.
Next month, Bloomsbury Publishing will release “Radical Secularization? An Inquiry into the Religious Roots of Secular Culture” edited by Stijn Latré, Walter Van Herck, and Guido Vanheeswijck (all of the University of Antwerp, Belgium). The publisher’s description follows:
What does it mean for a society to be secular? Answering this question from a philosophical angle, “Radical Secularization?” delves into the philosophical presuppositions of secularization. Which cultural evolutions made secularization possible? International scholars from different disciplines assess the answers given by many leading philosophers such as, among others, Löwith, Blumenberg and Habermas (Germany), Gauchet and Nancy (France), Taylor and Bellah (North America). They examine the theory that secularization cannot only be regarded as a cultural change that was forced upon religion from an external source (e.g. science), but should also be considered as a phenomenon triggered by motives internal to religion. If religions are indeed capable of inner transformations, the question arises whether religions can persist in the secular societies they inadvertently helped to bring about, and how secular societies may accommodate religion.
This month, Ashgate Publishing releases “Religion Italian Style: Continuities and Changes in a Catholic Country” by Franco Garelli (University of Turin, Italy). The publisher’s description follows:
Italy’s traditional subcultures – Communist, Socialist, Liberal, Republican, Right-wing – have largely dissolved and yet Catholics have retained their vitality and solidity. How can the vast majority of Italians continue to maintain some connection with Catholicism? How much is the Italian situation influenced by the closeness of the Vatican?
Examining the religious condition of contemporary Italy, Religion Italian Style argues that the relationship between religion and society in Italy has unique characteristics when compared with what is happening in other European Catholic Countries. Exploring key topics and religious trends which question how the population feel – from the laity and the role of religions in the public sphere, to moral debates, forms of religious pluralism, and new spiritualities – this book questions how these affect religious life, and how intricately religion is interwoven with the nation’s fabric and the dynamics of the whole society.
In January, Columbia University Press will release “Rawls and Religion” edited by Tom Bailey (John Cabot University, Rome) and Valentina Gentile (LUISS University, Rome). The publisher’s description follows:
John Rawls’s influential theory of justice and public reason has often been thought to exclude religion from politics, out of fear of its illiberal and destabilizing potentials. It has therefore been criticized by defenders of religion for marginalizing and alienating the wealth of religious sensibilities, voices, and demands now present in contemporary liberal societies.
In this anthology, established scholars of Rawls and the philosophy of religion reexamine and rearticulate the central tenets of Rawls’s theory to show they in fact offer sophisticated resources for accommodating and responding to religions in liberal political life. The chapters reassert the subtlety, openness, and flexibility of his sense of liberal “respect” and “consensus,” revealing their inclusive implications for religious citizens. They also explore the means he proposes for accommodating nonliberal religions in liberal politics, developing his conception of “public reason” into a novel account of the possibilities for rational engagement between liberal and religious ideas. And they reevaluate Rawls’s liberalism from the “transcendent” perspectives of religions themselves, critically considering its normative and political value, as well as its own “religious” character. Rawls and Religion makes a unique and important contribution to contemporary debates over liberalism and its response to the proliferation of religions in contemporary political life.
In October, Bloomsbury Publishing released “Post-Materialist Religion: Pagan Identities and Value Change in Modern Europe” by Mika T. Lassander (Abo Akademi University, Finland). The publisher’s description follows:
Post-Materialist Religion discusses the transformations of the individual’s worldview in contemporary modern societies, and the role general societal value change plays in these. In doing so, Mika Lassander brings into conversation sociological theories of secularisation and social-psychological theories of interpersonal relations, the development of morality, and the nature of basic human values. The long-term decline of traditional religiosity in Europe and the emerging ethos that can be described as post-secular have brought religion and values back into popular discussion. One important theme in these discussions is about the links between religion and values, with the most common assumption being that religions are the source of individuals’ values. This book argues for the opposite view, suggesting that religions, or people’s worldviews in general, reflect the individual’s priorities.
Mika Lassander argues that the transformation of the individual’s worldview is a direct consequence of the social and economical changes in European societies since the Second World War. He suggests that the decline of traditional religiosity is not an indication of linear secularisation or of forgetting traditions, but an indication of the loss of relevance of some aspects of the traditional institutional religions. Furthermore, he argues that this is not an indication of the loss of ethical value base, but, rather, a change in the value base and consequently the transformation of the legitimating framework of this value base.
In January, Ashgate Publishing will release “The Making of a Postsecular Society: A Durkheimian Approach to Memory, Pluralism and Religion in Turkey” by Massimo Rosati (University of Rome ‘Tor Vergata’). The publisher’s description follows:
Drawing on the thought of Durkheim, this volume focuses on societal changes at the symbolic level to develop a new conceptualisation of the emergence of postsecular societies. Neo-Durkheimian categories are applied to the case of Turkey, which in recent years has shifted from a strong Republican and Kemalist view of secularism to a more Anglo-Saxon perspective. Turkish society thus constitutes an interesting case that blurs modernist distinctions between the secular and the religious and which could be described as ‘postsecular’.
Presenting three symbolic case studies – the enduring image of the founder of the Republic Atatürk, the contested site of Ayasofia, and the remembering and commemoration of the murdered journalist Hrant Dink – The Making of a Postsecular Society analyses the cultural relationship that the modern Republic has always had with Europe, considering the possible implications of the Turkish model of secularism for a specifically European self-understanding of modernity.
Based on a rigorous construction of theoretical categories and on a close scrutiny of the common challenges confronting Europe and its Turkish neighbour long considered ‘other’ with regard to the accommodation of religious difference, this book sheds light on the possibilities for Europe to find new ways of arranging the relationship between the secular and the religious. As such, it will appeal to scholars of social theory, the sociology of religion, secularisation and religious difference, and social change.
In January, Palgrave Macmillan will release “Religion and Post-Conflict Statebuilding: Roman Catholic and Sunni Islamic Perspectives” by Dennis Dragovic (University of Melbourne). The publisher’s description follows:
Was religion a friend or foe in the post-conflict statebuilding endeavours of Iraq and Afghanistan? An under-explored area in academia and policy circles alike, religious institutions are important non-state actors that wield considerable influence and can draw upon extensive resources. In this book, Dragovic considers how the unique traits of religious institutions can make or break statebuilding efforts. But understanding how religious institutions can contribute does not explain why they would. Drawing from the theologies of Roman Catholicism and Sunni Islam the book diverges from traditional approaches such as rational choice theory and instead embraces a teleological view recognizing the importance of belief in understanding a religious institution’s motivations. Using the author’s extensive experience as a practitioner, it then applies theory and theology to the practical case study of Bosnia and Herzegovina.