Tag Archives: Sociology of Religion

Bradford & Horton, “Mixed Blessings”

Mixed BlessingsIn May, the University of British Columbia released Mixed Blessings: Indigenous Encounters with Christianity in Canada by Tolly Bradford (Concordia University of Edmonton) and Chelsea Horton. The publisher’s description follows:

Mixed Blessings transforms our understanding of the relationship between Indigenous people and Christianity in what is now Canada.

While acknowledging the harm of colonialism, including the trauma inflicted by church-run residential schools, this book challenges the portrayal of Indigenous people as passive victims of malevolent missionaries who experienced a uniformly dark history. Instead, the authors — scholars in history, Indigenous studies, religious studies, and theology — illuminate the diverse and multifaceted ways that Indigenous communities and individuals across Canada have interacted, and continue to interact, meaningfully with Christianity.

Ranging widely across time and place, these insightful case studies explore why some Indigenous people — including prominent leaders such as Louis Riel and Edward Ahenakew — historically aligned themselves with Christianity while others did not. It also plumbs the processes and politics involved in combining spiritual traditions and reflects on the role of Christianity in Indigenous communities today.

Rebhun, “Jews and the American Religious Landscape”

In September, Columbia University Press will release Jews and the American Religious Landscape by Uzi Rebhun (Hebrew University of Jerusalem). The publisher’s description follows:Jews and the American Religious Landscape.png

Jews and the American Religious Landscape explores major complementary facets of American Judaism and Jewish life through a comprehensive analysis of contemporary demographic and sociological data. Focusing on the most important aspects of social development—geographic location, socioeconomic stratification, family dynamics, group identification, and political orientation—the volume adds empirical value to questions concerning the strengths of Jews as a religious and cultural group in America and the strategies they have developed to integrate successfully into a Christian society.

With advanced analyses of data gathered by the Pew Research Center, Jews and the American Religious Landscape shows that Jews, like other religious and ethnic minorities, strongly identify with their religion and culture. Yet their particular religiosity, along with such factors as population dispersion, professional networks, and education, have created different outcomes in various contexts. Living under the influence of a Christian majority and a liberal political system has also cultivated a distinct ethos of solidarity and egalitarianism, enabling Judaism to absorb new patterns in ways that mirror its integration into American life. Rich in information thoughtfully construed, this book presents a remarkable portrait of what it means to be an American Jew today.

 

Howe, “Landscapes of the Secular”

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:

landscape of the secular“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.

Ozment, “Grace Without God”

Grace-without-GodThis 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

“Out of Obscurity” (Mason & Turner, eds.)

In August, Oxford University Press will release Out of Obscurity: Mormonism Since 1945, edited by Patrick Q. Mason (Claremont University) and John G. Turner (George Mason University). The publisher’s description follows:Out of Obscurity

In the years since 1945, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has grown rapidly in terms of both numbers and public prominence. Mormonism is no longer merely a home-grown American religion, confined to the Intermountain West; instead, it has captured the attention of political pundits, Broadway audiences, and prospective converts around the world. While most scholarship on Mormonism concerns its colorful but now well-known early history, the essays in this collection assess recent developments, such as the LDS Church’s international growth and acculturation; its intersection with conservative politics in recent decades; its stances on same-sex marriage and the role of women; and its ongoing struggle to interpret its own tumultuous history. The scholars draw on a wide variety of Mormon voices as well as those of outsiders, from Latter-day Saints in Hyderabad, India, to “Mormon Mommy blogs,” to evangelical “countercult” ministries.

 

Dispatches from Kabul: French Words and Fighter Jets

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Former CLR Fellow Jessica Wright ’14 is currently working as an attorney in Kabul, Afghanistan. This post is part of a series of reflections on her experiences there.

