In June, Routledge will release The Unbound God: Slavery and the Formation of Early Christian Thought by Chris L. de Wet (University of South Africa). The publisher’s description follows:
This volume examines the prevalence, function, and socio-political effects of slavery discourse in the major theological formulations of the late third to early fifth centuries AD, arguably the most formative period of early Christian doctrine. The question the book poses is this: in what way did the Christian theologians of the third, fourth, and early fifth centuries appropriate the discourse of slavery in their theological formulations, and what could the effect of this appropriation have been for actual physical slaves? This fascinating study is crucial reading for anyone with an interest in early Christianity or Late Antiquity, and slavery more generally.
In June, the University of Chicago Press will release Modernity and the Jews in Western Social Thought by Chad Alan Goldberg (University of Wisconsin-Madison). The publisher’s description follows:
In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, prominent social thinkers in France, Germany, and the United States sought to understand the modern world taking shape around them. Although they worked in different national traditions and emphasized different features of modern society, they repeatedly invoked Jews as a touchstone for defining modernity and national identity in a context of rapid social change.
In Modernity and the Jews in Western Social Thought, Chad Alan Goldberg brings us a major new study of Western social thought through the lens of Jews and Judaism. In France, where antisemites decried the French Revolution as the “Jewish Revolution,” Émile Durkheim challenged depictions of Jews as agents of revolutionary subversion or counterrevolutionary reaction. When German thinkers such as Karl Marx, Georg Simmel, Werner Sombart, and Max Weber debated the relationship of the Jews to modern industrial capitalism, they reproduced, in secularized form, cultural assumptions derived from Christian theology. In the United States, William Thomas, Robert Park, and their students conceived the modern city and its new modes of social organization in part by reference to the Jewish immigrants concentrating there. In all three countries, social thinkers invoked real or purported differences between Jews and gentiles to elucidate key dualisms of modern social thought. The Jews thus became an intermediary through which social thinkers discerned in a roundabout fashion the nature, problems, and trajectory of their own wider societies. Goldberg rounds out his fascinating study by proposing a novel explanation for why Jews were such an important cultural reference point. He suggests a rethinking of previous scholarship on Orientalism, Occidentalism, and European perceptions of America, arguing that history extends into the present, with the Jews—and now the Jewish state—continuing to serve as an intermediary for self-reflection in the twenty-first century.
In May, Palgrave Macmillan will release “Violence, Religion, Peacemaking,” edited by Douglas Irvin-Erickson (George Mason University) and Peter C. Phan (Georgetown University). The publisher’s description follows:
This volume explores how religious leaders can contribute to cultures of peace around the world. The essays are written by leading and emerging scholars and practitioners who have lived, taught, or worked in the areas of conflict about which they write. Connecting the theory and practice of religious peacebuilding to illuminate key challenges facing interreligious dialogue and interreligious peace work, the volume is explicitly interreligious, intercultural, and global in perspective. The chapters approach religion and peace from the vantage point of security studies, sociology, ethics, ecology, theology, and philosophy. A foreword by David Smock, the Vice President of Governance, Law and Society and Director of the Religion and Peacebuilding Center at the United States Institute of Peace, outlines the current state of the field.
In December, Routledge will release “Western Muslims and Conflicts Abroad: Conflict Spillovers to Diasporas,” by Juris Pupcenoks (Marist College). The publisher’s description follows:
This book explains why reactive conflict spillovers (political violence in response to conflicts abroad) occur in some migrant-background communities in the West. Based on survey data, statistical datasets, more than sixty interviews with Muslim community leaders and activists, ethnographic research in London and Detroit, and open-source data, this book develops a theoretical explanation for how both differences in government policies and features of migrant-background communities interact to influence the nature of foreign-policy focused activism in migrant communities. Utilizing rigorous, mixed-methods case study analysis, the author comparatively analyses the reactions of the Pakistani community in London and the Arab Muslim community in Detroit to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq during the decade following 9/11. Both communities are politically mobilized and active. However, while London has experienced reactive conflict spillover, Detroit has remained largely peaceful.
The key findings show that, with regards to activism in response to foreign policy events, Western Muslim communities primarily politically mobilize on the basis of their ethnic divisions. Nevertheless, one notable exception is the Arab-Israeli conflict, which is viewed through the Islamic lenses; and the common Islamic identity is important in driving mobilization domestically in response to Islamophobia, and counterterrorism policies and practices perceived to be discriminatory. Certain organizational arrangements involving minority community leaders, law enforcement, and government officials help to effectively contain excitable youth who may otherwise engage in deviant behavior. Overall, the following factors contribute to the creation of an environment where reactive conflict spillover is more likely to occur: policies allowing immigration of violent radicals, poor economic integration without extensive civil society inter-group ties, the presence of radical groups, and connections with radical networks abroad.
