100 episodes

Interviews with Scholars of Religion about their New Books

New Books in Religion New Books Network

    • Religion & Spirituality

Interviews with Scholars of Religion about their New Books

    Michael E. Pregill, "The Golden Calf Between Bible and Qur'an: Scripture, Polemic, and Exegesis from Late Antiquity to Islam" (Oxford UP, 2020)

    Michael E. Pregill, "The Golden Calf Between Bible and Qur'an: Scripture, Polemic, and Exegesis from Late Antiquity to Islam" (Oxford UP, 2020)

    In his exciting and thorough book, The Golden Calf between Bible and Qur'an: Scripture, Polemic, and Exegesis from Late Antiquity to Islam (Oxford, 2020), Michael Pregill explores the biblical and Qur'anic episode of the golden calf as understood by various Jewish, Christian, and Muslim sources. The incident refers, of course, to when the Israelites created a golden calf in the absence of the Prophet Musa. Pregill shows that the episode's various interpretations across time reflect the cultural, religious, ideological, social, textual, and other contexts in which the issue was being discussed. Each community sought to legitimate its own existence, theology, and tradition through its interpretation. So, for instance, the episode is central to Jewish and Christian arguments over the inheritance of the covenantal legacy of Israel. Each community also appropriates and subverts the apologetic renderings and tropes of the other communities, not passively accepting or rejecting but strategically negotiating with it to adapt to new contexts. The episode therefore becomes crucial for the community’s self-identification. More specific to Islam is a key component of his argument that while western academic scholars draw heavily from the tafsir tradition, they fail to situate the episode in its historical context in the late antique milieu.
    In our discussion today, Pregill describes the golden calf episode at length from biblical and Qur’anic perspectives. He summarizes some of the major arguments and contributions of the book, identifies scholars with whom he is in conversation, discusses the status of Qur’anic studies today, reflects on the identity of the mysterious Samiri in the Qur’anic version, emphasizes the recent diminished importance and the dire need of exploring tafsir (Qur’anic exegesis) in the study of Islam, explains the relationship between western scholars of Islam (or the Qur’an specifically) and classical Muslim exegetes, and a lot more.

    Shehnaz Haqqani is an Assistant Professor of Religion at Mercer University. She earned her PhD in Islamic Studies with a focus on gender from the University of Texas at Austin in 2018. Her dissertation research explored questions of change and tradition, specifically in the context of gender and sexuality, in Islam. She can be reached at haqqani_s@mercer.edu.
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    • 1 hr 3 min
    Matthew Rowley, "Trump and the Protestant Reaction to Make America Great Again" (Routledge, 2020)

    Matthew Rowley, "Trump and the Protestant Reaction to Make America Great Again" (Routledge, 2020)

    The relationship between American Protestant Evangelicals and the candidacy, presidency, and legacy of Donald Trump arrests the attention of journalists and pundits alike. But few have probed the implication that the rally cry "Make America Great Again" contains within it a certain historiographical claim. Protestant Christian leaders in America have responded in polarized ways to this slogan. In Trump and the Protestant Reaction to Make America Great Again (Routledge, 2021), Dr Matthew Rowley offers something of a study partisan historiography, exploring three different responses to the approach to history as suggested by Donald Trump. Some embrace the call to "Make America Great Again," others respond with a counter call to "Make America Lament," while still others prefer to "Make America Better." This accessible and timely study utilizes empathy as a means of understanding and critique, and contributes much needed perspective and balm for the current state of fracture within American religion and politics. 
    Ryan David Shelton (@ryoldfashioned) is a social historian of British and American Protestantism and a PhD researcher at Queen’s University Belfast.
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    • 48 min
    Chad M. Bauman, "Anti-Christian Violence in India" (Cornell UP, 2020)

    Chad M. Bauman, "Anti-Christian Violence in India" (Cornell UP, 2020)