There’s an art gallery just off Armenia street in the Mar Mikhail district of Beirut that sells a variety of novelty goods – soap from Aleppo, hand-stamped Iranian linens, black and white photographs from the Lebanese Civil War, books on art. As I was perusing the shelves I came across a notebook with text clippings and war motifs pasted to its cover, a dècoupage of French words and fighter jets. Along the bottom of the front cover there was a phrase: Parce que l’incohérence est preferable à l’ordre qui deforme. It’s a quote from the French philosopher, Roland Barthes, which translates directly to: incoherence is preferable to an order that deforms. I haven’t read Barthes, nor do I claim expertise in French post-structuralism or constructivism or semiotics, but taken on its face, and in light of the unstable political systems in which I live and work, it gave me pause. Dans quelle mesure cette déclaration est-elle correcte? To what extent is that statement true? Precariousness becomes a form of identity in places where nothing sticks – not ideologies, not empires, not armies – but surely chaos and disorder is the regrettable result of circumstance, not rational belief. The fight for successive orders is the history of war, and I imagined Barthes’ words in the mouths of radicals from Raqqa to Kandahar.

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In the late afternoon, the church bells at St. George’s ring out loud and clear across the Martyr’s Square in Beirut, and it feels, for a moment, as if you’re standing in front of the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome, the Marian church that inspired the cathedral’s neoclassical design. Soon after, the call to prayer begins, projected from the 72-meter- Continue reading

“Poverty and Wealth in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam” (Kollar & Shafiq, eds.)

In July, Palgrave Macmillan will release “Poverty and Wealth in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam,” edited by Nathan R. Kollar (St. John Fisher College) and Shafiq Muhammad. The publisher’s description follows:

This book gathers scholars from the three major monotheistic religions to discuss the Screen Shot 2016-05-27 at 12.29.47 AMissue of poverty and wealth from the varied perspectives of each tradition. It provides a cadre of values inherent to the sacred texts of Jews, Christians, and Muslims and illustrates how these values may be used to deal with current economic inequalities.

Contributors use the methodologies of religious studies to provide descriptions and comparisons of perspectives from Judaism, Christianity, and Islam on poverty and wealth. The book presents citations from the sacred texts of all three religions. The contributors discuss the interpretations of these texts and the necessary contexts, both past and present, for deciphering the stances found there. Poverty and Wealth in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam identifies and details a foundation of common values upon which individual and institutional decisions may be made.

“The Politics and Practice of Religious Diversity” (Dawson, ed.)

In April, Routledge will release “The Politics and Practice of Religious Diversity: National Contexts, Global Issues,” edited by Andrew Dawson (Lancaster University).  The publisher’s description follows:

The Politics and Practice of Religious Diversity engages with one of the most characteristic features of modern society. An increasingly prominent 9781138791817and potentially contentious phenomenon, religious diversity is intimately associated with contemporary issues such as migration, human rights, social cohesion, socio-cultural pluralisation, political jurisdiction, globalisation, and reactionary belief systems.

This edited collection of specially-commissioned chapters provides an unrivalled geographical coverage and multidisciplinary treatment of the socio-political processes and institutional practices provoked by, and associated with, religious diversity. Alongside chapters treating religious diversity in the ‘BRIC’ countries of Brazil, Russia, India and China, are contributions which discuss Australia, Finland, Mexico, South Africa, the UK, and the United States.

This book provides an accessible, distinctive and timely treatment of a topic which is inextricably linked with modern society’s progressively diverse and global trajectory. Written and structured as an accessible volume for the student reader, this book is of immediate interest to both academics and laypersons working in mainstream and political sociology, sociology of religion, human geography, politics, area studies, migration studies and religious studies.

Palmeri, “State of Nature, Stages of Society”

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 9780231175166social 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.

“Salafism After the Arab Awakening” (eds. Cavatorta & Merone)

In March, the Oxford University Press will release “Salafism After the Arab Awakening: Contending with People’s Power,” edited by Francesco Cavatorta (Université Laval) and Fabio Merone (Dublin City University).  The publisher’s description follows:

One of the most interesting consequences of the Arab awakening has been the central role of Salafists in a number of countries. In particular, there seems to 9780190274993have been a move away from traditional quietism towards an increasing degree of politicization. The arrival on the political scene of Salafist parties in Egypt, Tunisia, and Yemen, as well as the seemingly growing desire of Salafists in other Arab countries to enter institutional politics through the creation of political parties, highlights quite clearly the debates and divisions on how to react to the awakening within Salafist circles.

This book examines in detail how Salafism, both theologically and politically, is contending with the Arab uprisings across a number of countries. The focus is primarily on what kind of politicization, if any, has taken place and what forms it has adopted. As some of the contributions make clear, politicization does not necessarily diminish the role of jihad or the influence of quietism, revealing tensions and struggles within the complex world of Salafism.