Later this month, the University of Tennessee Press will release “Built with Faith: Italian American Imagination and Catholic Material Culture in New York City” by Joseph Sciorra (Queens College). The publisher’s description follows:
Over the course of 130 years, Italian American Catholics in New York City have developed a varied repertoire of devotional art and architecture to create community-based sacred spaces in their homes and neighborhoods. These spaces exist outside of but in relationship to the consecrated halls of local parishes and are sites of worship in conventionally secular locations. Such ethnic building traditions and urban ethnic landscapes have long been neglected by all but a few scholars. Joseph Sciorra’s Built with Faith offers a place-centric, ethnographic study of the religious material culture of New York City’s Italian American Catholics.
Sciorra has spent thirty-five years researching these community art forms and interviewing Italian immigrant and U.S.-born Catholics. By documenting the folklife of this group, Sciorra reveals how Italian Americans in the city use expressive culture and religious practices to trans- form everyday urban space into unique, communal sites of ethnically infused religiosity. The folk aesthetics practiced by individuals within their communities are integral to understanding how art is conceptualized, implemented, and esteemed outside of museum and gallery walls. Yard shrines, sidewalk altars, Nativity presepi, Christmas house displays, a stone-studded grotto, and neighborhood processions—often dismissed as kitsch or prized as folk art—all provide examples of the vibrant and varied ways contemporary Italian Americans use material culture, architecture, and public ceremonial display to shape the city’s religious and cultural landscapes.
Written in an accessible style that will appeal to general readers and scholars alike, Sciorra’s unique study contributes to our understanding of how value and meaning are reproduced at the confluences of everyday life.
This February, I.B. Tauris Publishers will release “Islam in America” by Jonathan Curiel. The publisher’s description follows:
Islam is a hidden ingredient in the melting pot of America. Though there are between 2 and 8 million Muslims in the USA, Islam has traditionally had little political clout compared to other minority faiths. Nonetheless it is believed to be the country’s fastest-growing religion, with a vibrant culture of theological debate, particularly regarding the role of women preachers. In Islam in America, Jonathan Curiel traces the story of America’s Muslims from the seventeenth-century slave trade to the eighteenth-century immigration wave to the Nation of Islam. Drawing on interviews in communities from industrial Michigan to rural California, Curiel portrays the diversity of practices, cultures and observances that make up Muslim America. He profiles the leading personalities and institutions representing the community, and explores their relationship to the wider politics of America, particularly after 9/11. Islam in America offers an indispensable guide to the social life of modern Islam and the diversity of contemporary America.
This March, Rowman & Littlefield Publishing will release “The Lively Experiment: Religious Toleration in America from Roger Williams to the Present” edited by Chris Beneke (Bentley College) and Christopher Grenda (CUNY-Brooklyn Community College). The publisher’s description follows:
Beginning with the legacy of Roger Williams, who in 1633 founded the first colony not restricted to people of one faith, The Lively Experiment chronicles how Americans have continually demolished traditional prejudices while at the same time erecting new walls between belief systems. The chapters gathered here reveal how Americans are sensitively attuned to irony and contradiction, to unanticipated eruptions of bigotry and unheralded acts of decency, and to the disruption caused by new movements and the reassurance supplied by old divisions. The authors examine the way ethnicity, race, and imperialism have been woven into the fabric of interreligious relations and highlight how currents of tolerance and intolerance have rippled in multiple directions. Nearly four hundred years after Roger Williams’ Rhode Island colony, the “lively experiment” of religious tolerance remains a core tenet of the American way of life. This volume honors this boisterous tradition by offering the first comprehensive account of America’s vibrant and often tumultuous history of interreligious relations.
In February, Lexington Books will release “Black Muslims and the Law: Civil Liberties from Elijah Muhammad to Muhammad Ali” by Malachi D. Crawford (University of Houston). The publisher’s description follows:
Black Muslims and the Law: Civil Liberties From Elijah Muhammad to Muhammad Ali examines the Nation of Islam’s quest for civil liberties as what might arguably be called the inaugural and first sustained challenge to the suppression of religious freedom in African American legal history. Borrowing insights from A. Leon Higgonbotham Jr.’s classic works on American slavery jurisprudence, Black Muslims and the Law reveals the Nation of Islam’s strategic efforts to engage governmental officials from a position of power, and suggests the federal executive, congressmen, judges, lawyers, law enforcement officials, prison administrators, state governments, and African American civic leaders held a common understanding of what it meant to be and not to be African American and religious in the period between World War II and the Vietnam War. The work raises basic questions about the rights of African descended people to define god, question white moral authority, and critique the moral legitimacy of American war efforts according to their own beliefs and standards.