    Does religion cause violent conflict, asks Chad M. Bauman, and if so, does it cause conflict any more than other social identities? Through an extended history of Christian-Hindu relations, and with particular attention to the 2007-08 riots in Kandhamal, Odisha, Anti-Christian Violence in India examines religious violence and how it pertains to broader aspects of humanity. Is "religious" conflict sui generis, or is it merely one species of inter-group conflict? Why and how might violence become an attractive option for religious actors? What explains the increase in religious violence over the last twenty to thirty years? 
    Integrating theories of anti-Christian violence focused on politics, economics, and proselytization, Anti-Christian Violence in India (Cornell UP, 2020) in India additionally weaves in recent theory about globalization, and in particular the forms of resistance against Western secular modernity that globalization periodically helps provoke. With such theories in mind, Bauman explores the nature of anti-Christian violence in India, contending that resistance to secular modernities is, in fact, an important but often overlooked reason behind Hindu attacks on Christians. Intensifying the widespread Hindu tendency to think of religion in ethnic rather than universal terms, the ideology of Hindutva explicitly rejects both the secular privatization of religion and the separability of religions from the communities that incubate them. And so, with provocative and original analysis, Bauman questions whether anti-Christian violence in contemporary India is really about religion, in the narrowest sense, or rather a manifestation of broader concerns, among some Hindus, about the Western socio-political order with which they associate global Christianity.
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    • 48 min
    Brad Vermurlen, "Reformed Resurgence: The New Calvinist Movement and the Battle Over American Evangelicalism" (Oxford UP, 2020)

    Brad Vermurlen, "Reformed Resurgence: The New Calvinist Movement and the Battle Over American Evangelicalism" (Oxford UP, 2020)

    Since the turn of the millennium, American Evangelical Protestantism has seen a swell of interest in Calvinist theology. Variously described as the New Calvinism or Neo-Reformed Christianity, the latter half of the first decade saw a resurgence of Reformed theology, especially among younger Evangelicals. Brad Vermurlen presents an insightful sociological study of this resurgence of reformed Christianity, interpreted through the lens of strategic action field theory in his new book Reformed Resurgence: The New Calvinist Movement and the Battle Over American Evangelicalism (Oxford University Press, 2020). Using a field theoretic model to analyze data collected through ethnographic observation, interviews with Christian leaders, and digital and print content analysis, Vermurlen explains how New Calvinist Christian leaders positioned themselves within the broader field of American Evangelicalism and solidified their movement within a variety of precipitating causes and game-like maneuvers. In the end, Reformed Resurgence offers a lucid account of how a conservative religious movement can survive, and even thrive, in a hyper-modern, secularizing society. To find out more about Brad Vermurlen, visit http://bradvermurlen.com/ 
    Ryan David Shelton (@ryoldfashioned) is a social historian of British and American Protestantism and a PhD researcher at Queen’s University Belfast.
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    • 48 min
    Stuart Ray Sarbacker, "Tracing the Path of Yoga: The History and Philosophy of Indian Mind-Body Discipline" (SUNY Press, 2021)

    Stuart Ray Sarbacker, "Tracing the Path of Yoga: The History and Philosophy of Indian Mind-Body Discipline" (SUNY Press, 2021)

    Clear, accessible, and meticulously annotated, Tracing the Path of Yoga: The History and Philosophy of Indian Mind-Body Discipline (SUNY Press, 2021) offers a comprehensive survey of the history and philosophy of yoga that will be invaluable to both specialists and to nonspecialists seeking a deeper understanding of this fascinating subject. Stuart Ray Sarbacker argues that yoga can be understood first and foremost as a discipline of mind and body that is represented in its narrative and philosophical literature as resulting in both numinous and cessative accomplishments that correspond, respectively, to the attainment of this-worldly power and otherworldly liberation. Sarbacker demonstrates how the yogic quest for perfection as such is situated within the concrete realities of human life, intersecting with issues of politics, economics, class, gender, and sexuality, as well as reflecting larger Indic religious and philosophical ideals.
    Dr. Sarbacker also recently presented his work at the Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies at their Online Yoga Weekend School.
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    • 55 min
    Katharine Massam, "A Bridge Between: Spanish Benedictine Missionary Women in Australia" (ANU Press, 2020)

    Katharine Massam, "A Bridge Between: Spanish Benedictine Missionary Women in Australia" (ANU Press, 2020)

    Katharine Massam's A Bridge Between: Spanish Benedictine Missionary Women in Australia (ANU Press, 2020) is the first book detailing the Benedictine women who worked at New Norcia, examining their life in the Western Australian mission town. From the founding of a grand school intended for ‘nativas’, through to their house in the Kimberley-region, and the recruiting via a network of villages near Burgos in the north of Spain, this is a complex international history. A Bridge Between gathers a powerful, fragmented story from the margins of the archive, recalling the Aboriginal women who joined the community in the 1950s and the compelling reunion of missionaries and former students in 2001. By tracing the all-but-forgotten story of the community of Benedictine women who were central to the experience of the mission for many Aboriginal families in the twentieth century, this book lays a foundation for further work.
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    • 1 hr 7 min

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