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Books of Interest: Fabricating Origins
Russell T. McCutcheon (editor), Fabricating Origins (Equinox 2015).
Fabricating Origins builds on a series of posts that originally appeared, in earlier forms, at the blog for Culture on the Edge. In these posts each member of the group focused on the problem of origins, examining how we repeatedly conjure up an authorized past that suits the needs of the continually changing present. Fabricating Origins presses these short studies further by inviting ten early career scholars to each work with Culture on the Edge by applying, extending, even critiquing the group, to further illustrate for readers how talk of origins in the present is so much more interesting that being preoccupied with long past origins themselves.
The volume, like all books in the Working with Culture on the Edge series, is introduced and concluded by original, theoretically challenging but engaging essays. It provides a selection of ten main articles which draw on a variety of examples to make the case, followed by original commentaries on each, all of which are pithy but substantive. Although not a textbook, and while challenging for any reader unaccustomed to making the switch from origins to the discourse on origins, Fabricating Origins is especially aimed at the early career reader. The volume therefore includes an annotated set of suggested readings on how to rethink origins as the product of contemporary and always tactically useful talk and action.
Books of Interest: Religion as a Category of Governance and Sovereignty
Trevor Stack, Naomi R. Goldenberg, and Timothy Fitzgerald (editors), Religion as a Category of Governance and Sovereignty (Brill, 2015).
Religious-secular distinctions have been crucial to the way in which modern governments have rationalised their governance and marked out their sovereignty – as crucial as the territorial boundaries that they have drawn around nations. The authors of this volume provide a multi-dimensional picture of how the category of religion has served the ends of modern government. They draw on perspectives from history, anthropology, moral philosophy, theology and religious studies, as well as empirical analysis of India, Japan, Mexico, the United States, Israel-Palestine, France and the United Kingdom.
Books of Interest: New Media and Religious Transformations in Africa
Rosalind I. J. Hackett and Benjamin F. Soares (Editors), New Media and Religious Transformations in Africa (Indiana University Press 2014).
New Media and Religious Transformations in Africa casts a critical look at Africa’s rapidly evolving religious media scene. Following political liberalization, media deregulation, and the proliferation of new media technologies, many African religious leaders and activists have appropriated such media to strengthen and expand their communities and gain public recognition. Media have also been used to marginalize and restrict the activities of other groups, which has sometimes led to tension, conflict, and even violence. Showing how media are rarely neutral vehicles of expression, the contributors to this multidisciplinary volume analyze the mutual imbrications of media and religion during times of rapid technological and social change in various places throughout Africa.
Books of Interest: A Modest Proposal on Method
Russell T. McCutcheon, A Modest Proposal on Method: Essaying the Study of Religion (Brill 2015).
A Modest Proposal on Method further documents methodological and institutional failings in the academic study of religion. This collection of essays—which includes three previously unpublished chapters—identifies the manner in which old problems (like the presumption that our object of study is a special, deeply meaningful case) yet remain in the field. But amidst the critique there are a variety of practical suggestions for how the science of religion can become methodologically even-handed and self-reflexive—the markings of a historically rigorous exercise. Each chapter is introduced and contextualized by a newly written, substantive introduction.
Books of Interest: Japanese Buddhist Pilgrimage
Michael Pye, Japanese Buddhist Pilgrimage (Equinox 2015).
Japanese Buddhist Pilgrimage explores the ritual practice of “circulatory pilgrimages” – the visiting of many temples in a numbered sequence. Every year, hundreds of thousands of pilgrims travel such temple routes, seeking peace of mind, health and wellbeing for themselves and others as the benefits of such meritorious endeavour. This form of pilgrimage appears to be unique to Japan. The practice began centuries ago and involved visiting 33 temples devoted to the Bodhisattva Kannon, spread widely over western Japan. Soon afterwards the equally famous pilgrimage to 88 temples on Japan’s fourth island of Shikoku came into prominence.
This is the first comprehensive study of all the major and many of the minor routes, The book also examines how the practice of circulatory pilgrimage developed among the shrines and temples for the Seven Gods of Good Fortune, and beyond them to the rather different world of Shintō. The varying significance of the different pilgrimages is also explored. In addition to all the information about the routes, the book includes numerous illustrations and examples of the short Buddhist texts chanted by the pilgrims on their rounds.
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Books of Interest: Religious Discourse in Modern Japan
Isomae Jun’ichi, Religious Discourse in Modern Japan (Brill 2014).
