In March, Bloomsbury Publishing will release “Churches and Religion in the Second World War,” by Jan Bank (University of Leiden) and Lieve Gevers (Catholic University Leuven). The publisher’s description follows:
Despite the wealth of historical literature on the Second World War, the subject of religion and churches in occupied Europe has been undervalued – until now. This critical European history is unique in delivering a rich and detailed analysis of churches and religion during the Second World War, looking at the Christian religions of occupied Europe: Catholicism, Lutheranism, Calvinism, and Orthodoxy.
The authors engage with key themes such as relations between religious institutions and the occupying forces; religion as a key factor in national identity and resistance; theological answers to the Fascist and National Socialist ideologies, especially in terms of the persecution of the Jews; Christians as bystanders or protectors in the Holocaust; and religious life during the war. Churches and Religion in the Second World War will be of great value to students and scholars of European history, the Second World War and religion and theology.
In March, the University of Chicago Press will release “The Mercenary Mediterranean: Sovereignty, Religion, and Violence in The Medieval Crown of Aragon,” by Hussein Fancy (University of Michigan). The publisher’s description follows:
Sometime in April 1285, five Muslim horsemen crossed from the Islamic kingdom of Granada into the realms of the Christian Crown of Aragon to meet with the king of Aragon, who showered them with gifts, including sumptuous cloth and decorative saddles, for agreeing to enter the Crown’s service.
They were not the first or only Muslim soldiers to do so. Over the course of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, the Christian kings of Aragon recruited thousands of foreign Muslim soldiers to serve in their armies and as members of their royal courts. Based on extensive research in Arabic, Latin, and Romance sources, The Mercenary Mediterranean explores this little-known and misunderstood history. Far from marking the triumph of toleration, Hussein Fancy argues, the alliance of Christian kings and Muslim soldiers depended on and reproduced ideas of religious difference. Their shared history represents a unique opportunity to reconsider the relation of medieval religion to politics, and to demonstrate how modern assumptions about this relationship have impeded our understanding of both past and present.
Professor Helge Årsheim (University of Oslo) writes to me with news of a very good new blog, Religion Going Public. The blog’s focus is primarily on religion, culture, and politics in Norway, Scandinavia, and Europe, with a very interesting group of contributors.
Welcome to the blogosphere, and check it out!
This month, Ashgate releases “The European Wars of Religion: An Interdisciplinary Reassessment of Sources, Interpretations, and Myths,” edited by Wolfgang Palaver (University of Innsbruck), Dieter Regensburger (University of Innsbruck), and Harriet Rudolph (University of Regensburg). The publisher’s description follows:
In recent years religion has resurfaced amongst academics, in many ways replacing class as the key to understanding Europe’s historical development. This
has resulted in an explosion of studies revisiting issues of religious change, confessional violence and holy war during the early modern period. But the interpretation of the European wars of religion still remains largely defined by national boundaries, tied to specific processes of state building as well as nation building. In order to more thoroughly interrogate these concepts and assumptions, this volume focusses on terms repeatedly used and misused in public debates such as ‘religious violence’ and ‘holy warfare’ within the context of military conflicts commonly labelled ‘religious wars’. The chapters not only focus on the role of religion, but also on the emerging state as a driver of the escalation of violence in the so-called age of religious war. By using different methodological and theoretical approaches historians, philosophers, and theologians engage in an interdisciplinary debate that contributes to a better understanding of the religio-political situation of early modern Europe and the interpretation of violent conflicts interpreted as religious conflicts today. By adopting a multi-disciplinary approach, new and innovative perspectives are opened up that question if in fact religion was a primary driving force behind these conflicts.
In December, Oxford University Press released “Catholic Europe, 1592-1648” by Tadhg O hAnnrachain (University College Dublin). The publisher’s description follows:
Catholic Europe, 1592-1648 examines the processes of Catholic renewal from a unique perspective; rather than concentrating on the much studied heartlands of Catholic Europe, it focuses primarily on a series of societies on the European periphery and examines how Catholicism adapted to very different conditions in areas such as Ireland, Britain, the Netherlands, East-Central Europe, and the Balkans. In certain of these societies, such as Austria and Bohemia, the Catholic Reformation advanced alongside very rigorous processes of state coercion. In other Habsburg territories, most notably Royal Hungary, and in Poland, Catholic monarchs were forced to deploy less confrontational methods, which nevertheless enjoyed significant measures of success. On the Western fringe of the continent, Catholic renewal recorded its greatest advances in Ireland but even in the Netherlands it maintained a significant body of adherents, despite considerable state hostility. In the Balkans, O hAnnrachain examines the manner in which the papacy invested substantially more resources and diplomatic efforts in pursuing military strategies against the Ottoman Empire than in supporting missionary and educational activity.
The chronological focus of the book is also unusual because on the peripheries of Europe the timing of Catholic reform occurred differently. Catholic Europe, 1592-1648 begins with the pontificate of Clement VIII and, rather than treating religious renewal in the later sixteenth and seventeenth centuries as essentially a continuation of established patterns of reform, it argues for the need to understand the contingency of this process and its constant adaptation to contemporary events and preoccupations.
