Thomassen, “British Multiculturalism and the Politics of Representation”

In April, Oxford University Press releases “British Multiculturalism and the Politics of Representation,” by Lasse Thomassen (Queen Mary, University of London).  The publisher’s description follows:

Lasse Thomassen argues that the politics of inclusion and identity should be viewed as struggles over how these identities are represented. He centres thislogoargument through careful analysis of cases from the last four decades of British multiculturalism.

Uses a fresh, poststructuralist approach to reconcile the theoretical and practical issues surrounding inclusion and exclusion – a rare example of how poststructuralism can speak to mainstream concerns and theory

Opens up debates and themes including Britishness, race, the ature and role of Islam in British society, homelessness and social justice

Case studies include public debates about the role of religion in British society; Prime MInisters Gordon Brown and David Cameron>’s contrasting versions of Britishness; legal cases about religious symbols and clothing in schools; and the Nick Hornby novel How to Be Good – most of which have never been covered in such detail before

Examines a number of legal cases: ‘The Queen on the application of Sarika Angel Watkins-Singh v. The Governing Body of Aberdare Girls’ High School and Rhondda Cynon Taf Unitary Authority’, High Court, 2008; ‘Playfoot (a minor), R (on the application of) v Millais School’ High Court 2007; ‘X v Y’, High Court, 2007; and ‘Mandla and another v Dowell Lee and another’, House of Lords, 1983

Hattersley, “The Catholics”

This month, Chatto & Windus released The Catholics: The Church and its People in Britain and Ireland, from the Reformation to the Present Day by Roy Hattersley (The Guardian). The publisher’s description follows:

CatholicsThroughout the three hundred years that followed the Act of Supremacy – which, by making Henry VIII head of the Church, confirmed in law the breach with Rome – English Catholics were prosecuted, persecuted and penalised for the public expression of their faith. Even after the passing of the emancipation acts Catholics were still the victims of institutionalised discrimination.

The first book to tell the story of the Catholics in Britain in a single volume, The Catholics includes much previously unpublished information. It focuses on the lives, and sometimes deaths, of individual Catholics – martyrs and apostates, priests and laymen, converts and recusants. It tells the story of the men and women who faced the dangers and difficulties of being what their enemies still call ‘Papists’. It describes the laws which circumscribed their lives, the political tensions which influenced their position within an essentially Anglican nation and the changes in dogma and liturgy by which Rome increasingly alienated their Protestant neighbours – and sometime even tested the loyalty of faithful Catholics.

The survival of Catholicism in Britain is the triumph of more than simple faith. It is the victory of moral and spiritual unbending certainty. Catholicism survives because it does not compromise. It is a characteristic that excites admiration in even a hardened atheist.

“Material Religion in Modern Britain: The Spirit of Things” (Jones & Matthews-Jones, eds.)

In August, Palgrave Macmillan will release “Material Religion in Modern Britain: The Spirit of Things”  edited by Timothy Willem Jones (La Trobe University, Australia) and Lucinda Matthews-Jones (Liverpool John Moores University, UK). The publisher’s description follows:

A growing awareness of religious plurality and religious conflict in 9781137540553
contemporary society has led to a search for new ways to understand religious change beyond traditional subjects of British ecclesiology. Narratives of the gradual decline of Christianity dominate this field; yet many scholars now concede that Britain’s religious landscape was more varied and rich than these narratives would suggest. Material Religion in Modern Britain responds to this challenge by bringing emerging scholarship on material culture to bear on studies of religion and spirituality. The collection is the first to apply this suite of analytical methods to the traditional subjects of British religious studies and the full spectrum of religious denominations, sects, and movements that constituted Britain’s multi-faith landscape in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The book reveals how, across this religious spectrum, objects were, and continue to be, used in the performance and production of religious faith and subjectivity. In doing so it expands our understanding of the persistence of religious belief and culture in a secularising, secularized, and post-secular society.

