“Religion, NGOs, and the United Nations” (Carrette & Miall, eds.)

This month, Bloomsbury Publishing released Religion, NGOs, and the United Nations: Visible and Invisible Actors in Power edited by Jeremy Carrette (University of Kent) and Hugh Miall (University of Kent). The publisher’s description follows:

Religion NGosHow do religious groups, operating as NGOs, engage in the most important global institution for world peace? What processes do they adopt? Is there a “spiritual” UN today? This book is the first interdisciplinary study to present extensive fieldwork results from an examination of the activity of religious groups at the United Nations in New York and Geneva. Based on a three and half-year study of activities in the United Nations system, it seeks to show how “religion” operates in both visible and invisible ways.

Jeremy Carrette, Hugh Miall, Verena Beittinger-Lee, Evelyn Bush and Sophie-Hélène Trigeaud, explore the way “religion” becomes a “chameleon” idea, appearing and disappearing, according to the diplomatic aims and ambitions. Part 1 documents the challenges of examining religion inside the UN, Part 2 explores the processes and actions of religious NGOs – from diplomacy to prayer – and the specific platforms of intervention – from committees to networks – and Part 3 provides a series of case studies of religious NGOs, including discussion of Islam, Catholicism and Hindu and Buddhist NGOs. The study concludes by examining the place of diplomats and their views of religious NGOs and reflects on the place of “religion” in the UN today. The study shows the complexity of “religion” inside one of the most fascinating global institutions of the world today.

Ulrich, “A House Full of Females”

In January, Penguin Random House released A House Full of Females: Plural Marriage and Women’s Rights in Early Mormonism, 1835-1870 by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich (Harvard University). The publisher’s description follows:

Mormon Book CoverFrom the author of A Midwife’s Tale, winner of the Pulitzer Prize and the Bancroft Prize for History, and The Age of Homespun–a revelatory, nuanced, and deeply intimate look at the world of early Mormon women whose seemingly ordinary lives belied an astonishingly revolutionary spirit, drive, and determination.

A stunning and sure-to-be controversial book that pieces together, through more than two dozen nineteenth-century diaries, letters, albums, minute-books, and quilts left by first-generation Latter-day Saints, or Mormons, the never-before-told story of the earliest days of the women of Mormon “plural marriage,” whose right to vote in the state of Utah was given to them by a Mormon-dominated legislature as an outgrowth of polygamy in 1870, fifty years ahead of the vote nationally ratified by Congress, and who became political actors in spite of, or because of, their marital arrangements. Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, writing of this small group of Mormon women who’ve previously been seen as mere names and dates, has brilliantly reconstructed these textured, complex lives to give us a fulsome portrait of who these women were and of their “sex radicalism”–the idea that a woman should choose when and with whom to bear children.

“Religion, Culture, and the Public Sphere in China and Japan” (Welter & Newmark, eds.)

This month, Springer released Religion, Culture, and the Public Sphere in China and Japan edited by Albert Welter (University of Arizona) and Jeffrey Newmark (University of Winnipeg). The publisher’s description follows:

Religion Culture and the Public Sphere in China and JapanThis collection examines the impact of East Asian religion and culture on the public sphere, defined as an idealized discursive arena that mediates the official and private spheres. Contending that the actors and agents on the fringes of society were instrumental in shaping the public sphere in traditional and modern East Asia, it considers how these outliers contribute to religious, intellectual, and cultural dialog in the public sphere. Jürgen Habermas conceptualized the public sphere as the discursive arena which grew within Western European bourgeoisie society, arguably overlooking topics such as gender, minorities, and non-European civilizations, as well as the extent to which agency in the public sphere is effective in non-Western societies and how practitioners on the outskirts of mainstream society can participate. This volume responds to and builds upon this dialogue by addressing how religious, intellectual, and cultural agency in the public sphere shapes East Asian cultures, particularly the activities of those found on the peripheries of historic and modern societies.

