“Filing Religion” (Berti et al, eds.)

In June, the Oxford University Press released “Filing Religion: State, Hinduism, and Courts of Law,” edited by Daniela Berti (National Centre for Scientific Research), Gilles Tarabout (National Centre for Scientific Research), and Raphaël Voix (National Centre for Scientific Research). The publisher’s description follows:

The Indian Constitution posits a separation between a secular domain that the state can regulate and a religious one in which it should not interfere. However, defining the 9780199463794separation between the two has proved contentious: the state is involved in various ways in the direct administration of many religious institutions; and courts are regularly asked to decide on rights linked to religious functions and bodies. Such decisions contribute to (re)defining religious categories and practices.

This edited volume aims at exploring how apparently technical legalistic action taking place in courts of law significantly shapes the place Hinduism occupies in Indian and Nepalese societies, perhaps even more so than the ideology of any political party. Thus, this volume does not deal so much with politics of secularism in general, but with how courts deal in practice with Hinduism. The approach developed in this volume is resolutely historical and anthropological. It considers law as part of social, religious, and political dynamics while relying on in-depth ethnography and archival research.

“Multireligious Society” (González & D’Amato, eds.)

In October, Routledge will release Multireligious Society: Dealing with Religious Diversity in Theory and Practice edited by Francisco Colom González (Spanish National Research Council) and Gianni D’Amato (University of Neuchâtel, Switzerland). The publisher’s description follows: Multireligious Society

With the theory of secularization increasingly contested as a plausible development at a global scale, this book focuses on the changing significance of the religious element within a context of complex diversity. This concept reflects the rationale behind the deep transformations that have taken place in the dynamics of social change, giving way to a recombination of social, political and cultural cleavages that overlap and compete for legitimacy at a national and supranational level. Far from disappearing with modernization, new forms of religious diversity have emerged that continue to demand specific policies from the state, putting pressure on the established practices of religious governance while creating a series of normative dilemmas. European societies have been a testing ground for many of these changes, but for decades Canada has been viewed as a pioneering country in the management of diversity, thus offering some interesting similarities and contrasts with the former. Accordingly, the book deals with the diverging routes that political secularization has followed in Europe and Canada, the patterns of religious governance that can be recognized in each region, and the practices for accommodating the demands of religious minorities concerning their legal regulation, the management of public institutions, and the provision of social services.

Polat, “Regime Change in Contemporary Turkey”

In September, the University of Edinburgh Press will release Regime Change in Contemporary Turkey: Politics, Rights, Mimesis by Necati Polat (Middle East Technical University, Ankara). The publisher’s description follows:

Regime Change in TurkeyTurkey has undergone a series of upheavals in its political regime from the mid-19th century. This book details the most recent change, locating it in its broader historical setting. Beginning with the Justice and Development Party’s rule from late 2002, supported by a broad informal coalition that included liberals, the book shows how the former Islamists gradually acquired full power between 2007 and 2011. It then describes the subsequent phase, looking at politics and rights under the amorphous new order.

This is the first scholarly yet accessible assessment of this historic change, placing it in the larger context of political modernisation in the country over the past 150 or so years.

Howe, “Landscapes of the Secular”

In September, the University of Chicago Press will release Landscapes of the Secular: Law, Religion, and American Sacred Space by Nicolas Howe (Williams College). The publisher’s description follows:

landscape of the secular“What does it mean to see the American landscape in a secular way?” asks Nicolas Howe at the outset of this innovative, ambitious, and wide-ranging book. It’s a surprising question because of what it implies: we usually aren’t seeing American landscapes through a non-religious lens, but rather as inflected by complicated, little-examined concepts of the sacred.

 Fusing geography, legal scholarship, and religion in a potent analysis, Howe shows how seemingly routine questions about how to look at a sunrise or a plateau or how to assess what a mountain is both physically and ideologically, lead to complex arguments about the nature of religious experience and its implications for our lives as citizens. In American society—nominally secular but committed to permitting a diversity of religious beliefs and expressions—such questions become all the more fraught and can lead to difficult, often unsatisfying compromises regarding how to interpret and inhabit our public lands and spaces. A serious commitment to secularism, Howe shows, forces us to confront the profound challenges of true religious diversity in ways that often will have their ultimate expression in our built environment. This provocative exploration of some of the fundamental aspects of American life will help us see the land, law, and society anew.

Ozment, “Grace Without God”

Ozment, “Grace Without God”

Grace-without-GodThis month, HarperCollins Publishers has released Grace Without God: The Search for Meaning, Purpose, and Belonging in a Secular Age by Katherine Ozment (award-winning journalist and former senior editor at National Geographic). The publisher’s description follows:

Meet “the Nones”—In this thought-provoking exploration of secular America, celebrated journalist Katherine Ozment takes readers on a quest to understand the trends and ramifications of a nation in flight from organized religion.

Studies show that religion makes us happier, healthier and more giving, connecting us to our past and creating tight communal bonds. Most Americans are raised in a religious tradition, but in recent decades many have begun to leave religion, and with it their ancient rituals, mythic narratives, and sense of belonging.

