Dorrien, “The New Abolition”

This month, the Yale University Press releases “The New Abolition: W.E.B. Du Bois and the Black Social Gospel,” by Gary Dorrien (Union Theological Seminary and Columbia University).  The publisher’s description follows: 

The black social gospel emerged from the trauma of Reconstruction to ask what a “new abolition” would require in American society. It became an important tradition of religious thought and resistance, helping to create an alternative public sphere of excluded voices and providing the intellectual underpinnings of the civil rights movement. This tradition has been seriously overlooked, despite its immense legacy.

In this groundbreaking work, Gary Dorrien describes the early history of the black social gospel from its nineteenth-century founding to its close association in the twentieth century with W. E. B. Du Bois. He offers a new perspective on modern Christianity and the civil rights era by delineating the tradition of social justice theology and activism that led to Martin Luther King Jr.

In the mail: Witte’s “Western Case for Monogamy Over Polygamy”

I was pleased to receive Professor John Witte’s new volume, released earlier this year, The Western Case for Monogamy Over PolygamyWitte, Monogamy and Polygamy, in which, with at least half an eye cocked at the coming legal contests over polygamous marriage, John explores the following questions:

What is the Western tradition’s case for monogamy over polygamy, and is that case still convincing in a post-modern and globalized world? Are there sufficiently compelling reasons to relax Western laws against polygamy, and is this a desirable policy given the global trends away from polygamy and given the social, economic, and psychological conditions that often attend its practice? Or, are there sufficiently compelling reasons, reconstructed in part from the tradition, to maintain and even strengthen these anti-polygamy measures, in part as an effort to hasten the global demise of this practice?

I’ve only had a chance to glance at the book but from that quick scan, it appears that the primary justifications advanced in the book as a historical matter for monogamy over polygamy relate to “joint parental investment in children” and ensuring “that men and women are treated with equal dignity and respect within the domestic sphere,” the latter logic of which, the book claims, “applies to dyadic same-sex couples, who have gained increasing rights in the West in recent years, including the right to marry and to parent in some places.”

The book is immensely and richly detailed and comprehensive, with chapters including “From Polygamy to Monogamy in Judaism,” “The Case for Monogamy Over Polygamy in the Church Fathers,” “Polygamy in the Laws of State and Church in the First Millennium,” “Polygamous Experiments in Early Protestantism,” and “The Liberal Enlightenment Case Against Polygamy.”

Wright & Palmer, “Storming Zion: Government Raids on Religious Communities”

In December, Oxford University Press will release “Storming Zion: Government Raids on Religious Communities” by Stuart A. Wright (Lamar University) and Susan J. Palmer (Concordia University). The publisher’s description follows:

While scholars, media, and the public may be aware of a few extraordinary government raids on religious communities, such as the U.S. federal raid on the Branch Davidians in 1993, very few people are aware of the scope and frequency with which these raids occur. Following the Texas state raid on the Fundamentalist Church of Latter-day Saints in 2008, authors Stuart Wright and Susan Palmer decided to study these raids in the aggregate–rather than as individual cases–by collecting data on raids that have taken place over the last six decades. They did this both to establish for the first time an archive of raided groups, and to determine if any patterns could be identified. Even they were surprised at their findings; there were far more raids than expected, and the vast majority of them had occurred since 1990, reflecting a sharp, almost exponential increase. What could account for this sudden and dramatic increase in state control of minority religions?

In Storming Zion, Wright and Palmer argue that the increased use of these high-risk and extreme types of enforcement corresponds to expanded organization and initiatives by opponents of unconventional religions. Anti-cult organizations provide strategic “frames” that define potential conflicts or problems in a given community as inherently dangerous, and construct narratives that draw on stereotypes of child and sexual abuse, brainwashing, and even mass suicide. The targeted group is made to appear more dangerous than it is, resulting in an overreaction by authorities. Wright and Palmer explore the implications of heightened state repression and control of minority religions in an increasingly multicultural, globalized world. At a time of rapidly shifting demographics within Western societies this book cautions against state control of marginalized groups and offers insight about why the responses to these groups is often so reactionary.

“State and Nation-Building in Pakistan: Beyond Islam and Security” (Long et al., eds.)

In September, Routledge released “State and Nation-Building in Pakistan: Beyond Islam and Security” edited by Roger D. Long (Eastern Michigan University), Gurharpal Singh (University of London), Yunas Samad (University of Bradford, UK), and Ian Talbot (University of Southampton, UK). The publisher’s description follows:

Religion, violence, and ethnicity are all intertwined in the history of Pakistan. The entrenchment of landed interests, operationalized through violence, ethnic identity, and power through successive regimes has created a system of ‘authoritarian clientalism.’ This book offers comparative, historicist, and multidisciplinary views on the role of identity politics in the development of Pakistan.

Bringing together perspectives on the dynamics of state-building, the book provides insights into contemporary processes of national contestation which are crucially affected by their treatment in the world media, and by the reactions they elicit within an increasingly globalised polity. It investigates the resilience of landed elites to political and social change, and, in the years after partition, looks at the impact on land holdings of population transfer. It goes on to discuss religious identities and their role in both the construction of national identity and in the development of sectarianism. The book highlights how ethnicity and identity politics are an enduring marker in Pakistani politics, and why they are increasingly powerful and influential.

An insightful collection on a range of perspectives on the dynamics of identity politics and the nation-state, this book on Pakistan will be a useful contribution to South Asian Politics, South Asian History, and Islamic Studies.