Smith, “Religion”

Continuing our sociology of religion theme this week, here is a forthcoming book from Notre Dame sociologist Christian Smith, Religion: What It Is, How It Works, Why It Matters (Princeton University Press). Defining religion is a notoriously difficult task, and this book, by the scholar who came up with the concept of Moral Therapeutic Deism, is bound to be interesting and helpful. The description from the Princeton website follows:

k11200A groundbreaking new theory of religion

Religion remains an important influence in the world today, yet the social sciences are still not adequately equipped to understand and explain it. This book builds on recent developments in science, theory, and philosophy to advance an innovative theory of religion that goes beyond the problematic theoretical paradigms of the past.

Drawing on the philosophy of critical realism and personalist social theory, Christian Smith answers key questions about the nature, powers, workings, appeal, and future of religion. He defines religion in a way that resolves myriad problems and ambiguities in past accounts, explains the kinds of causal influences religion exerts in the world, and examines the key cognitive process that makes religion possible. Smith explores why humans are religious in the first place—uniquely so as a species—and offers an account of secularization and religious innovation and persistence that breaks the logjam in which so many religion scholars have been stuck for so long.

Certain to stimulate debate and inspire promising new avenues of scholarship, Religion features a wealth of illustrations and examples that help to make its concepts accessible to readers. This superbly written book brings sound theoretical thinking to a perennially thorny subject, and a new vitality and focus to its study.

Nicolaou, “A None’s Story”

The rise of the Nones has been the most remarked upon development in American religion since the turn of this century. A recent book from Columbia University Press, A None’s Story: Searching for Meaning Inside Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism and Islam, by author Corinna Nicolaou, is an insider’s depiction of what it’s like to follow the Nones’ path–or, perhaps, it’s better to write, a None’s path. The publisher’s description follows:

9780231173957The rising population known as “nones” for its members’ lack of religious affiliation is changing American society, politics, and culture. Many nones believe in God and even visit places of worship, but they do not identify with a specific faith or belong to a spiritual community. Corinna Nicolaou is a none, and in this layered narrative, she describes what it is like for her and thousands of others to live without religion or to be spiritual without committing to a specific faith.

Nicolaou tours America’s major traditional religions to see what, if anything, one might lack without God. She moves through Christianity’s denominations, learning their tenets and worshiping alongside their followers. She travels to Los Angeles to immerse herself in Judaism, Berkeley to educate herself about Buddhism, and Dallas and Washington, D.C., to familiarize herself with Islam. She explores what light they can shed on the fears and failings of her past, and these encounters prove the significant role religion still plays in modern life. They also exemplify the vibrant relationship between religion and American culture and the enduring value it provides to immigrants and outsiders. Though she remains a devout none, Nicolaou’s experiences reveal points of contact between the religious and the unaffiliated, suggesting that nones may be radically revising the practice of faith in contemporary times.

 

 

Tonnelat & Kornblum, “International Express”

One reason it’s so appropriate to have a center for law and religion here at St. John’s is that our main campus sits in perhaps the most religiously diverse county in the nation–the Borough of Queens in New York City. Queens, for those of you who haven’t been here, is the embodiment of Joyce’s observation about the Catholic Church: “Here comes everybody.” Nowhere is that more apparent that on the Number 7 train, the elevated subway line that runs through the borough. In my brighter moods, it seems to me the diversity one finds along the 7 train is a good example of the kind of religious tolerance America, and New York, has traditionally shown, especially for immigrants. At other moments, it seems to me the tolerance more reflects the fact that the communities largely keep to themselves and avoid more than passing contact with one another.

A new book from Columbia University Press, International Express: New Yorkers on the 7 Train, by sociologists Stéphane Tonnelat (Paris-Nanterre) and William Kornblum (CUNY), describes what one can find on the line to Main Street, Flushing. The publisher’s description follows:

9780231181488Nicknamed the International Express, the New York City Transit Authority 7 subway line runs through a highly diverse series of ethnic and immigrant neighborhoods in Queens. People from Andean South America, Central America, China, India, Italy, Korea, Mexico, Pakistan, Poland, Romania, and Vietnam, as well as residents of a number of gentrifying blue-collar and industrial neighborhoods, fill the busy streets around the stations. The 7 train is a microcosm of a specifically urban, New York experience, in which individuals from a variety of cultures and social classes are forced to interact and get along with one another. For newcomers to the city, mastery of life in the subway space is a step toward assimilation into their new home.

