Around the Web This Week

Here are some interesting stories involving law and religion from this past week:

Jortner, “Blood from the Sky”

This month, the University of Virginia Press releases “Blood from the Sky: Miracles and Politics in the Early American Republic,” by Adam Jortner (Auburn University).  The publisher’s description follows:

In the decades following the Revolution, the supernatural exploded across the American landscape—fabulous reports of healings, exorcisms, magic, and angels 4828.jpgcrossed the nation. Under First Amendment protections, new sects based on such miracles proliferated. At the same time, Enlightenment philosophers and American founders explicitly denied the possibility of supernatural events, dismissing them as deliberate falsehoods—and, therefore, efforts to suborn the state. Many feared that belief in the supernatural itself was a danger to democracy. In this way, miracles became a political problem and prompted violent responses in the religious communities of Prophetstown, Turtle Creek, and Nauvoo.

In Blood from the Sky, Adam Jortner argues that the astonishing breadth and extent of American miracles and supernaturalism following independence derived from Enlightenment ideas about proof and sensory evidence, offering a chance at certain belief in an uncertain religious climate. Jortner breaks new ground in explaining the rise of radical religion in antebellum America, revisiting questions of disenchantment, modernity, and religious belief in a history of astounding events that—as early Americans would have said—needed to be seen to be believed.

Saffari, “Beyond Shariati”

This month, Cambridge University Press releases “Beyond Shariati: Modernity, Cosmopolitanism, and Islam in Iranian Political Thought,” by Siavash Saffari (Columbia University).  The publisher’s description follows: 

Ali Shariati (1933–77) has been called by many the ‘ideologue of the Iranian Revolution’. An inspiration to many of the revolutionary generation, Shariati’s 9781107164161.jpgcombination of Islamic political thought and left-leaning ideology continues to influence both in Iran and across the wider Muslim world. In this book, Siavash Saffari examines Shariati’s long-standing legacy, and how new readings of his works by contemporary ‘neo-Shariatis’ have contributed to a deconstruction of the false binaries of Islam and modernity, modernism and traditionalism. Saffari examines how, through their critique of Eurocentric metanarratives on the one hand and the essentialist conceptions of Islam on the other, Shariati and neo-Shariatis have carved out a new space in Islamic thought beyond the traps of Orientalism and Occidentalism. This unique perspective will hold great appeal to researchers of the politics and intellectual thought of post-revolutionary Iran and the greater Middle East.

“Understanding Boko Haram” (Solomon & Hentz, eds.)

In April, Routledge will release “Understanding Boko Haram: Terrorism and Insurgency in Africa,” edited by James Hentz (Virginia Military Institute) and Hussein Solomon (University of the Free State).   The publisher’s description follows:

The primary objective of this book is to understand the nature of the Boko Haram insurgency in northeast Nigeria.

Boko Haram’s goal of an Islamic Caliphate, starting in the Borno State in the North 9781138696228East that will eventually cover the areas of the former Kanem-Borno Empire, is a rejection of the modern state system forced on it by the West. The central theme of this volume examines the relationship between the failure of the statebuilding project in Nigeria and the outbreak and nature of insurgency. At the heart of the Boko Haram phenomenon is a country racked with cleavages making it hard for Nigeria to cohere as a modern state. Part I introduces this theme and places the Boko Haram insurgency in a historical context. There are, however, multiple cleavages in Nigeria: ethnic, regional, cultural, and religious, and Part II examines the different state-society dynamics fuelling the conflict. Political grievances are common to every society; however what gives Boko Haram the space to express such grievances through violence? Importantly, this volume demonstrates that the insurgency is, in fact, a reflection of the hollowness within Nigeria’s overall security. Part III looks at the responses to Boko Haram by Nigeria, neighbouring states, and external actors. For Western actors, Boko Haram is seen as part of the “global war on terror” (GWOT) and the fact that it has pledged allegiance to ISIS encourages this framing. However, as the chapters here discuss, this is an over-simplification of Boko Haram and the West needs to address the multiple dimension of Boko Haram.

This book will be of much interest to students of terrorism and political violence, insurgencies, African politics, war and conflict studies, and IR in general.

“The Cambridge Companion to Judaism and Law” (Hayes, ed.)

This month, the Cambridge University Press will release “The Cambridge Companion to Judaism and Law,” by Christine Hayes (Yale University).  The publisher’s description follows:

The Cambridge Companion to Judaism and Law explores the Jewish conception of law as an essential component of the divine-human relationship from biblical to modern9781107644946.jpgtimes, as well as resistance to this conceptualization. It also traces the political, social, intellectual, and cultural circumstances that spawned competing Jewish approaches to its own ‘divine’ law and the ‘non-divine’ law of others, including that of the modern, secular state of Israel. Part I focuses on the emergence and development of law as an essential element of religious expression in biblical Israel and classical Judaism through the medieval period. Part II considers the ramifications for the law arising from political emancipation and the invention of Judaism as a ‘religion’ in the modern period. Finally, Part III traces the historical and ideological processes leading to the current configuration of religion and state in modern Israel, analysing specific conflicts between religious law and state law.

“Justice and Mercy Have Met” (Martens, ed.)