This month, Edinburgh University Press releases “Obligation in Exile: The Jewish Diaspora, Israel and Critique” by Ilan Zvi Baron (Durham University). The publisher’s description follows:
Combining political theory and sociological interviews spanning four countries, Ilan Zvi Baron explores the Jewish Diaspora/Israel relationship and suggests that instead of looking at Diaspora Jews’ relationship with Israel as a matter of loyalty, it is one of obligation.
Baron develops an outline for a theory of transnational political obligation and, in the process, provides an alternative way to understand and explore the Diaspora/Israel relationship than one mired in partisan debates about whether or not being a good Jew means supporting Israel. He concludes by arguing that critique of Israel is not just about Israeli policy, but about what it means to be a Diaspora Jew.
This month, Ashgate Publishing releases “Sociological Theory and the Question of Religion” edited by Andrew McKinnon and Marta Trzebiatowska (both at the University of Aberdeen, UK). The publisher’s description follows:
Religion lies near the heart of the classical sociological tradition, yet it no longer occupies the same place within the contemporary sociological enterprise. This relative absence has left sociology under-prepared for thinking about religion’s continuing importance in new issues, movements, and events in the twenty-first century. This book seeks to address this lacunae by offering a variety of theoretical perspectives on the study of religion that bridge the gap between mainstream concerns of sociologists and the sociology of religion.
Following an assessment of the current state of the field, the authors develop an emerging critical perspective within the sociology of religion with particular focus on the importance of historical background. Re-assessing the themes of aesthetics, listening and different degrees of spiritual self-discipline, the authors draw on ethnographic studies of religious involvement in Norway and the UK. They highlight the importance of power in the sociology of religion with help from Pierre Bourdieu, Marx and Critical Discourse Analysis. This book points to emerging currents in the field and offers a productive and lively way forward, not just for sociological theory of religion, but for the sociology of religion more generally.
From the noted philosopher of aesthetics Roger Scruton comes this new volume, The Soul of the World, published by Princeton University Press, in which Scruton offers a philosophy and a sociology of religion as situated within various worldly, personal, and aesthetic forms and experiences. The publisher’s description follows.
In The Soul of the World, renowned philosopher Roger Scruton defends the experience of the sacred against today’s fashionable forms of atheism. He argues that our personal relationships, moral intuitions, and aesthetic judgments hint at a transcendent dimension that cannot be understood through the lens of science alone. To be fully alive–and to understand what we are–is to acknowledge the reality of sacred things. Rather than an argument for the existence of God, or a defense of the truth of religion, the book is an extended reflection on why a sense of the sacred is essential to human life–and what the final loss of the sacred would mean. In short, the book addresses the most important question of modernity: what is left of our aspirations after science has delivered its verdict about what we are?
Drawing on art, architecture, music, and literature, Scruton suggests that the highest forms of human experience and expression tell the story of our religious need, and of our quest for the being who might answer it, and that this search for the sacred endows the world with a soul. Evolution cannot explain our conception of the sacred; neuroscience is irrelevant to our interpersonal relationships, which provide a model for our posture toward God; and scientific understanding has nothing to say about the experience of beauty, which provides a God’s-eye perspective on reality.
Ultimately, a world without the sacred would be a completely different world–one in which we humans are not truly at home. Yet despite the shrinking place for the sacred in today’s world, Scruton says, the paths to transcendence remain open.
Next month, Cambridge University Press will publish Religion and Inequality in America: Research and Theory on Religion’s Role in Stratification, edited by Lisa A. Keister (Duke University) and Darren E. Sherkat (Southern Illinois University). The publisher’s description follows.
Religion is one of the strongest and most persistent correlates of social and economic inequalities. Theoretical progress in the study of stratification and inequality has provided the foundation for asking relevant questions, and modern data and analytic methods enable researchers to test their ideas in ways that eluded their predecessors. A rapidly growing body of research provides strong evidence that religious affiliation and beliefs affect many components of well-being, such as education, income, and wealth. Despite the growing quantity and quality of research connecting religion to inequality, no single volume to date brings together key figures to discuss various components of this process. This volume aims to fill this gap with contributions from top scholars in the fields of religion and sociology. The essays in this volume provide important new details about how and why religion and inequality are related by focusing on new indicators of inequality and well-being, combining and studying mediating factors in new and informative ways, focusing on critical and often understudied groups, and exploring the changing relationship between religion and inequality over time.