300 episodes

Interviews with Scholars of Religion about their New Books

New Books in Religion New Books Network

    • Religion & Spirituality
    • 4.4, 14 Ratings

Interviews with Scholars of Religion about their New Books

    Yassir Morsi, “Radical Skin, Moderate Masks: De-radicalising the Muslim and Racism in Post-racial Societies” (Rowman and Littlefield, 2017)

    Yassir Morsi, “Radical Skin, Moderate Masks: De-radicalising the Muslim and Racism in Post-racial Societies” (Rowman and Littlefield, 2017)

    Muslims living in locations like Australia, Europe, or North America exist within a context dominated by white racial norms and are forced to grapple with those conventions on a daily basis. If they succeed in meeting the presiding criterion of secular liberalism they can be dubbed a “moderate” Muslim by mainstream society.
    In Radical Skin, Moderate Masks: De-radicalising the Muslim and Racism in Post-racial Societies (Rowman & Littlefield, 2017), Yassir Morsi, Lecturer at La Trobe University, explores these contemporary social dynamics and considers the various ways Muslims don a mask in order to navigate the expectations of the dominant society. Here he offers three paradigms, what he calls the “Fabulous Mask,” the “Militant Mask,” and the “Triumphant Mask,” that represent changing tensions for the “moderate” Muslim. Morsi deconstructs the “radical” vs. “moderate” binary through the forces of racialized structures that shape everyday life and the historical circumstances of Muslims in the “West.” This is achieved through an auto-ethnography that destabilizes traditional scholarship and enables the reader to come to a better understanding of the psychological and material effects of being a Muslim in the times of the “War on Terror” and government funded deradicalization programs. In our conversation we discuss the relationship between religion and race, the category “moderate” Muslim, Frantz Fanon, being a cultural translator, U.S. Muslim scholar Hamza Yusuf, an Islamic art museum exhibit, Australian media personality Waleed Aly & comedian Nazeem Hussain, readings of Edward Said’s Orientalism, British commentator Maajid Nawaz, Friedrich Nietzsche, and confronting the theoretical and practical norms of academic scholarship.
    Kristian Petersen is an Assistant Professor of Philosophy & Religious Studies at Old Dominion University. 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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    • 1 hr 17 min
    Johan Elverskog, "The Buddha’s Footprint: An Environmental History of Asia" (U Penn Press, 2020)

    Johan Elverskog, "The Buddha’s Footprint: An Environmental History of Asia" (U Penn Press, 2020)

    Challenging the popular image of Buddhism as a religion intrinsically concerned with the environment, Dr. John Elverskog’s new monograph, The Buddha’s Footprint: An Environmental History of Asia (University of Pennsylvania Press 2020), demonstrates that Buddhist institutions across Asia have actually been intimately connected to the accumulation of wealth, the consumption and exploitation of natural resources, and urbanization. What drives these acts, Dr. Elverskog argues, is a prosperity theology that is central to the Buddha Dharma, which regards wealth as a sign of positive karma. Calling into question the stereotypical understanding of Buddhism as an ascetic, apolitical, and contemplative tradition, this book investigates not only monks but also how the laity and the Buddhist states participated in the generation of wealth for religious merit. Dr. Elverskog points out that The Buddha’s Footprint is not “arguing that Buddhism and environmental thought and action are antithetical or that Buddhism cannot be used to promote environmental action.” In fact, many efforts across the contemporary world have shown the opposite. Instead, by reconceptualizing Buddhism as an expansive religious and political system premised on generating wealth through the exploitation of natural resources, Dr. Elverskog contends, it enables us to bring Buddhism and religion “more deeply into discussions of Asian history and environmental history.”
    Daigengna Duoer is a PhD student at the Religious Studies Department, University of California, Santa Barbara. Her dissertation researches on transnational/transregional networks of Buddhism centered in twentieth-century Inner Mongolia and Manchuria that were connected to Republican China, Tibet, and imperial Japan.
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    • 1 hr 29 min
    Yaacov Yadgar, "Israel’s Jewish Identity Crisis: State and Politics in the Middle East" (Cambridge UP, 2020)

    Yaacov Yadgar, "Israel’s Jewish Identity Crisis: State and Politics in the Middle East" (Cambridge UP, 2020)

    Yaacov Yadgar discusses his new book, Israel’s Jewish Identity Crisis: State and Politics in the Middle East (Cambridge University Press, 2020) with Peter Bergamin. An important and topical contribution to the field of Middle East studies, this innovative, provocative, and timely study tackles head-on the main assumptions of the foundation of Israel as a Jewish state. Theoretically sophisticated and empirically rich, Yaacov Yadgar provides a novel analysis of the interplay between Israeli nationalism and Jewish tradition, arriving at a fresh understanding of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through its focus on internal questions about Israeli identity. By critiquing and transcending the current discourse on religion and politics in Israel, this study brings to an international audience debates within Israel that have been previously inaccessible to non-Hebrew speaking academics. Featuring discussions on Israeli jurisprudence, nation-state law, and rabbinic courts, Israel's Jewish Identity Crisis will have far-reaching implications, not only within the state of Israel but on politics, society and culture beyond its borders.
    Yaacov Yadgar is the Stanley Lewis Professor of Israel Studies at the University of Oxford. He has written extensively on matters of Jewish identity, nationalism, secularism, modernity and tradition in Israel. He is the author of Sovereign Jews: Israel, Zionism, and Judaism (2017).
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    • 54 min
    C. M. Driscoll and M. R. Miller, “Method as Identity: Manufacturing Distance in the Academic Study of Religion” (Lexington, 2018)

