James G. Crossley, Harnessing Chaos: The Bible in English Political Discourse Since 1968 (Bloomsbury, 2014).
Harnessing Chaos is an explanation of changes in dominant politicalized assumptions about what the Bible ‘really means’ in English culture since the 1960s. James G. Crossley looks at how the social upheavals of the 1960s, and the economic shift from the post-war dominance of Keynesianism to the post-1970s dominance of neoliberalism, brought about certain emphases and nuances in the ways in which the Bible is popularly understood, particularly in relation to dominant political ideas. This book examines the decline of politically radical biblical interpretation in parliamentary politics and the victory of (a modified form of) Margaret Thatcher’s re-reading of the liberal Bible tradition, following the normalisation of (a modified form of) Thatcherism more generally.
Part I looks at the potential options for politicized readings of the Bible at the end of the the1960s, focussing on the examples of Christopher Hill and Enoch Powell. Part II analyses the role of Thatcher’s specific contribution to political interpretation of the Bible and assumptions about ‘religion’. Part III highlights the importance of (often unintended) ideological changes towards forms of Thatcherite interpretation in popular culture and with particular reference to Monty Python’s Life of Brian and the Manchester music scene between 1976 and 1994. Part IV concerns the modification of Thatcher’s Bible, particularly with reference to the embrace of socially liberal values, by looking at the electoral decline of the Conservative Party through the work of Jeffrey Archer on Judas and the final victory of Thatcherism through Tony Blair’s exegesis. Some consideration is then given to the Bible in an Age of Coalition and how politically radical biblical interpretations retain a presence outside parliamentary politics. Harnessing Chaos concludes with reflections on why politicians in English politicians bother using the Bible at all.
The Bulletin for the Study of Religion blog has a post on “The Problem of the Mystic East” that might be of interest to NAASR members.
The Journal of the American Academy of Religion is looking for a new editor, as Amir Hussein will be stepping down at the end of 2015. You can find more information and learn how to apply at the AAR website here.
For those of you who aren’t already familiar with this resource, be sure to check out New Books in Religion. According to their description,
New Books in Religion features discussions with scholars of religion about their work, and particularly their new books. We explore the world’s great traditions, local manifestations of religion, theory and method in the study of religion, and the role of religion in public life, among many other things.
The typically hour-long podcast Interviews are ably conducted by Kristian Petersen, and you’ll find a lot of interviews with NAASR members and officers, including Steven Engler, Brent Nongbri, Robert Yelle, Russell McCutcheon, William Arnal, Aaron Hughes, Monica Miller, and several more.
Maha Marouan and Merinda Simmons (eds.), Race and Displacement: Nation, Migration, and Identity in the Twenty-First Century (University of Alabama Press, 2013).
Race and Displacement captures a timely set of discussions about the roles of race in displacement, forced migrations, nation and nationhood, and the way continuous movements of people challenge fixed racial definitions.The multifaceted approach of the essays in Race and Displacement allows for nuanced discussions of race and displacement in expansive ways, exploring those issues in transnational and global terms. The contributors not only raise questions about race and displacement as signifying tropes and lived experiences; they also offer compelling approaches to conversations about race, displacement, and migration both inside and outside the academy. Taken together, these essays become a case study in dialogues across disciplines, providing insight from scholars in diaspora studies, postcolonial studies, literary theory, race theory, gender studies, and migration studies.The contributors to this volume use a variety of analytical and disciplinary methodologies to track multiple articulations of how race is encountered and defined. The book is divided by editors Maha Marouan and Merinda Simmons into four sections: “Race and Nation” considers the relationships between race and corporality in transnational histories of migration using literary and oral narratives. Essays in “Race and Place” explore the ways spatial mobility in the twentieth century influences and transforms notions of racial and cultural identity. Essays in “Race and Nationality” address race and its configuration in national policy, such as racial labeling, federal regulations, and immigration law. In the last section, “Race and the Imagination” contributors explore the role imaginative projections play in shaping understandings of race.Together, these essays tackle the question of how we might productively engage race and place in new sociopolitical contexts. Tracing the roles of “race” from the corporeal and material to the imaginative, the essays chart new ways that concepts of origin, region, migration, displacement, and diasporic memory create understandings of race in literature, social performance, and national policy.
Houston A. Baker and K. Merinda Simmons (eds.), The Trouble with Post-Blackness (Columbia University Press, 2015).
An America in which the color of one’s skin no longer matters would be unprecedented. With the election of President Barack Obama, that future suddenly seemed possible. Obama’s rise reflects a nation of fluid populations and fortunes, a society in which a biracial individual could be embraced as a leader by all.Yet complicating this vision are the shifting demographics, rapid redefinitions of race, and instant invention of brands, trends, and identities that determine how we think about ourselves and the place of others.
This collection of original essays confronts the premise, advanced by black intellectuals, that the Obama administration marked the start of a “post-racial” era in the United States. While the “transcendent” and post-racial black elite declare victory over America’s longstanding codes of racial exclusion and racist violence, their evidence relies largely on their own salaries and celebrity. These essays strike at the certainty of those who insist life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are now independent of skin color and race in America. They argue, signify, and testify that “post-blackness” is a problematic mythology masquerading as fact—a dangerous new “race science” motivated by black transcendentalist individualism. Through rigorous analysis, these essays expose the idea of a post-racial nation as a pleasurable entitlement for a black elite, enabling them to reject the ethics and urgency of improving the well-being of the black majority.
K. Merinda Simmons, Changing the Subject: Writing Women across the African Diaspora (Ohio State University Press, 2014)
In Changing the Subject: Writing Women across the African Diaspora, K. Merinda Simmons argues that, in first-person narratives about women of color, contexts of migration illuminate constructions of gender and labor. These constructions and migrations suggest that the oft-employed notion of “authenticity” is not as useful a classification as many feminist and postcolonial scholars have assumed. Instead of relying on so-called authentic feminist journeys and heroines for her analysis, Simmons calls for a self-reflexive scholarship that takes seriously the scholar’s own role in constructing the subject.
The starting point for this study is the nineteenth-century Caribbean narrative The History of Mary Prince (1831). Simmons puts Prince’s narrative in conversation with three twentieth-century novels: Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God, Gloria Naylor’s Mama Day, and Maryse Condé’s I, Tituba, Black Witch of Salem. She incorporates autobiography theory to shift the critical focus from the object of study—slave histories—to the ways people talk about those histories and to the guiding interests of such discourses. In its reframing of women’s migration narratives, Simmons’s study unsettles theoretical certainties and disturbs the very notion of a cohesive diaspora.