So how do the nonreligious fill the need for ritual, story, community, and, above all, purpose and meaning without the one-stop shop of religion? What do they do with the space left after religion? With Nones swelling to one-fourth of American adults, and Continue reading

Conference: Tradition, Secularization, and Fundamentalism

Fordham University’s Orthodox Christian Studies Center will hold a conference on “Tradition, Secularization, Fundamentalism” from Thursday, June 23rd through Saturday, June 25th, 2016. Here is the conference description, from the event’s website:

While the very meaning of the “secular” remains contested, Christians globally are self-identifying in different ways in relation to an imagined secularization, all the while discerning how to live as a tradition.  This intersection between tradition, secularization and fundamentalism is especially evident in both post-Communist Catholic/Orthodox countries and the American context, where fundamentalist-like responses have emerged against the perceived threat of the secular.

Additional information and the event schedule can be found here.

Elmore, “Becoming Religious in a Secular Age”

In June, the University of California Press will release “Becoming Religious in a Secular Age,” by Mark Elmore (University of California, Davis).  The publisher’s description follows:

Religion is commonly viewed as a timeless element of the human inheritance, but in the Western Himalayas the community of Himachal Pradesh discovered its religion 9780520290549only after India became an independent secular state. Based on extensive ethnographic and archival work, Becoming Religious in a Secular Age tells the story of this discovery and how it transformed a community’s relations to its past, to its members, and to those outside the community. And, as Mark Elmore demonstrates, Himachali religion offers a unique opportunity to reimagine relations between religion and secularity. Tracing the emergence of religion, Elmore shows that modern secularity is not so much the eradication of religion as the very condition for its development. Showing us that to become a modern, ethical subject is to become religious, this book creatively augments our understanding of both religion and modernity.

De Roover, “Europe, India, and the Limits of Secularism”

Next month, Oxford University Press will release “Europe, India, and the Limits of Secularism,” by Jakob De Roover (Ghent University).  The publisher’s description follows:

For several decades now, commentators have sounded the alarm about the crisis of secularism. Saving the secular state from political religion, they suggest, is a question9780199460977 of survival for societies characterized by religious diversity. Yet it remains unclear what the crisis is all about. This book argues that its roots are internal to the liberal model of secularism and toleration. Rather than being neutral or non-religious, this is a secularized theological model with deep religious roots. The limits of liberal secularism go back to its emergence from the dynamics and tensions of the Protestant Reformation in Europe. From the very beginning, it went hand in hand with its own mode of intolerance: an anticlerical theology that rejected Catholicism and Judaism as evil forms of political religion. Later this framework produced the colonial descriptions of Hinduism (and its caste hierarchy) as a false and immoral religion. Thus, secularism was presented as the only route forward for India. Still, the secular state often harms local forms of living together and reinforces conflicts rather than resolving them. Todays advocacy of secularism is not the outcome of reasonable reflection on the problems of Indian society but a manifestation of colonial consciousness.

Jacoby, “Strange Gods”

In February, Pantheon published “Strange Gods: A Secular History of Conversion,” by Susan Jacoby. The publisher’s description follows:

In this original and riveting exploration, Susan Jacoby argues that conversion—especially in the free American “religious marketplace”—is too often viewed only51pkelrrjcl within the conventional and simplistic narrative of personal reinvention and divine grace. Instead, the author places conversions within a secular social context that has, at various times, included the force of a unified church and state, desire for upward economic mobility, and interreligious marriage—the latter as critical in the early Christian era as in the United States today, where half of Americans have switched faiths at least once in their adult lives. The sometimes tragic, sometimes inspiring story is shaped by the competing absolute truth claims of Catholicism, Protestantism, and Islam and their impact on Jews—the only monotheistic believers with an older historical stake. Moving through time, continents, and cultures—dealing with the often-ignored forced conversion of American slaves to Christianity as well as with the better-known story of the Spanish Inquisition and the persecution of both atheists and Christians in modern Islamic theocracies—the story also includes conversions to authoritarian secular ideologies, notably Stalinist Communism, that resemble traditional, unquestioning faith. Finally, the author examines true religious choice—a product of the Enlightenment pioneered by the U.S. Constitution. This history is punctuated by portraits of individual converts, including the Catholic Church father Augustine of Hippo; the German Jewish convert to Catholicism Edith Stein, murdered at Auschwitz and canonized by the church; boxing champion Muhammad Ali, who scandalized white Americans in the 1960s by becoming a Muslim, and even politicians such as George W. Bush and former British prime minister Tony Blair. In a forthright conclusion to this enthralling history, Strange Gods takes on the question of why the freedom to choose a religion—or to reject religion altogether—is a fundamental human rights issue that remains a breeding ground for violence in areas of the world that never experienced an Enlightenment.

Al-Rasheed, “Muted Modernists”

This month, the Oxford University Press will release “Muted Modernists: The Struggle over Divine Politics in Saudi Arabia,” by Madawi Al-Rasheed (London School of Economics).  The publisher’s description follows:

Analysis of both official and opposition Saudi divine politics is often monolithic, conjuring images of conservatism, radicalism, misogyny and 519q28vpqzl-_sx320_bo1204203200_resistance to democracy. Madawi Al-Rasheed challenges this stereotype as she examines a long tradition of engaging with modernism that gathered momentum with the Arab uprisings and incurred the wrath of both the regime and its Wahhabi supporters. With this nascent modernism, constructions of new divine politics, anchored in a rigorous reinterpretation of foundational Islamic texts and civil society activism are emerging in a context where authoritarian rule prefers its advocates to remain muted. The author challenges scholarly wisdom on Islamism in general and blurs the boundaries between secular and religious politics.

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