    C. M. Driscoll and M. R. Miller, “Method as Identity: Manufacturing Distance in the Academic Study of Religion” (Lexington, 2018)

    In the study of religion there are various camps that each approach their subjects in unique ways. Each method is shaped by particular interpretive choices, such as to be objectively neutral, experientially invested, or use scientific measures, for example. Whatever strategy one uses there is a relationship between one’s social identity and the categories shaping theoretical and methodological assumptions.
    This is what Christopher M. Driscoll, Assistant Professor at Lehigh University, and Monica R. Miller, Associate Professor at Lehigh University, argue in their new book Method as Identity: Manufacturing Distance in the Academic Study of Religion (Lexington, 2018). These dynamics can be witnessed when thinking about how the boundaries of methodological practice are defined in the so-called critical study of religion versus something like the study of black religion, where there is often an assumed identity-interested motivation to analysis. Driscoll and Miller produce a generative set of inquiries that require researchers to consider the role of race and social identity and how that informs their interpretive stance. In our conversation we discuss questions of the “whiteness” of certain methods, the function of the designation “black” in “black religion,” the 1958 meeting of the International Association for the History of Religions, pioneer scholar Charles Long and the Chicago school of History of Religions, the relationship between the categories race and religion, hip hop, and the productive role of writing in tension.
    Kristian Petersen is an Assistant Professor of Philosophy & Religious Studies at Old Dominion University. 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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    • 1 hr 16 min
    Kathleen Gallagher Elkins, "Mary, Mother of Martyrs" (FSR, 2018)

    Kathleen Gallagher Elkins, "Mary, Mother of Martyrs" (FSR, 2018)

    Throughout Christian history, the Virgin Mary has been idealized as a self-sacrificing mother and a model for all Christian women to emulate. However, she is one of many ancient maternal figures whose narratives pivot on violent loss. In her 2018 monograph Mary, Mother of Martyrs: How Motherhood Became Self-Sacrifice in Early Christianity (Feminist Studies in Religion, 2018), Dr. Kathleen Gallagher Elkins (Associate Professor of Theology and Religious Studies at St. Norbert College in De Pere, WI) examines ancient representations of mothers and children in the context of sociopolitical violence. She demonstrates that, as today, early Christian notions of motherhood are contextual and produced for specific political and social reasons. She also interrogates the tendency of both theologians and cultural commentators to read tales of early Christian mothers in an anachronistic manner informed by modern conceptions of the “natural” and “normal” family. Adding contemporary intertexts to the ancient texts at hand, each chapter juxtaposes an ancient maternal figure (including the Mother of Maccabees, Perpetua, and Felicitas in addition to Mary) with examples of contemporary maternal activism, such as Madre and Pussy Riot. Gallagher Elkins thereby shows the strategic, political charged, and rhetorically flexible conceptions of maternal self-sacrifice.
    Diana Dukhanova is a Visiting Assistant Professor of Slavic Studies at Brown University in Providence, RI.
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    • 56 min
    Betsy Gaines Quammen, "American Zion: Cliven Bundy, God and Public Lands in the West" (Torrey House, 2020)

    Betsy Gaines Quammen, "American Zion: Cliven Bundy, God and Public Lands in the West" (Torrey House, 2020)

    In 2014, the cattle rancher Cliven Bundy entered the national spotlight after a showdown against federal officials over grazing rights on public lands. Two years later, his sons seized the Malheur Wildlife Refuge in Oregon and occupied it for forty days with militia and sovereign citizen groups. As journalists rushed to the scene, trying to make sense of the motivations behind their anti-government politics, Betsy Gaines Quammen, a historian working on her history Ph.D., knew something was amiss. She had spent hours at the Bundy home, interviewing them for her dissertation on Mormon settlement in the West. She knew the Bundy’s rooted their politics in their Mormon faith, but their religious attitudes made few popular headlines. In her new book, American Zion: Cliven Bundy, God & Public Lands in the West (Torrey House Press, 2020), Quammen situates the Bundy standoff within the long and convoluted history of Mormon migration into the American West—and provides an exciting new take on religion in modern American politics.
    Ryan Driskell Tate is a Ph.D. candidate in United States history at Rutgers University. He is completing a book on fossil-fuels and energy development in the American West. Twitter: @rydriskelltate
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    • 49 min

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14 Ratings

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