300 episodes

Interviews with Scholars of Religion about their New Books

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    • Religion & Spirituality

Interviews with Scholars of Religion about their New Books

    Scott C. Esplin, "Return to the City of Joseph: Modern Mormonism's Contest for the Soul of Nauvoo" (U Illinois Press, 2019)

    Scott C. Esplin, "Return to the City of Joseph: Modern Mormonism's Contest for the Soul of Nauvoo" (U Illinois Press, 2019)

    In the mid-twentieth century, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) returned to Nauvoo, Illinois, home to the thriving religious community led by Joseph Smith before his murder in 1844. The quiet farm town became a major Mormon heritage site visited annually by tens of thousands of people. Yet Nauvoo's dramatic restoration proved fraught with conflicts.
    Scott C. Esplin's new social history, Return to the City of Joseph: Modern Mormonism’s Contest for the Soul of Nauvoo (University of Illinois Press, 2019), looks at how Nauvoo's different groups have sparred over heritage and historical memory. The Latter-day Saint project brought it into conflict with the Community of Christ, the midwestern branch of Mormonism that had kept a foothold in the town and a claim on its Smith-related sites. Non-Mormon locals, meanwhile, sought to maintain the historic place of ancestors who had settled in Nauvoo after the Latter-day Saints' departure. Examining the recent and present-day struggles to define the town, Esplin probes the values of the local groups while placing Nauvoo at the center of Mormonism's attempt to carve a role for itself within the greater narrative of American history.
    Daniel P. Stone holds a PhD in American religious history from Manchester Metropolitan University (United Kingdom) and is the author of William Bickerton: Forgotten Latter Day Prophet (Signature Books, 2018). He has taught history courses at the University of Detroit Mercy and Florida Atlantic University, and currently, he works as a research archivist for a private library/archive in Detroit, Michigan.
     
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    • 1 hr 2 min
    Anna M. Gade, “Muslim Environmentalisms: Religious and Social Foundations” (Columbia UP, 2019)

    Anna M. Gade, “Muslim Environmentalisms: Religious and Social Foundations” (Columbia UP, 2019)

    The relationship between Islam and the environment has a long and rich history across various Muslim societies. Anna M. Gade, Professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, outlines several strains where these domains intersect in her book Muslim Environmentalisms: Religious and Social Foundations (Columbia University Press, 2019). Gade takes the reader through a number of literary and scriptural sources that Muslims have deployed over history but also steeps her analysis in decades of on the ground ethnographic fieldwork, especially in Southeast Asia. Specific examples reveal the interplay between local, regional, and global contexts as interpretive positions shift and realign across each theme. This combination creates a productive template for rethinking Muslim environmentalism within the larger framework of the Environmental Humanities. In our conversation we discussed Qur’anic theological resources and themes, environmentalism and development work, legal and ethical contexts, ideals of environmental justice, Muslim humanistic traditions, eco-sufism, devotional rituals and popular piety, ethnographic video materials for course use, and green Islam in Indonesia.
    Kristian Petersen is an Assistant Professor of Philosophy & Religious Studies at Old Dominion University. He is the author of Interpreting Islam in China: Pilgrimage, Scripture, and Language in the Han Kitab (Oxford University Press, 2017). He is currently working on a monograph entitled The Cinematic Lives of Muslims, and is the editor of the forthcoming volumes Muslims in the Movies: A Global Anthology (ILEX Foundation) and New Approaches to Islam in Film (Routledge). You can find out more about his work on his website, follow him on Twitter @BabaKristian, or email him at kpeterse@odu.edu.
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    • 55 min
    James D. Bratt, "A Christian and a Democrat: A Religious Biography of Franklin D. Roosevelt" (Eerdmans, 2019)

    James D. Bratt, "A Christian and a Democrat: A Religious Biography of Franklin D. Roosevelt" (Eerdmans, 2019)

    Franklin Delano Roosevelt, when asked at a press conference about the roots of his political philosophy, responded simply, “I am a Christian and a Democrat.” This new book is the story of how the first informed the second—how his upbringing in the Episcopal Church and matriculation at the Groton School under legendary educator and minister Endicott Peabody molded Roosevelt into a leader whose politics were fundamentally shaped by the Social Gospel.
    A work begun by religious historian John Woolverton (1926-2014) and recently completed by James D. Bratt, A Christian and a Democrat: A Religious Biography of Franklin D. Roosevelt (Eerdmans, 2019) is an engaging analysis of the surprisingly spiritual life of one of the most consequential presidents in US history. Reading Woolverton’s account of FDR’s response to the toxic demagoguery of his day will reassure readers today that a constructive way forward is possible for Christians, for Americans, and for the world.
    Daniel P. Stone holds a PhD in American religious history from Manchester Metropolitan University (United Kingdom) and is the author of William Bickerton: Forgotten Latter Day Prophet (Signature Books, 2018). He has taught history courses at the University of Detroit Mercy and Florida Atlantic University, and currently, he works as a research archivist for a private library/archive in Detroit, Michigan.
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    • 58 min
    Emily Colbert Cairns, "Esther in Early Modern Iberia and the Sephardic Diaspora: Queen of the Conversas" (Palgrave Macmillan, 2017)