Religious Discourse in Modern Japan explores the introduction of the Western concept of “religion” to Japan in the modern era, and the emergence of discourse on Shinto, philosophy, and Buddhism. Taking Anesaki’s founding of religious studies (shukyogaku) at Tokyo Imperial University as a pivot, Isomae examines the evolution of this academic discipline in the changing context of social conditions from the Meiji era through the present. Special attention is given to the development of Shinto studies/history of Shinto, and the problems of State Shinto and the emperor system are described in relation to the nature of the concept of religion. Isomae also explains how the discourse of religious studies developed in connection with secular discourses on literature and history, including Marxism.
Books of Interest: Chasing Down Religion
Panayotis Pachis and Donald Wiebe (eds.), Chasing Down Religion: In the Sights of History and the Cognitive Sciences (Equinox 2014)
Whether as a historian finding solutions to unresolved problems or as a scientist finding the causes for events and actions, Luther Martin’s primary focus has been to get to the roots of the religious impulse in human existence. This collection of essays from scholars of his own generation and from his best students cover the three major strands of his work: the Greco-Roman world, cognitive science approaches to explaining religious phenomena and methodological issues in the academic study of religions. The contributions build on the work of Luther Martin and further the ongoing discussion and debate within these areas of religious studies.
Books of Interest: Capitalizing Religion
Craig Martin, Capitalizing Religion: Ideology and the Opiate of the Bourgeoisie (Bloomsbury 2014).
Talk of ‘spirituality’ and ‘individual religion’ is proliferating both in popular discourse and scholarly works. Increasingly people claim to be ‘spiritual but not religious,’ or to prefer ‘individual religion’ to ‘organized religion.’ Scholars have for decades noted the phenomenon – primarily within the middle class – of individuals picking and choosing elements from among various religious traditions, forming their own religion or spirituality for themselves.
While the topics of ‘spirituality’ and ‘individual religion’ are regularly treated as self-evident by the media and even some scholars of religion, Capitalizing Religion provides one of the first critical analyses of the phenomenon, arguing that these recent forms of spirituality are in many cases linked to capitalist ideology and consumer practices. Examining cases such as Eckhart Tolle’s The Power of Now, and Karen Berg’s God Wears Lipstick, Craig Martin ultimately argues that so-called ‘individual religion’ is a religion of the status quo or, more critically, ‘an opiate of the bourgeoisie.’
Table of Contents
Part 1: Religion, Capitalism,and Social Theory
1. ‘Individuality is zero’
2. Theorizing ‘Individual Religion’
3. Our ‘Religion’ of the Status Quo
Part 2: The Opiate of the Bourgeoisie
4. Quietism: The Empire’s Gospel
5. Consumerism: The Fashionable Hijab
6. Productivity: The New Protestant Work Ethic
7. Individualism: A Capital Theodicy
Afterword: Things at the Disposal of Society
Books of Interest: Sects and Stats
James R. Lewis, Sects and Stats: Overturning the Conventional Wisdom about Cult Members (Equinox 2014)
A major, perhaps the major, focus of early research on New Religious Movements (NRMs) was on the people who joined. Most of the field’s pioneer researchers were sociologists. However, the profile of NRM members had changed substantially by the twenty-first century – changes largely missed because the great majority of current NRM specialists are not quantitatively oriented. Sects & Stats aims to overturn the conventional wisdom by drawing on current quantitative data from two sources: questionnaire research on select NRMs and relevant national census data collected by Anglophone countries. Sects & Stats also makes a strong argument for the use of longitudinal methods in studying alternative religions. Additionally, through case studies drawn from the author’s own research projects over the years, readers will be brought into a conversation about some of the issues involved in how to conduct such research.
Books of Interest: Textbook Gods
Bengt-Ove Andreassen and James R. Lewis (editors), Textbook Gods: Genre, Text and Teaching Religious Studies (Equinox 2014).
In recent years there has been a renewed interest in textbooks, partly because they have maintained their position as an important genre. Not too many years ago – and perhaps currently as well – many considered textbooks outdated or archaic compared with technological advances such as the Internet and different kinds of educational software. Despite these changes, textbooks for school subjects and for academic studies continue to be in demand. Textbooks seem to constitute a genre in which established truths are conveyed, and may thus represent stable forces in a world of flux and rapid changes.
Textbook Gods offers perspectives on representations of religion and religions in textbooks. The contributions emerge from different contexts, ranging from European countries, to North America, Japan and Australia.
NAASR members can receive 25% off the retail price using the code Textbook when ordering from http://www.equinoxpub.com; valid until the end of October 2014.