In September, the University of Edinburgh Press will release Regime Change in Contemporary Turkey: Politics, Rights, Mimesis by Necati Polat (Middle East Technical University, Ankara). The publisher’s description follows:
Turkey has undergone a series of upheavals in its political regime from the mid-19th century. This book details the most recent change, locating it in its broader historical setting. Beginning with the Justice and Development Party’s rule from late 2002, supported by a broad informal coalition that included liberals, the book shows how the former Islamists gradually acquired full power between 2007 and 2011. It then describes the subsequent phase, looking at politics and rights under the amorphous new order.
This is the first scholarly yet accessible assessment of this historic change, placing it in the larger context of political modernisation in the country over the past 150 or so years.
In September, the University of Chicago Press will release Landscapes of the Secular: Law, Religion, and American Sacred Space by Nicolas Howe (Williams College). The publisher’s description follows:
“What does it mean to see the American landscape in a secular way?” asks Nicolas Howe at the outset of this innovative, ambitious, and wide-ranging book. It’s a surprising question because of what it implies: we usually aren’t seeing American landscapes through a non-religious lens, but rather as inflected by complicated, little-examined concepts of the sacred.
Fusing geography, legal scholarship, and religion in a potent analysis, Howe shows how seemingly routine questions about how to look at a sunrise or a plateau or how to assess what a mountain is both physically and ideologically, lead to complex arguments about the nature of religious experience and its implications for our lives as citizens. In American society—nominally secular but committed to permitting a diversity of religious beliefs and expressions—such questions become all the more fraught and can lead to difficult, often unsatisfying compromises regarding how to interpret and inhabit our public lands and spaces. A serious commitment to secularism, Howe shows, forces us to confront the profound challenges of true religious diversity in ways that often will have their ultimate expression in our built environment. This provocative exploration of some of the fundamental aspects of American life will help us see the land, law, and society anew.
This month, HarperCollins Publishers has released Grace Without God: The Search for Meaning, Purpose, and Belonging in a Secular Age by Katherine Ozment (award-winning journalist and former senior editor at National Geographic). The publisher’s description follows:
Meet “the Nones”—In this thought-provoking exploration of secular America, celebrated journalist Katherine Ozment takes readers on a quest to understand the trends and ramifications of a nation in flight from organized religion.
Studies show that religion makes us happier, healthier and more giving, connecting us to our past and creating tight communal bonds. Most Americans are raised in a religious tradition, but in recent decades many have begun to leave religion, and with it their ancient rituals, mythic narratives, and sense of belonging.
So how do the nonreligious fill the need for ritual, story, community, and, above all, purpose and meaning without the one-stop shop of religion? What do they do with the space left after religion? With Nones swelling to one-fourth of American adults, and Continue reading
Fordham University’s Orthodox Christian Studies Center will hold a conference on “Tradition, Secularization, Fundamentalism” from Thursday, June 23rd through Saturday, June 25th, 2016. Here is the conference description, from the event’s website:
While the very meaning of the “secular” remains contested, Christians globally are self-identifying in different ways in relation to an imagined secularization, all the while discerning how to live as a tradition. This intersection between tradition, secularization and fundamentalism is especially evident in both post-Communist Catholic/Orthodox countries and the American context, where fundamentalist-like responses have emerged against the perceived threat of the secular.
Additional information and the event schedule can be found here.
In June, the University of California Press will release “Becoming Religious in a Secular Age,” by Mark Elmore (University of California, Davis). The publisher’s description follows:
Religion is commonly viewed as a timeless element of the human inheritance, but in the Western Himalayas the community of Himachal Pradesh discovered its religion only after India became an independent secular state. Based on extensive ethnographic and archival work, Becoming Religious in a Secular Age tells the story of this discovery and how it transformed a community’s relations to its past, to its members, and to those outside the community. And, as Mark Elmore demonstrates, Himachali religion offers a unique opportunity to reimagine relations between religion and secularity. Tracing the emergence of religion, Elmore shows that modern secularity is not so much the eradication of religion as the very condition for its development. Showing us that to become a modern, ethical subject is to become religious, this book creatively augments our understanding of both religion and modernity.
Next month, Oxford University Press will release “Europe, India, and the Limits of Secularism,” by Jakob De Roover (Ghent University). The publisher’s description follows:
For several decades now, commentators have sounded the alarm about the crisis of secularism. Saving the secular state from political religion, they suggest, is a question of survival for societies characterized by religious diversity. Yet it remains unclear what the crisis is all about. This book argues that its roots are internal to the liberal model of secularism and toleration. Rather than being neutral or non-religious, this is a secularized theological model with deep religious roots. The limits of liberal secularism go back to its emergence from the dynamics and tensions of the Protestant Reformation in Europe. From the very beginning, it went hand in hand with its own mode of intolerance: an anticlerical theology that rejected Catholicism and Judaism as evil forms of political religion. Later this framework produced the colonial descriptions of Hinduism (and its caste hierarchy) as a false and immoral religion. Thus, secularism was presented as the only route forward for India. Still, the secular state often harms local forms of living together and reinforces conflicts rather than resolving them. Todays advocacy of secularism is not the outcome of reasonable reflection on the problems of Indian society but a manifestation of colonial consciousness.