Gurock, “The Holocaust Averted”

This month, Rutgers University Press released the paperback edition of The Holocaust Averted: An Alternate History of American Jewry, 1938-1967 by Jeffrey S. Gurock (Yeshiva University). The publisher’s description follows:

The Holocaust AvertedThe increasingly popular genre of “alternative histories” has captivated audiences by asking questions like “what if the South had won the Civil War?” Such speculation can be instructive, heighten our interest in a topic, and shed light on accepted history. In The Holocaust Averted, Jeffrey Gurock imagines what might have happened to the Jewish community in the United States if the Holocaust had never occurred and forces readers to contemplate how the road to acceptance and empowerment for today’s American Jews could have been harder than it actually was.

 

Based on reasonable alternatives grounded in what is known of the time, places, and participants, Gurock presents a concise narrative of his imagined war-time saga and the events that followed Hitler’s military failures. While German Jews did suffer under Nazism, the millions of Jews in Eastern Europe survived and were able to maintain their communities. Since few people were concerned with the safety of European Jews, Zionism never became popular in the United States and social antisemitism kept Jews on the margins of society. By the late 1960s, American Jewish communities were far from vibrant.

This alternate history—where, among many scenarios, Hitler is assassinated, Japan does not bomb Pearl Harbor, and Franklin Delano Roosevelt is succeeded after two terms by Robert A. Taft—does cause us to review and better appreciate history. As Gurock tells his tale, he concludes every chapter with a short section that describes what actually happened and, thus, further educates the reader.

“Religion and the Morality of the Market” (Rudnyckyj & Osella, eds.)

In April, Cambridge University Press will release Religion and the Morality of the Market edited by Daromir Rudnyckyj (University of Victoria, British Columbia) and Filippo Osella (University of Sussex). The publisher’s description follows:

Religion and the Morality of the MarketSince the collapse of the Berlin Wall, there has been a widespread affirmation of economic ideologies that conceive the market as an autonomous sphere of human practice, holding that market principles should be applied to human action at large. In the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, the ascendance of market reason has been countered by calls for reforms of financial markets and for the consideration of moral values in economic practice. This book intervenes in these debates by showing how neoliberal market practices engender new forms of religiosity, and how religiosity shapes economic actions. It reveals how religious movements and organizations have reacted to the increasing prominence of market reason in unpredictable, and sometimes counterintuitive, ways. Using a range of examples from different countries and religious traditions, the book illustrates the myriad ways in which religious and market moralities are closely imbricated in diverse global contexts.

  • Allows for an exploration and theorization of economic practice through the lenses of the cultures and social relations in which it is embedded
  • Furthers the theorization and comparative analysis of the relations of distinct forms of morality and religion to economies
  • Provides a comparative framework for understanding how market practices and ideologies articulate with specific forms of religiosity or religious traditions

Manseau, “Objects of Devotion”

In May, Penguin Random House will release Objects of Devotion: Religion in Early America by Peter Manseau (Curator of American Religious History at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History). The publisher’s description follows:

“American Religion, American Politics” (Kosek, ed.)

In May, Yale University Press will release American Religion, American Politics: An Anthology edited by Joseph Kip Kosek (George Washington University). The publisher’s description follows:

American RelgionEssential primary sources reveal the central tensions between American politics and religion throughout the nation’s history

Despite the centrality of separation of church and state in American government, religion has played an important role in the nation’s politics from colonial times through the present day. This essential anthology provides a fascinating history of religion in American politics and public life through a wide range of primary documents. It explores contentious debates over freedom, tolerance, and justice, in matters ranging from slavery to the nineteenth-century controversy over Mormon polygamy to the recent discussions concerning same-sex marriage and terrorism.

Bringing together a diverse range of voices from Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, Muslim, and secular traditions and the words of historic personages, from Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, and Frances Willard to John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr., this collection is an invaluable introduction to one of the most important conversations in America’s history.

