In July, Routledge will publish Religion, Gender, and the Public Sphere edited by Niamh Reilly (NUI) and Stacy Scriver (NUI). The publisher’s description follows.
The re-emergence of religion as a significant cultural, social and political, force is not gender neutral. Tensions between claims for women’s equality and the rights of sexual minorities on one side and the claims of religions on the other side are well-documented across all major religions and regions. It is also well recognized in feminist scholarship that gender identities and ethno-religious identities work together in complex ways that are often exploited by dominant groups. Hence, a more comprehensive understanding of the changing role and influence of religion in the public sphere more widely requires complex, multidisciplinary and comparative gender analyses.
Most recent discussion on these matters, however, especially in Europe, has focused primarily on the perceived subordinate status of Muslim women. These debates are a reminder of the deep interrelation of questions of gender, identity, human rights and religious freedom more generally. The relatively narrow (albeit important) purview of such discussions so far, however, underscores the need to extend the horizon of enquiry vis-à-vis religion, gender and the public sphere beyond the binary of ‘Islam versus the West’. Religion, Gender and the Public Sphere moves gender from the periphery to the centre of contemporary debates about the role of religion in public and political life. It offers a timely, multidisciplinary collection of gender-focused essays that address an array of challenges arising from the changing role and influence of religious organisations, identities, actors and values in the public sphere in contemporary multicultural and democratic societies.
In July, Oxford University Press will publish God Bless America: The Surprising History of an Iconic Song by Sheryl Kaskowitz (Harvard). The publisher’s description follows.
“God Bless America” is a song most Americans know well. It is taught in American schools and regularly performed at sporting events. After the attacks on September 11th, it was sung on the steps of the Capitol, at spontaneous memorial sites, and during the seventh inning stretch at baseball games, becoming even more deeply embedded in America’s collective consciousness.
In God Bless America, Sheryl Kaskowitz tells the fascinating story behind America’s other national anthem. It begins with the song’s composition by Irving Berlin in 1918 and first performance by Kate Smith in 1938, revealing an early struggle for control between composer and performer as well as the hidden economics behind the song’s royalties. Kaskowitz shows how the early popularity of “God Bless America” reflected the anxiety of the pre-war period and sparked a surprising anti-Semitic and xenophobic backlash. She follows the song’s rightward ideological trajectory from early associations with religious and ethnic tolerance to increasing uses as an anthem for the Christian Right, and considers the song’s popularity directly after the September 11th attacks. The book concludes with a portrait of the song’s post-9/11 function within professional baseball, illuminating the power of the song – and of communal singing itself – as a vehicle for both commemoration and coercion. A companion website offers streaming audio of recordings referenced in the book, links to videos of relevant performances, appendices of information, and an opportunity for readers to participate in the author’s survey.
Based on extensive archival research and fieldwork, God Bless America sheds new light on cultural tensions within the U.S., past and present, and offers a historical chronicle that is full of surprises and that will both edify and delight readers from all walks of life
This is a fascinating new book about the influence of religion in forging political alliances and as an integrating force in unifying the political community (koinon) in ancient Greece, focusing especially (it appears) on the period from 500-200 B.C. The book is Creating a Common Polity: Religion, Economy, and Politics in the Making of the Greek Koinon (University of California Press 2013) by Emily Mackil (history, Berkeley). The publisher’s description follows.
In the ancient Greece of Pericles and Plato, the polis, or city-state, reigned supreme, but by the time of Alexander, nearly half of the mainland Greek city-states had surrendered part of their autonomy to join the larger political entities called koina. In the first book in fifty years to tackle the rise of these so-called Greek federal states, Emily Mackil charts a complex, fascinating map of how shared religious practices and long-standing economic interactions facilitated political cooperation and the emergence of a new kind of state. Mackil provides a detailed historical narrative spanning five centuries to contextualize her analyses, which focus on the three best-attested areas of mainland Greece—Boiotia, Achaia, and Aitolia. The analysis is supported by a dossier of Greek inscriptions, each text accompanied by an English translation and commentary.