In February, Pantheon published “Strange Gods: A Secular History of Conversion,” by Susan Jacoby. The publisher’s description follows:
In this original and riveting exploration, Susan Jacoby argues that conversion—especially in the free American “religious marketplace”—is too often viewed only within the conventional and simplistic narrative of personal reinvention and divine grace. Instead, the author places conversions within a secular social context that has, at various times, included the force of a unified church and state, desire for upward economic mobility, and interreligious marriage—the latter as critical in the early Christian era as in the United States today, where half of Americans have switched faiths at least once in their adult lives. The sometimes tragic, sometimes inspiring story is shaped by the competing absolute truth claims of Catholicism, Protestantism, and Islam and their impact on Jews—the only monotheistic believers with an older historical stake. Moving through time, continents, and cultures—dealing with the often-ignored forced conversion of American slaves to Christianity as well as with the better-known story of the Spanish Inquisition and the persecution of both atheists and Christians in modern Islamic theocracies—the story also includes conversions to authoritarian secular ideologies, notably Stalinist Communism, that resemble traditional, unquestioning faith. Finally, the author examines true religious choice—a product of the Enlightenment pioneered by the U.S. Constitution. This history is punctuated by portraits of individual converts, including the Catholic Church father Augustine of Hippo; the German Jewish convert to Catholicism Edith Stein, murdered at Auschwitz and canonized by the church; boxing champion Muhammad Ali, who scandalized white Americans in the 1960s by becoming a Muslim, and even politicians such as George W. Bush and former British prime minister Tony Blair. In a forthright conclusion to this enthralling history, Strange Gods takes on the question of why the freedom to choose a religion—or to reject religion altogether—is a fundamental human rights issue that remains a breeding ground for violence in areas of the world that never experienced an Enlightenment.
Posted in Books, Scholarship Roundup
Tagged Christianity, Church and State, Conversion, History of Conversion, History of Religion, Human Rights, Islam, Religion and Society, Religion in America, Secularism
This month, the Oxford University Press will release “Muted Modernists: The Struggle over Divine Politics in Saudi Arabia,” by Madawi Al-Rasheed (London School of Economics). The publisher’s description follows:
Analysis of both official and opposition Saudi divine politics is often monolithic, conjuring images of conservatism, radicalism, misogyny and resistance to democracy. Madawi Al-Rasheed challenges this stereotype as she examines a long tradition of engaging with modernism that gathered momentum with the Arab uprisings and incurred the wrath of both the regime and its Wahhabi supporters. With this nascent modernism, constructions of new divine politics, anchored in a rigorous reinterpretation of foundational Islamic texts and civil society activism are emerging in a context where authoritarian rule prefers its advocates to remain muted. The author challenges scholarly wisdom on Islamism in general and blurs the boundaries between secular and religious politics.
In March, Palgrave Macmillan will release “Secular Institutions, Islam and Education Policy: France and the U.S. in Comparative Perspective” by Paola Mattei (University of Oxford) and Andrew S. Aguilar (France Fulbright Fellow). The publisher’s description follows:
In January 2015, three attackers walked into the office of the satirical magazine, Charlie Hebdo, in Paris, opened fire and killed twelve people, including a Muslim policeman, in the deadliest terrorist attack on France for 50 years. We live in a time of suspicion and fear, not least because religion has returned to the centre stage of collective memories in Europe and in the United States. Amidst claims of threats to national identities in an era of increasing diversity, should we be worried about the upsurge in religious animosity in the United States, as well as Europe? Paola Mattei and Andrew Aguilar show that French society is divided along conflicts about religious identity, increasingly visible in public schools. Republicanism, based on the solidarity and secularism, is viewed by many as the cause of discrimination and unfairness against minority groups. Policies invoking laïcité are frequently criticised as a disguised form of Islamophobia. Secular Institutions, Islam, and Education Policy suggests, on the contrary, that secularism in France is a flexible concept, translated into contradictory policy programmes, and subject to varying political interpretations. This book presents original data showing how schools have become, once again, a central theatre of political action and public engagement regarding laicité, an ideal grounded in the republican origins of the public education system in France.
In March, the Columbia University Press will release “State of Nature, Stages of Society: Enlightenment Conjectural History and Modern Social Discourse,” by Frank Palmeri (University of Miami). The publisher’s description follows:
Frank Palmeri sees the conjectural histories of Rousseau, Hume, Herder, and other Enlightenment philosophers as a template for the development of the social sciences in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Without documents or memorials, these thinkers, he argues, employed conjecture to formulate a naturalistic account of society’s commercial and secular progression.
Palmeri finds evidence of speculative frameworks in the political economy of Malthus, Martineau, Mill, and Marx. He traces the influence of speculative thought in the development of anthropology and ethnography in the 1860s, the foundational sociology of Comte and Spencer, and the sociology of religion pioneered by Weber, Durkheim, and Freud. Conjectural histories reveal a surprising ambivalence toward progress, modernity, and secularization among leading thinkers of the time, an attitude that affected texts as varied as Darwin’s Descent of Man, Nietzsche’s Genealogy of Morality, and the novels of Walter Scott, George Eliot, and H.G. Wells. Establishing the critical value of conjectural thinking in the study of modern forms of knowledge, Palmeri concludes his investigation with its return in the work of Foucault and in recent histories on early religion, political organization, and material life.