In January, the Catholic University of America Press released “Justice and Mercy Have Met: Pope Francis and the Reform of the Marriage Nullity Process,” edited by Kurt Martens (The Catholic University of America).  The publisher’s description follows:

With the promulgation of the motu proprio Mitis iudex Dominus Iesus for the Latin Church and the motu proprio Mitis et misericors Iesus for the Eastern Catholic Churches,hfs.bibliometa.jpg both dated August 15, 2015, Pope Francis addressed the calls during the Third Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops (October 5-9, 2014) for a simplified procedure for the declaration of the nullity of marriages. Pope Francis introduced a briefer process to be conducted by the diocesan bishop and he simplified the current ordinary nullity process. The new procedural norms went into effect on December 8, 2015.

New legislation always challenges first and foremost the practitioner: how is the new legislation to be understood and applied? Immediately after the new law was made public, a number of articles on this new legislation were published in The Jurist. The School of Canon Law of The Catholic University of America organized a March 2016 Workshop on the very topic of this important procedural reform.

These articles are now brought together in one volume to assist those who work with these norms in the various tribunals dealing with marriage cases. It is hoped that this volume will be of great service to all those who serve the people of God in the ministry of justice, and that these contributions will truly be a help in understanding and applying the new norms.

McCauley, “The Logic of Ethnic and Religious Conflict in Africa”

In March, the Cambridge University Press will release “The Logic of Ethnic and Religious Conflict in Africa,” by John McCauley (University of Maryland, College Park).  The publisher’s description follows:

This book explains why conflicts in Africa are sometimes ethnic and sometimes religious, and why a conflict might change from ethnic to religious even as the 9781107175013opponents remain fixed. Conflicts in the region are often viewed as either ‘tribal’ or ‘Muslim-Christian’, seemingly rooted in deep-seated ethnic or religious hatreds. Yet, as this book explains, those labels emerge as a function of political mobilization. It argues that ethnicity and religion inspire distinct passions among individuals, and that political leaders exploit those passions to achieve their own strategic goals when the institutions of the state break down. To support this argument, the book relies on a novel experiment conducted in Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana to demonstrate that individual preferences change in ethnic and religious contexts. It then uses case illustrations from Côte d’Ivoire, Nigeria, and Sudan to highlight the strategic choices of leaders that ultimately shape the frames of conflict.

Marzouki, “Islam: An American Religion”

In April, Columbia University Press will release “Islam: An American Religion,” by Nadia Marzouki (Centre national de la recherche scientifique (CNRS)). The publisher’s description follows:

Islam: An American Religion demonstrates how Islam as formed in the United States has become an American religion in a double sense—first through the strategies of 9780231176804recognition adopted by Muslims and second through the performance of Islam as a faith.

Nadia Marzouki investigates how Islam has become so contentious in American politics. Focusing on the period from 2008 to 2013, she revisits the uproar over the construction of mosques, legal disputes around the prohibition of Islamic law, and the overseas promotion of religious freedom. She argues that public controversies over Islam in the United States primarily reflect the American public’s profound divisions and ambivalence toward freedom of speech and the legitimacy of liberal secular democracy.

Murray & Feeney, “Church, state and social science in Ireland”

In December, the Manchester University Press released “Church, state and social science in Ireland:Knowledge institutions and the rebalancing of power, 1937–73,” by Peter Murray (Maynooth University) and Maria Feeney (Maynooth University).  The publisher’s description follows:

The immense power the Catholic Church once wielded in Ireland has considerably diminished over the last fifty years. During the same period the Irish state has 9781526100788pursued new economic and social development goals by wooing foreign investors and throwing the state’s lot in with an ever-widening European integration project. How a less powerful church and a more assertive state related to one another during the key third quarter of the twentieth century is the subject of this book. Drawing on newly available material, it looks at how social science, which had been a church monopoly, was taken over and bent to new purposes by politicians and civil servants. This case study casts new light on wider processes of change, and the story features a strong and somewhat surprising cast of characters ranging from Sean Lemass and T.K. Whitaker to Archbishop John Charles McQuaid and Father Denis Fahey.

 

Eltantawi, “Shari’ah on Trial”

In April, the University of California Press will release “Shari’ah on Trial: Northern Nigeria’s Islamic Revolution,” by Sarah Eltantawi (Evergreen State College).  The publisher’s description follows: 

In November of 1999, Nigerians took to the streets demanding the re-implementation of shari’ah law in their country. Two years later, 9780520293786many Nigerians supported the death sentence by stoning of a peasant woman for alleged sexual misconduct. Public outcry in the West was met with assurances to the Western public: stoning is not a part of Islam; stoning happens “only in Africa”; reports of stoning are exaggerated by Western sensationalism. However, none of these statements are true.  Shari’ah on Trial goes beyond journalistic headlines and liberal pieties to give a powerful account of how Northern Nigerians reached a point of such desperation that they demanded the return of the strictest possible shari’ah law. Sarah Eltantawi analyzes changing conceptions of Islamic theology and practice as well as Muslim and British interactions dating back to the colonial period to explain the resurgence of shari’ah, with implications for Muslim-majority countries around the world.
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