Abbas, “At Freedom’s Limit: Islam and the Postcolonial Predicament”

Next month, Fordham University will publish At Freedom’s Limit: Islam9780823257850_4 and the Postcolonial Predicament, by Sadia Abbas (Rutgers University).  The publisher’s description follows.

The subject of this book is a new “Islam.” This Islam began to take shape in 1988 around the Rushdie affair, the collapse of the Berlin Wall in 1989, and the first Gulf War of 1991. It was consolidated in the period following September 11, 2001. It is a name, a discursive site, a signifier at once flexible and constrained—indeed, it is a geopolitical agon, in and around which some of the most pressing aporias of modernity, enlightenment, liberalism, and reformation are worked out.

At this discursive site are many metonyms for Islam: the veiled or “pious” Muslim woman, the militant, the minority Muslim injured by Western free speech. Each of these figures functions as a cipher enabling repeated encounters with the question “How do we free ourselves from freedom?” Again and again, freedom is imagined as Western, modern, imperial—a dark imposition of Enlightenment. The pious and injured Muslim who desires his or her own enslavement is imagined as freedom’s other.

At Freedom’s Limit is an intervention into current debates regarding religion, secularism, and Islam and provides a deep critique of the anthropology and sociology of Islam that have consolidated this formation. It shows that, even as this Islam gains increasing traction in cultural production from television shows to movies to novels, the most intricate contestations of Islam so construed are to be found in the work of Muslim writers and painters.

This book includes extended readings of jihadist proclamations; postcolonial law; responses to law from minorities in Muslim-majority societies; Islamophobic films; the novels of Leila Aboulela, Mohammed Hanif, and Nadeem Aslam; and the paintings of Komail Aijazuddin.

Pinheiro, “Missionaries of Republicanism: A Religious History of the Mexican-American War”

Next month, Oxford will publish Missionaries of Republicanism: A 9780199948673_140Religious History of the Mexican-American War, by John C. Pinheiro (Aquinas College). The publisher’s description follow.

The term “Manifest Destiny” has traditionally been linked to U.S. westward expansion in the nineteenth century, the desire to spread republican government, and racialist theories like Anglo-Saxonism. Yet few people realize the degree to which Manifest Destiny and American republicanism relied on a deeply anti-Catholic civil-religious discourse. John C. Pinheiro traces the rise to prominence of this discourse, beginning in the 1820s and culminating in the Mexican-American War of 1846-1848.

Pinheiro begins with social reformer and Protestant evangelist Lyman Beecher, who was largely responsible for synthesizing seemingly unrelated strands of religious, patriotic, expansionist, and political sentiment into one universally understood argument about the future of the United States. When the overwhelmingly Protestant United States went to war with Catholic Mexico, this “Beecherite Synthesis” provided Americans with the most important means of defining their own identity, understanding Mexicans, and interpreting the larger meaning of the war. Anti-Catholic rhetoric constituted an integral piece of nearly every major argument for or against the war and was so universally accepted that recruiters, politicians, diplomats, journalists, soldiers, evangelical activists, abolitionists, and pacifists used it. It was also, Pinheiro shows, the primary tool used by American soldiers to interpret Mexico’s culture. All this activity in turn reshaped the anti-Catholic movement. Preachers could now use caricatures of Mexicans to illustrate Roman Catholic depravity and nativists could point to Mexico as a warning about what America would be like if dominated by Catholics.