In International Express, the French ethnographer Stéphane Tonnelat and his collaborator William Kornblum, a native New Yorker, ride the 7 subway line to better understand the intricacies of this phenomenon. They also ask a group of students with immigrant backgrounds to keep diaries of their daily rides on the 7 train. What develops over time, they find, is a set of shared subway competences leading to a practical cosmopolitanism among riders, including immigrants and their children, that changes their personal values and attitudes toward others in small, subtle ways. This growing civility helps newcomers feel at home in an alien city and builds what the authors call a “situational community in transit.” Yet riding the subway can be problematic, especially for women and teenagers. Tonnelat and Kornblum pay particular attention to gender and age relations on the 7 train. Their portrait of integrated mass transit, including a discussion of the relationship between urban density and diversity, is invaluable for social scientists and urban planners eager to enhance the cooperative experience of city living for immigrants and ease the process of cultural transition.

Imhoff, “Masculinity and the Making of American Judaism”

This month, Indiana University Press releases Masculinity and the Making of American Judaism by Sarah Imhoff (Indiana University). The publisher’s description follows:

MasculinityHow did American Jewish men experience manhood, and how did they present their masculinity to others? In this distinctive book, Sarah Imhoff shows that the project of shaping American Jewish manhood was not just one of assimilation or exclusion. Jewish manhood was neither a mirror of normative American manhood nor its negative, effeminate opposite. Imhoff demonstrates how early 20th-century Jews constructed a gentler, less aggressive manhood, drawn partly from the American pioneer spirit and immigration experience, but also from Hollywood and the YMCA, which required intense cultivation of a muscled male physique. She contends that these models helped Jews articulate the value of an acculturated American Judaism. Tapping into a rich historical literature to reveal how Jews looked at masculinity differently than Protestants or other religious groups, Imhoff illuminates the particular experience of American Jewish men.

Mulder, Ramos, & Marti, “Latino Protestants in America”

This month, Rowman & Littlefield Publishers released Latino Protestants in America: Growing and Diverse by Mark T. Mulder (Calvin College), Aida I. Ramos (George Fox University), and Gerard0 Marti (Davidson College). The publisher’s description follows:

Latino Protestants.jpgLatino Protestantism is growing rapidly in the United States. Researchers estimate that by 2030 half of all Latinos in America will be Protestant. This remarkable growth is not just about numbers. The rise of Latino Protestants will impact the changing nature of American politics, economics, and religion. Latino Protestants in America takes readers inside the numbers to highlight the many reasons Latino Protestants are growing as well as the diversity of this group.

The book brings together the best existing scholarship on this group with original research to offer a nuanced picture of Latino Protestants in America, from worship practices to political engagement. The narrative helps readers move beyond misconceptions about Latino religion and offers a window into the diverse ways that religion plays out in real life. Latino Protestants in America is an essential resource for anyone interested in the beliefs and practices of this group, as well as the implications for its growth and areas for further study.

Lehmann, “The Money Cult”

In May, Melville House will release the paperback edition of The Money Cult: Capitalism, Christianity, and the Unmaking of the American Dream by Chris Lehmann (Bookforum). The publisher’s description follows:

the-money-cultWe think we know the story of American religion: the Puritans were cold, austere, and pious, and Christianity continued pure and uncorrupted until the industrial revolution got in the way. In The Money Cult, Chris Lehmann argues that we have it backwards: capitalism has always been entangled with religion, and so today’s megapastors aren’t an aberration — they’re as American as Benjamin Franklin. The long-awaited first book by a hugely admired journalist, The Money Cult is a sweeping and accessible history that traces American Christianity from John Winthrop to the rise of the Mormon Church to the triumph of Joel Osteen.

Spickard, “Alternative Sociologies of Religion”

This month, New York University Press releases Alternative Sociologies of Religion:
Through Non-Western Eyes by James V. Spickard (University of Redlands). The publisher’s description follows:

Alternative Sociologies of Religion.jpgAlternative Sociologies of Religion explores what the sociology of religion would look like had it emerged in a Confucian, Muslim, or Native American culture rather than in a Christian one.

Sociology has long used Western Christianity as a model for all religious life. As a result, the field has tended to highlight aspects of religion that Christians find important, such as religious beliefs and formal organizations, while paying less attention to other elements.   Rather than simply criticizing such limitations, James V. Spickard imagines what the sociology of religion would look like had it arisen in three non-Western societies.  What aspects of religion would scholars see more clearly if they had been raised in Confucian China?  What could they learn about religion from Ibn Khaldun, the famed 14th century Arab scholar?  What would they better understand, had they been born Navajo, whose traditional religion certainly does not revolve around beliefs and organizations?
Through these thought experiments, Spickard shows how non-Western ideas understand some aspects of religions–even of Western religions–better than does standard sociology.  The volume shows how non-Western frameworks can shed new light on several different dimensions of religious life, including the question of who maintains religious communities, the relationships between religion and ethnicity as sources of social ties, and the role of embodied experience in religious rituals. These approaches reveal central aspects of contemporary religions that the dominant way of doing sociology fails to notice.  Each approach also provides investigators with new theoretical resources to guide them deeper into their subjects.  The volume makes a compelling case for adopting a global perspective in the social sciences.