Raponi, “Religion and Politics in the Risorgimento”

I’m a bit late in noting this book, but the subject is so interesting that an Raponiexception was needed. Danilo Raponi’s (Goethe Universität Frankfurt am Main) still new Religion and Politics in the Risorgimento: Britain and the New Italy, 1861-1875, was published by Palgrave Mamillan last fall and looks to be a wonderful resource on an insufficiently studied topic. The publisher’s description follows.

This book examines Anglo-Italian political and cultural relations in the years of the ‘Roman Question’, and it analyses the impact and importance of religion in the construction of a British ‘Orientalist’ perception of Italy. It focuses on the British and Foreign Bible Society’s attempts to turn Italy into a Protestant nation, showing how perceived shortcomings in the national character of the Italians convinced the British that such ‘Protestantisation’ was necessary if Italy was ever to achieve nationhood. Their efforts encountered, however, strong popular and intellectual resistance from both the Italian people and the Catholic clergy, who called on Catholic Ireland to intervene in their defence. By looking at the interplay between religion and foreign policy, this book breaks through the boundaries between high politics and culture in a way that has not been attempted so far in the study of modern Italy, and puts religion at the centre of a harsh political and cultural war, one that was fought primarily on a transnational level.

Bretherton, “Resurrecting Democracy”

In December, Cambridge University Press released “Resurrecting Democracy: Faith, Citizenship, and the Politics of a Common Life” by Luke Bretherton (Duke University).  The publisher’s description follows:

Resurrecting DemocracyThrough a case study of community organizing in the global city of London and an examination of the legacy of Saul Alinsky around the world, this book develops a constructive account of the relationship between religious diversity, democratic citizenship, and economic and political accountability. Based on an in-depth, ethnographic study, Part I identifies and depicts a consociational, populist and post-secular vision of democratic citizenship by reflecting on the different strands of thought and practice that feed into and help constitute community organizing. Particular attention is given to how organizing mediates the relationship between Christianity, Islam and Judaism and those without a religious commitment in order to forge a common life. Part II then unpacks the implications of this vision for how we respond to the spheres in which citizenship is enacted, namely, civil society, the sovereign nation-state, and the globalized economy. Overall, the book outlines a way of re-imagining democracy, developing innovative public policy, and addressing poverty in the contemporary context.

“Muslims and Political Participation in Britain” (Peace, ed.)

This March, Routledge Press will release “Muslims and Political Participation in Britain” edited by Timothy Peace (University of Stirling, UK).  The publisher’s description follows:

This new volume showcases the latest research into Muslim political participation both in terms of electoral politics and civil society initiatives.

Muslims play a prominent role in British political life yet what do we actually know about the involvement of British Muslims beyond the existence of a handful of Muslim MPs? What is unique about political participation in Muslim communities? All the major parties actively seek to court a ‘Muslim electorate’ but does such a phenomenon exist? Despite the impact that Muslims have had on election campaigns and their roles in various political institutions, research on this topic remains scant. Indeed, much of the existing work was couched within the broader areas of the participation of ethnic minorities or the impact of race on electoral politics. The chapters in this volume address this lacuna by highlighting different aspects of Muslim participation in British politics. They investigate voting patterns and election campaigns, civil society and grassroots political movements, the engagement of young people and the participation of Muslims in formal political institutions.

Written in an accessible style, this book will be of interest to students and scholars of political participation and religious studies.

Clements, “Religion and Public Opinion in Britain”

This March, Palgrave Macmillan Press will release “Religion and Public Opinion in Britain: Continuity and Change” by Ben Clements (University of Leicester).  The publisher’s description follows:

Religion and Public OpinionBased on extensive analysis of social surveys and opinion polls conducted over recent decades, this book provides a detailed study of the social and political attitudes of religious groups in Britain. It covers a period when religion has declined in significance as a social force in Britain, with falling levels of identity, belief, attendance and of the traditional rites of passage. It looks at group attitudes based on religious affiliation, attendance and other indicators of personal engagement with faith. It details the main areas of attitudinal continuity and change in relation to party support, ideology, abortion, homosexuality and gay rights, and foreign policy. It also examines wider changes in public opinion towards the role of religion in public life, charting the decline in religious authority, a key indicator of secularisation. It provides an important ‘bottom-up’ perspective on the historical and contemporary linkages between religion and politics in Britain.