This month, Oxford University Press releases “Religion and the Marketplace in the United States” edited by Jan Stievermann (Heidelberg University), Philip Goff (Indiana University Indianapolis), Detlef Junker (Heidelberg University), with Anthony Santoro (Heidelberg University), and Daniel Silliman (Heidelberg University). The publisher’s description follows:
Alexis de Tocqueville once described the national character of Americans as one question insistently asked: “How much money will it bring in?” G.K. Chesterton, a century later, described America as a “nation with a soul of a church.” At first glance, the two observations might appear to be diametrically opposed, but this volume shows the ways in which American religion and American business overlap and interact with one another, defining the US in terms of religion, and religion in terms of economics.
Bringing together original contributions by leading experts and rising scholars from both America and Europe, the volume pushes this field of study forward by examining the ways religions and markets in relationship can provide powerful insights and open unseen aspects into both. In essays ranging from colonial American mercantilism to modern megachurches, from literary markets to popular festivals, the authors explore how religious behavior is shaped by commerce, and how commercial practices are informed by religion. By focusing on what historians often use off-handedly as a metaphor or analogy, the volume offers new insights into three varieties of relationships: religion and the marketplace, religion in the marketplace, and religion as the marketplace. Using these categories, the contributors test the assumptions scholars have come to hold, and offer deeper insights into religion and the marketplace in America.
This March, the University of Pennsylvania Press will release “Faithful Republic: Religion and Politics in Modern America” edited by Andrew Preston (Cambridge University), Bruce Schulman (Boston University), and Julian Zelizer (Princeton University). The publisher’s description follows:
Despite constitutional limitations, the points of contact between religion and politics have deeply affected all aspects of American political development since the founding of the United States. Within partisan politics, federal institutions, and movement activism, religion and politics have rarely ever been truly separate; rather, they are two forms of cultural expression that are continually coevolving and reconfiguring in the face of social change.
Faithful Republic explores the dynamics between religion and politics in the United States from the early twentieth century to the present. Rather than focusing on the traditional question of the separation between church and state, this volume touches on many other aspects of American political history, addressing divorce, civil rights, liberalism and conservatism, domestic policy, and economics. Together, the essays blend church history and lived religion to fashion an innovative kind of political history, demonstrating the pervasiveness of religion throughout American political life.
In February, Oxford University Press will release “Sympathetic Puritans: Calvinist Fellow Feeling in Early New England” by Abram Van Engen (Washington University). The publisher’s description follows:
Revising dominant accounts of Puritanism and challenging the literary history of sentimentalism, Sympathetic Puritans argues that a Calvinist theology of sympathy shaped the politics, religion, rhetoric, and literature of early New England. Scholars have often understood and presented sentimentalism as a direct challenge to stern and stoic Puritan forebears; the standard history traces a cult of sensibility back to moral sense philosophy and the Scottish Enlightenment, not Puritan New England. Abram C. Van Engen has unearthed pervasive evidence of sympathy in a large archive of Puritan sermons, treatises, tracts, poems, journals, histories, and captivity narratives. He demonstrates how two types of sympathy — the active command to fellow-feel (a duty), as well as the passive sign that could indicate salvation (a discovery) — permeated Puritan society and came to define the very boundaries of English culture, affecting conceptions of community, relations with Native Americans, and the development of American literature.
Van Engen re-examines the Antinomian Controversy, conversion narratives, transatlantic relations, Puritan missions, Mary Rowlandson’s captivity narrative — and Puritan culture more generally — through the lens of sympathy. Demonstrating and explicating a Calvinist theology of sympathy in seventeenth-century New England, the book reveals the religious history of a concept that has previously been associated with more secular roots.
In February, Lynne Rienner Publishers will release “Muslims in US Prisons: People, Policy, Practice” edited by Nawal H. Ammar (University of Ontario Institute of Technology). The publisher’s description follows:
How realistic are media portrayals of radical, “homegrown” Islamic terrorists filling US prisons? With prisons a fertile recruiting ground for Islam, what impact does the religion have on life behind bars? Muslims in US Prisons systematically explores the cultural, legal, political, and religious issues shaping the Muslim prison experience.
The authors probe the topic from the perspectives of both prisoners and the criminal justice system. In the process, they illuminate larger issues of race and imprisonment, inmate culture, and rehabilitation. The result is a revealing look at an often sensationalized but understudied population.
In October, Augsburg Fortress released “Comprehending Christian Zionism: Perspectives in Comparison,” edited by Göran Gunner (Uppsala University) and Robert O. Smith (Evangelical Lutheran Church in America). The publisher’s description follows:
The issue of Christian Zionism is one that is fiercely debated within theology, the church, politics, and society. Comprehending Christian Zionism brings together an international consortium of scholars and researchers to reflect on the network of issues and topics surrounding this critical subject. The volume provides a lens on the history of Zionism within Christian theology and offers a constructive, multidimensional path for assessment and introspection around the meaning of Zionism to Christian faith and practice.