    Emily Colbert Cairns, "Esther in Early Modern Iberia and the Sephardic Diaspora: Queen of the Conversas" (Palgrave Macmillan, 2017)

    Emily Colbert Cairns’ book, Esther in Early Modern Iberia and the Sephardic Diaspora: Queen of the Conversas (Palgrave Macmillan, 2017), traces the biblical figure of Esther, the secret Jewish Queen, as she is reinvented as the patron saint for the early modern Sephardic community. This hybrid globetrotter emerges repeatedly in dramatic texts, poetry, and even visual representation in the global Sephardic diaspora on the Iberian Peninsula, Amsterdam, and New Spain. Colbert Cairns argues that Esther’s female body emerges as a site for power struggles and symbolic territory for drawing constantly moving communal boundaries. While certain early modern representations of Esther mobilize this queen promote traditional values for proper female behavior (obedience, deference to male authority, beauty), Colbert Cairns shows that Esther’s identity exceeds facile notions of national, ethnic, or racial identity and instead opens out a sense of Sephardic difference beyond geographical boundaries.
    Elizabeth Spragins is assistant professor of Spanish at the College of the Holy Cross. Her current book project is on corpses in early modern Mediterranean narrative. You can follow her on Twitter @elspragins.
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    • 54 min
    Tad DeLay, ​"Against: What Does the White Evangelical Want?"​ (Cascade Book, 2019)

    Tad DeLay, ​"Against: What Does the White Evangelical Want?"​ (Cascade Book, 2019)

    What does the white evangelical want? In our moment of crisis and rage, this question is everywhere. Scholars ask from where its desires emerged, pundits divine its political future, and the public asks how we lapsed into social chaos. For their part, white evangelicals feel misunderstood while failing to see the direction of their ambitions. We must interrogate its aims not only through its past or current trends but also through the various fantasies by which it rejects and enlivens reality.
    Tad DeLay's new book Against: What Does the White Evangelical Want? (Cascade Book 2019)​ traces five zones of opposition: future, knowledge, sexuality, reality, and society. If climate change is the greatest threat civilization has ever faced, then a faith aiding collapse must face analysis. If it swims in assured forgiveness, it feels no shame for its sins against humanity. If it wants a king, it threatens democracy. If it veils xenophobia, it shall be ever more cruel. In a critical and accessible history of odd ideas, DeLay chronicles the past and sketches its troubling future. It might die, but what’s certain is that a faith built on nostalgia and supremacy won’t moderate. We live in dangerous times, so let us consider its justifications, turmoil, appetite, and catastrophe.
    Tad DeLay is the author of ​The Cynic & the Fool​ and ​God Is Unconscious​. He teaches philosophy and religious studies in Denver.
    Stephen Dozeman is a freelance writer.
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    • 1 hr 6 min
    Filippo Marsili, "Heaven Is Empty: A Cross-Cultural Approach to 'Religion' and Empire in Ancient China" (SUNY Press, 2018)

    Filippo Marsili, "Heaven Is Empty: A Cross-Cultural Approach to 'Religion' and Empire in Ancient China" (SUNY Press, 2018)

    Heaven Is Empty: A Cross-Cultural Approach to 'Religion' and Empire in Ancient China (SUNY Press, 2018) offers a new comparative perspective on the role of the sacred in the formation of China’s early empires (221 BCE–9 CE) and shows how the unification of the Central States was possible without a unitary and universalistic conception of religion. The cohesive function of the ancient Mediterranean cult of the divinized ruler was crucial for the legitimization of Rome’s empire across geographical and social boundaries. Eventually reelaborated in Christian terms, it came to embody the timelessness and universality of Western conceptions of legitimate authority, while representing an analytical template for studying other ancient empires.
    Filippo Marsili challenges such approaches in his examination of the reign of Emperor Wu of the Han (141–87 BCE). Wu purposely drew from regional traditions and tried to gain the support of local communities through his patronage of local cults. He was interested in rituals that envisioned the monarch as a military leader, who directly controlled the land and its resources, as a means for legitimizing radical administrative and economic centralization. In reconstructing this imperial model, Marsili reinterprets fragmentary official accounts in light of material evidence and noncanonical and recently excavated texts. In bringing to life the courts, battlefields, markets, shrines, and pleasure quarters of early imperial China, Heaven Is Empty provides a postmodern and postcolonial reassessment of “religion” before the arrival of Buddhism and challenges the application of Greco-Roman and Abrahamic systemic, identitary, and exclusionary notions of the “sacred” to the analysis of pre-Christian and non-Western realities.
    Victoria Oana Lupascu is a PhD candidate in dual-title doctoral program in Comparative Literature and Asian Studies at the Pennsylvania State University. Her areas of interest include 20th and 21st Chinese literature and visual art, medical humanities and Global South studies. 
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    • 1 hr 18 min

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