Gilham, “Loyal Enemies: British Converts to Islam, 1850-1950”

In June, Oxford University Press will publish Loyal Enemies: British Converts toLoyal Enemies Islam, 1850-1950, by Jamie Gilham. The publisher’s description follows.

Loyal Enemies uncovers the history of the earliest British converts to Islam who lived their lives freely as Muslims on British soil, from the 1850s to the 1950s. Drawing on original archival research, it reveals that people from across the range of social classes defied convention by choosing Islam in this period. Through a series of case studies of influential converts and pioneering Muslim communities, Loyal Enemies considers how the culture of Empire and imperialism influenced and affected their conversions and subsequent lives, before examining how they adapted and sustained their faith. Jamie Gilham shows that, although the overall number of converts was small, conversion to Islam aroused hostile reactions locally and nationally. He therefore also probes the roots of antipathy towards Islam and Muslims, identifies their manifestations and explores what conversion entailed socially and culturally. He also considers whether there was any substance to persistent allegations that converts had “divided” loyalties between the British Crown and a Muslim ruler, country or community. Loyal Enemies is a book about the past, but its core themes–about faith and belief, identity, Empire, loyalties and discrimination– are still salient today.

David Cameron on the Persecution of Christians

The persecution of Christians, slowly, is making its way onto the world’s agenda. In his annual Easter message, British Prime Minister David Cameron (above) urged churches in Britain to do more to draw attention to the suffering of Christians across the globe. Cameron also spoke, unusually, about his own Christian faith and the benefits Christianity “brings to Britain.” Skeptics might perceive an attempt to smooth relations with rank-and-file Conservatives, many of whom Cameron antagonized by supporting same-sex marriage. But politicians always have a variety of motives. Cameron deserves credit for raising the issue of persecution at a time when many in the West ignore it.

And why do so many in the West ignore the persecution of Christians? The always valuable John Allen explains:

Why isn’t this global war on Christians more of a cause célèbre?Fundamentally, the silence is the result of a bogus narrative about religion in the West. Most Americans and Europeans are in the habit of thinking about Christianity as a rich, powerful, socially dominant institution, which makes it hard to grasp that Christians can actually be victims of persecution.

I’ve made a similar point myself, here.

Britain to Recognize Sharia-Compliant Wills

An interesting story about The Law Society’s decision to recognize the legitimacy of Islamic law by permitting solicitors to draft wills that are compliant with principles of Islamic law. A bit:

Under ground-breaking guidance, produced by The Law Society, High Street solicitors will be able to write Islamic wills that deny women an equal share of inheritances and exclude unbelievers altogether.

The documents, which would be recognised by Britain’s courts, will also prevent children born out of wedlock – and even those who have been adopted – from being counted as legitimate heirs.

Anyone married in a church, or in a civil ceremony, could be excluded from succession under Sharia principles, which recognise only Muslim weddings for inheritance purposes.

Nicholas Fluck, president of The Law Society, said the guidance would promote “good practice” in applying Islamic principles in the British legal system.

The story reports that some of the existing Islamic law tribunals also “have powers to set contracts between parties, mainly in commercial disputes, but also to deal with issues such as domestic violence, family disputes and inheritance battles.”

It may be that The Law Society will eventually make the same decision with respect to private parties who wish to engage in commercial transactions that conform to Islamic law, or who wish to avoid commercial transactions with those who hold what are taken to be religiously objectionable views. Interesting that the reception to similar claims in this country has been rather different.

UPDATE: See Frank Cranmer’s comment for various clarifications.

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