“Christianity in Sub-Saharan Africa” (Ross et al., eds.)

In April, Edinburgh University Press will release Christianity in Sub-Saharan Africa edited by Kenneth Ross (University of Malawi), J. Kwabena Asamoah-Gyadu (Trinity Theological Seminary), and Todd M. Johnson (Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary). The publisher’s description follows:

christianity-in-sub-saharan-africaCombines empirical data and original analysis in a uniquely detailed account of Christianity in Sub-Saharan Africa

This comprehensive reference volume covers every country in Sub-Saharan Africa, offering reliable demographic information and original interpretative essays by indigenous scholars and practitioners. It maps patterns of growth and decline, assesses major traditions and movements, analyses key themes and examines current trends.

Key Features

  • Profiles of Christianity in every country in Sub-Saharan Africa including clearly presented statistical and demographic information
  • Analyses of leading features and current trends written by indigenous scholars
  • Essays examining each of the major Christian traditions (Anglicans, Independents, Orthodox, Protestants, Roman Catholics, Evangelicals, Pentecostals/ Charismatics)
  • Essays exploring key themes such as faith and culture, worship and spirituality, theology, social and political engagement, mission and evangelism, religious freedom, inter-faith relations, slavery, anthropology of evil, and migration

Watt, “Antifundamentalism in Modern America”

In May, Cornell University Press will release Antifundamentalism in Modern America by David Harrington Watt (Temple University). The publisher’s description follows:

antifundamentalism-in-modern-americaDavid Harrington Watt’s Antifundamentalism in Modern America gives us a pathbreaking account of the role that the fear of fundamentalism has played—and continues to play—in American culture. Fundamentalism has never been a neutral category of analysis, and Watt scrutinizes the various political purposes that the concept has been made to serve. In 1920, the conservative Baptist writer Curtis Lee Laws coined the word “fundamentalists.” Watt examines the antifundamentalist polemics of Harry Emerson Fosdick, Talcott Parsons, Stanley Kramer, and Richard Hofstadter, which convinced many Americans that religious fundamentalists were almost by definition backward, intolerant, and anti-intellectual and that fundamentalism was a dangerous form of religion that had no legitimate place in the modern world.

For almost fifty years, the concept of fundamentalism was linked almost exclusively to Protestant Christians. The overthrow of the Shah of Iran and the establishment of an Islamic republic led to a more elastic understanding of the nature of fundamentalism. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, Americans became accustomed to using fundamentalism as a way of talking about Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Sikhs, and Buddhists, as well as Christians. Many Americans came to see Protestant fundamentalism as an expression of a larger phenomenon that was wreaking havoc all over the world. Antifundamentalism in Modern America is the first book to provide an overview of the way that the fear of fundamentalism has shaped U.S. culture, and it will lead readers to rethink their understanding of what fundamentalism is and what it does.

“Religion, Migration, and Mobility” (de Castro & Dawson, eds.)

In February, Routledge will release Religion, Migration, and Mobility: The Brazilian Experience edited by Cristina Maria de Castro (Federal University of Minas Gerais) and Andrew Dawson (Lancaster University). The publisher’s description follows:

Religion, Migration, and Mobility.jpgFocusing on migration and mobility, this edited collection examines the religious landscape of Brazil as populated and shaped by transnational flows and domestic migratory movements. Bringing together interdisciplinary perspectives on migration and religion, this book argues that Brazil’s diverse religious landscape must be understood within a dynamic global context. From southern to northern Europe, through Africa, Japan and the Middle East, to a host of Latin American countries, Brazilian society has been influenced by immigrant communities accompanied by a range of beliefs and rituals drawn from established ‘world’ religions as well as alternative religio-spiritual movements. Consequently, the formation and profile of ‘homegrown’ religious communities such as Santo Daime, the Dawn Valley and Umbanda can only be fully understood against the broader backdrop of migration.

Contributors draw on the case of Brazil to develop frameworks for understanding the interface of religion and migration, asking questions that include: How do the processes and forces of re-territorialization play out among post-migratory communities? In what ways are the post-transitional dynamics of migration enacted and reframed by different generations of migrants? How are the religious symbols and ritual practices of particular worldviews and traditions appropriated and re-interpreted by migrant communities? What role does religion play in facilitating or impeding post-migratory settlement? Religion, Migration and Mobility engages these questions by drawing on a range of different traditions and research methods. As such, this book will be of keen interest to scholars working across the fields of religious studies, anthropology, cultural studies and sociology.

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