In March, the Princeton University Press will release “On British Islam: Religion, Law, and Everyday Practice in Shari’a Councils,” by John R. Bowen (Washington University in St. Louis). The publisher’s description follows:
On British Islam examines the history and everyday workings of Islamic institutions in Britain, with a focus on shari’a councils. These councils
concern themselves with religious matters, especially divorce. They have a higher profile in Britain than in other Western nations. Why? Taking a historical and ethnographic look at British Islam, John Bowen examines how Muslims have created distinctive religious institutions in Britain and how shari’a councils interpret and apply Islamic law in a secular British context.
Bowen focuses on three specific shari’a councils: the oldest and most developed, in London; a Midlands community led by a Sufi saint and barrister; and a Birmingham-based council in which women play a leading role. Bowen shows that each of these councils represents a prolonged, unique experiment in meeting Muslims’ needs in a Western country. He also discusses how the councils have become a flash point in British public debates even as they adapt to the English legal environment.
On British Islam highlights British Muslims’ efforts to create institutions that make sense in both Islamic and British terms. This balancing act is rarely acknowledged in Britain—or elsewhere—but it is urgent that we understand it if we are to build new ways of living together.
This month, the University of Pennsylvania Press releases “Spiritual Taxonomies and Ritual Authority: Platonists, Priests, and Gnostics in the Third Century C.E.” by Heidi Marx-Wolf (University of Manitoba). The publisher’s description follows:
The people of the late ancient Mediterranean world thought about and encountered gods, angels, demons, heroes, and other spirits on a regular basis. These figures were diverse, ambiguous, and unclassified and were not ascribed any clear or stable moral valence. Whether or not they were helpful or harmful under specific circumstances determined if and what virtues were attributed to them. That all changed in the third century C.E., when a handful of Platonist philosophers—Plotinus, Origen, Porphyry, and Iamblichus—began to produce competing systematic discourses that ordered the realm of spirits in moral and ontological terms.
In Spiritual Taxonomies and Ritual Authority, Heidi Marx-Wolf recounts how these Platonist philosophers organized the spirit world into hierarchies, or “spiritual taxonomies,” positioning themselves as the high priests of the highest gods in the process. By establishing themselves as experts on sacred, ritual, and doctrinal matters, they were able to fortify their authority, prestige, and reputation. The Platonists were not alone in this enterprise, and it brought them into competition with rivals to their new authority: priests of traditional polytheistic religions and gnostics. Members of these rival groups were also involved in identifying and ordering the realm of spirits and in providing the ritual means for dealing with that realm. Using her lens of spiritual taxonomy to look at these various groups in tandem, Marx-Wolf demonstrates that Platonist philosophers, Christian and non-Christian priests, and gnostics were more interconnected socially, educationally, and intellectually than previously recognized.
In March, the Indiana University Press will release “Zionists in Interwar Czechoslovakia: Minority Nationalism and the Politics of Belonging,” by Tatjana Lichtenstein (University of Texas at Austin). The publisher’s description follows:
This book presents an unconventional history of minority nationalism in interwar Eastern Europe. Focusing on an influential group of grassroots activists, Tatjana Lichtenstein uncovers Zionist projects intended to sustain the flourishing Jewish national life in Czechoslovakia. The book shows that Zionism was not an exit strategy for Jews, but as a ticket of admission to the societies they already called home. It explores how and why Zionists envisioned minority nationalism as a way to construct Jews’ belonging and civic equality in Czechoslovakia. By giving voice to the diversity of aspirations within interwar Zionism, the book offers a fresh view of minority nationalism and state building in Eastern Europe.
In December, Brill Publishing released “The Ahmadiyya Quest for Religious Progress: Missionizing Europe 1900-1965” by Gerdien Jonker (Erlangen University). The publisher’s description follows:
What happens when the idea of religious progress propels the shaping of modernity? In The Ahmadiyya Quest for Religious Progress. Missionizing Europe 1900 – 1965 Gerdien Jonker offers an account of the mission the Ahmadiyya reform movement undertook in interwar Europe. Nowadays persecuted in the Muslim world, Ahmadis appear here as the vanguard of a modern, rational Islam that met with a considerable interest.
Ahmadiyya mission on the European continent attracted European ‘moderns’, among them Jews and Christians, theosophists and agnostics, artists and academics, liberals and Nazis. Each in their own manner, all these people strove towards modernity, and were convinced that Islam helped realizing it. Based on a wide array of sources, this book unravels the multiple layers of entanglement that arose once the missionaries and their quarry met.
In November, Edinburgh University Press released the fourth edition of “Muslims in Western Europe” by Jonas Otterbeck (Lund University) and Jørgen S. Nielsen (University of Copenhagen). The publisher’s description follows:
This introduction to the story of Muslims in Western Europe describes their early history and outlines the causes and courses of modern Muslim immigration. It explains how Muslim communities have developed in individual countries, their origins, present-day ethnic composition, distribution and organisational patterns, and the political, legal and cultural contexts in which they exist are explored. There is also a comparative consideration of issues common to Muslims in all Western European countries including the role of the family, and the questions of worship, education and religious thought.