Liow, “Religion and Nationalism in Southeast Asia”

This month, the Cambridge University Press releases “Religion and Nationalism in Southeast Asia,” by Joseph Liow (Nanyang Technological University).  The publisher’s description follows:

Religion and nationalism are two of the most potent and enduring forces that have shaped the modern world. Yet, there has been little systematic study of how these two9781107167728 forces have interacted to provide powerful impetus for mobilization in Southeast Asia, a region where religious identities are as strong as nationalist impulses. At the heart of many religious conflicts in Southeast Asia lies competing conceptions of nation and nationhood, identity and belonging, and loyalty and legitimacy. In this accessible and timely study, Joseph Liow examines the ways in which religious identity nourishes collective consciousness of a people who see themselves as a nation, perhaps even as a constituent part of a nation, but anchored in shared faith. Drawing on case studies from across the region, Liow argues that this serves both as a vital element of identity and a means through which issues of rights and legitimacy are understood.

Pelham, “Holy Lands”

This month, Columbia Global Reports released “Holy Lands: Reviving Pluralism in the Middle East,” by Nicholas Pelham. The publisher’s description follows:

How did the world’s most tolerant region become the least harmonious place on the planet?

The headlines from the Middle East these days are bad, characterized by violence, 51ykklyeumlterror, and autocracy. Whatever hopes people may have for the region are being dashed over and over, in country after country. Nicolas Pelham, the veteran Middle East correspondent for The Economist, has witnessed much of the tragedy, but in Holy Lands he presents a strikingly original and startlingly optimistic argument.

The Middle East was notably more tolerant than Western Europe during the nineteenth century because the Ottoman Empire permitted a high degree of religious pluralism and self-determination within its vast borders. European powers broke up the empire and tried to turn it into a collection of secular nation-states—a spectacular failure. Rulers turned religion into a force for nationalism, and the result has been ever increasing sectarian violence. The only solution, Pelham argues, is to accept the Middle East for the deeply religious region it is, and try to revive its venerable tradition of pluralism.

Holy Lands is a work of vivid reportage—from Turkey and Iraq, Israel and Palestine, Abu Dhabi and Bahrain, Dubai and Jordan—that is animated by a big idea. It makes a region that is all too familiar from news reports feel fresh.

To hear more about this book from the author himself, click here to listen to a podcast from The Economist Radio.

Chalcraft, “Popular Politics in the Making of the Modern Middle East”

In March, Cambridge University Press released “Popular Politics in the Making of the Modern Middle East,” by John Chalcraft (London School of Economics). The publisher’s description follows:

The waves of protest ignited by the self-immolation of Muhammad Bouazizi in Tunisia in late 2010 highlighted for an international audience the importance of contentious 9781107007505politics in the Middle East and North Africa. John Chalcraft’s ground-breaking account of popular protest emphasizes the revolutionary modern history of the entire region. Challenging top-down views of Middle Eastern politics, he looks at how commoners, subjects and citizens have long mobilised in defiance of authorities. Chalcraft takes examples from a wide variety of protest movements from Morocco to Iran. He forges a new narrative of change over time, creating a truly comparative framework rooted in the dynamics of hegemonic contestation. Beginning with movements under the Ottomans, which challenged corruption and oppression under the banners of religion, justice, rights and custom, this book goes on to discuss the impact of constitutional movements, armed struggles, nationalism and independence, revolution and Islamism. A work of unprecedented range and depth, this volume will be welcomed by undergraduates and graduates studying protest in the region and beyond.

  • Surveys protest movements from Morocco to Iran, from the eighteenth century to the present
  • Based on an original conceptual framework that challenges both socioeconomic determinism and power-lite theories of contentious politics
  • Challenges top-down views of politics in the modern Middle East, giving a narrative of overall transformation that includes popular politics

Rafferty, “Violence, Politics and Catholicism in Ireland”

In February, Four Courts Press released “Violence, Politics and Catholicism in Ireland,” by Oliver P. Rafferty (Boston College).  The publisher’s description follows:

This collection of essays looks at the interrelated themes of Catholicism, violence and politics in the Irish context in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. setwidth440-rafferty-violence-politics-catholicismAlthough much effort was expended by institutional Catholicism in trying to curb the violent propensities of the Fenians in the nineteenth century and the IRA in the twentieth, its efforts were largely unsuccessful. Ironically, Catholicism had greater achievements to boast of in its influence in the British Empire as a whole than over its wayward flock in Ireland. But there was a cost in the church’s commitment to British imperial expansion that did not always sit easily with growing nationalist expectations in Ireland.

Although it provided support for the British forces in the First World War, by the time of the Second World War the church’s views of that conflict differed little from those of the government of independent Ireland, although there were sufficient differences that ensured Catholicism was not just nationalism at prayer.

These and other issues such as religious perceptions of the Famine, Cardinal Cullen’s role in shaping the ethos of Irish Catholicism and the role of memory, including religious memory, in Irish violence combine to make this a fascinating study.

“The New Russian Nationalism” (Kolstø & Blakkisrud, eds.)