Myers, “Jewish History”

In May, Oxford University Press will release Jewish History: A Very Short Introduction by David N. Myers (UCLA). The publisher’s description follows:

Jewish HistoryHow have the Jews survived? For millennia, they have defied odds by overcoming the travails of exile, persecution, and recurring plans for their annihilation. Many have attempted to explain this singular success as a result of divine intervention. In this engaging book, David N. Myers charts the long journey of the Jews through history. At the same time, it points to two unlikely-and decidedly this-worldly–factors to explain the survival of the Jews: antisemitism and assimilation. Usually regarded as grave dangers, these two factors have continually interacted with one other to enable the persistence of the Jews. At every turn in their history, not just in the modern age, Jews have adapted to new environments, cultures, languages, and social norms. These bountiful encounters with host societies have exercised the cultural muscle of the Jews, preventing the atrophy that would have occurred if they had not interacted so extensively with the non-Jewish world. It is through these encounters–indeed, through a process of assimilation–that Jews came to develop distinct local customs, speak many different languages, and cultivate diverse musical, culinary, and intellectual traditions.

Left unchecked, the Jews’ well-honed ability to absorb from surrounding cultures might have led to their disappearance. And yet, the route toward full and unbridled assimilation was checked by the nearly constant presence of hatred toward the Jew. Anti-Jewish expression and actions have regularly accompanied Jews throughout history. Part of the ironic success of antisemitism is its malleability, its talent in assuming new forms and portraying the Jew in diverse and often contradictory images–for example, at once the arch-capitalist and revolutionary Communist. Antisemitism not only served to blunt further assimilation, but, in a paradoxical twist, affirmed the Jew’s sense of difference from the host society. And thus together assimilation and antisemitism (at least up to a certain limit) contribute to the survival of the Jews as a highly adaptable and yet distinct group.

 

“Cultures of Communication” (Puff et al, eds)

In May, the University of Toronto Press will release Cultures of Communication: Theologies of Media in Early Modern Europe and Beyond edited by Helmut Puff (University of Michigan), Ulrike Strasser (University of California, San Diego),  and Christopher Wild (University of Chicago). The publisher’s description follows:

Culture of CommunicationContrary to the historiographical commonplace “no Reformation without print” Cultures of Communication examines media in the early modern world through the lens of the period’s religious history. Looking beyond the emergence of print, this collection of ground-breaking essays highlights the pivotal role of theology in the formation of the early modern cultures of communication. The authors assembled here urge us to understand the Reformation as a response to the perceived crisis of religious communication in late medieval Europe. In addition, they explore the novel demands placed on European media ecology by the acceleration and intensification of global interconnectedness in the early modern period. As the Christian evangelizing impulse began to propel growing numbers of Europeans outward to the Americas and Asia, theories and practices of religious communication had to be reformed to accommodate an array of new communicative constellations – across distances, languages, cultures.

 

Burnham & Dickens, “Medieval Heresy”

In May, I.B. Tauris Publishers will release Medieval Heresy: The Church’s Struggle for Orthodoxy and Survival by Louisa Burnham (Middlebury College) and Andrea Janelle Dickens (United Theological Seminary). The publisher’s description follows:

Medieval HereticsInquisitors in the Middle Ages believed they could easily tell the difference between orthodox believers and heretics. They wrote manuals that described the beliefs and practices of heretical groups, devising questions designed to ferret out the fifth columnists hiding dangerously and threateningly in their midst. Heretics were the enemy within, the rotten apples in the religious barrel. It was essential to sort the sheep from the goats, in order to sustain the social and ecclesiastical order. But were heretics and faithful Christians really so very unlike? Louisa Burnham argues that historians have been too anxious to make simplistic distinctions between heresy and canonical orthodoxy. She contends that heretics were part of a complex movement that was as deeply spiritual as that of their enemies.Far from existing at the margins of popular religious life, heresy was central to the medieval Church’s attempt to define itself.Examining in turn some of the key heretical movements of the period (such as the Cathars, Waldensians, Beguins, Lollards, Wycliffites and Hussites), this bold and original textbook shows students and teachers of medieval history that there was a fine line between heresy and orthodoxy: and that, apart from circumstance, the distinction made between sinner and saint might often have been very different.

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