Next month, the Oxford University Press will release “The New Russian Nationalism: Imperialism, Ethnicity and Authoritarianism 2000-2015,” edited by Pål Kolstø (University of Oslo) and Helge Blakkisrud (Norwegian Institute of International Affairs).  The publisher’s description follows:

Russian nationalism, previously dominated by ‘imperial’ tendencies – pride in a large, strong and multi-ethnic state able to project its influence abroad – is increasingly 9781474410427focused on ethnic issues. This new ethno-nationalism has come in various guises, like racism and xenophobia, but also in a new intellectual movement of ‘national democracy’ deliberately seeking to emulate conservative West European nationalism.

Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014 and the subsequent violent conflict in Eastern Ukraine utterly transformed the nationalist discourse in Russia. This book provides an up-to-date survey of Russian nationalism as a political, social and intellectual phenomenon by leading Western and Russian experts in the field of nationalism studies. It includes case studies on migrantophobia; the relationship between nationalism and religion; nationalism in the media; nationalism and national identity in economic policy; nationalism in the strategy of the Putin regime as well as a survey-based study of nationalism in public opinion.

Anscombe, “State, Faith, and Nation in Ottoman and Post-Ottoman Lands”

Next month, Cambridge will publish State, Faith, and Nation in Ottoman and9781107615236 Post-Ottoman Lands, by Frederick F. Anscombe (University of London). The publisher’s description follows.

Current standard narratives of Ottoman, Balkan, and Middle East history overemphasize the role of nationalism in the transformation of the region. Challenging these accounts, this book argues that religious affiliation was in fact the most influential shaper of communal identity in the Ottoman era, that religion molded the relationship between state and society, and that it continues to do so today in lands once occupied by the Ottomans. The book examines the major transformations of the past 250 years to illustrate this argument, traversing the nineteenth century, the early decades of post-Ottoman independence, and the recent past. In this way, the book affords unusual insights not only into the historical patterns of political development but also into the forces shaping contemporary crises, from the dissolution of Yugoslavia to the rise of political Islam.

On Loving the City

Marc’s post yesterday about Augustine’s two cities–the earthly and heavenly–reminded me of something I read in Peter Brown’s recent book on wealth in ancient Rome. Brown argues that a decisive shift in the conception of generosity accompanied the transition from pagan to Christian society. Both pagans and Christians could be generous. But the objects of their generosity differed.

In pagan Rome, generosity meant adorning one’s city–nowadays, we would say, “country”–contributing to its stature, power, and beauty. Benefactors gave money for magnificent buildings, games, and banquets. Such generosity was understood as a form of love, the “amor civicus,” or “love for the city and its citizens.” A rich person who gave money to glorify his city, Brown writes, “was acclaimed as an amator patriae–a lover of his or her hometown. It was the most honorable love that a wealthy person could show.” A pagan benefactor would not think of looking beyond his city when making a gift. That would have been a snub to his hometown and fellow citizens. 

Christian giving was a different thing. The ideal recipients of Christian generosity were not one’s fellow citizens, who might be quite well-off, but the poor and marginalized, whether they were citizens of one’s patria or not. The point was still to give money in a way that would glorify the city. But the heavenly city, not the earthly city, was the proper object of glorification. Christian charity, Brown writes, was “a transfer of wealth from this world to the next, summed up in the notion of placing treasure in heaven.”

Obviously these are generalities; there were pagans who gave to the poor and Christians who tried to beautify Rome. But the change in focus was essential, and dramatic. From a Christian perspective, the things of this world, although important and necessary, can never be the main concern. Friends, family, home, country–of course one loves these things. Only a monster would not. But it is foolish to glorify or invest too much in them, particularly country. “For here we have no lasting city,” the author of Hebrews says, “but we are looking for the city that is to come.”

Marc began his post with a poem, so I will end with one. In Browning’s “Love Among the Ruins,” a shepherd muses over the ruins of an ancient capital, now a pasture. I’ve always imagined that Browning was talking about the ruins of the Roman Forum, which for centuries, before the archaeologists started to dig, were known as the Campo Vaccino, or cow pasture. The love that Browning describes isn’t Christian love, exactly, but it strikes me as a lot closer to that ideal than the amor civicus:

In one year they sent a million fighters forth
South and North,
And they built their gods a brazen pillar high
As the sky
Yet reserved a thousand chariots in full force—
Gold, of course.
O heart! oh blood that freezes, blood that burns!
Earth’s returns
For whole centuries of folly, noise and sin!
Shut them in,
With their triumphs and their glories and the rest!
Love is best. 

Romocea, “Church and State”

Last month, Bloomsbury Publishing published Church and State: Religious Nationalism and State Identification in Post-Communist Romania by Cristian Romocea (Evandeoski Teoloski Fakultet Osijek, Croatia). The publisher’s description follows.Church and State

Twenty years have passed since the fall of the Iron Curtain, yet emerging democracies continue to struggle with a secular state which does not give preference to churches as major political players. This book explores the nationalist inclinations of an Eastern Orthodox Church as it interacts with a politically immature yet decisively democratic Eastern European state. Discussing the birth pangs of extreme nationalist movements of the twentieth century, it offers a creative retelling of the ideological idiosyncrasies which have characterized Marxist Communism and Nazism. Cristian Romocea provides a constant juxtaposition of the ideological movements as they interacted and affected organized religion, at times seeking to remove it, assimilate it or even imitate it. Of interest to historians, theologians and politicians, this book introduces the reader, through a case study of Romania, to relevant and contemporary challenges churches worldwide are facing in a context characterized by increased secularization of the state and radicalization of religion.

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