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Preview: Journal of the American Academy of Religion - current issue

Journal of the American Academy of Religion Current Issue





Published: Fri, 19 Jan 2018 00:00:00 GMT

Last Build Date: Fri, 19 Jan 2018 12:53:16 GMT

 



Editor’s Note

Fri, 19 Jan 2018 00:00:00 GMT

The Journal of the American Academy of Religion publishes top scholarly articles that cover the full range of religions together with provocative studies of the methods and theories by which these are explored. In my interpretation of the JAAR’s charge, this last purpose is the most important one: to raise provocative questions about the ways we do religious studies, to study and therefore challenge ourselves. The journal serves as a space for the free and critical exercise of what is a necessary skill for the study and analysis of religions, cultures, people, and behaviors. That is the skill of reflexivity, a person’s intellectual ability to step out of herself and her society and reflect critically on how she is thinking or how she is not thinking but inheriting and perpetuating the assumptions of her culture and society, including her intellectual traditions and institutions, such as the field of religious studies or the American Academy of Religion. In the act of reflexivity, we think about our own thinking and so free ourselves from the grip of convention.



The Sacred Canopy: Elements of a Sociological Theory of Religion

Thu, 21 Dec 2017 00:00:00 GMT

I read Peter Berger’s The Sacred Canopy: Elements of a Sociological Theory of Religion in the winter of 1996 while studying abroad at the Divinity School at Edinburgh University. I vividly remember several dark afternoons and evenings in a student dormitory frantically underlining almost the whole book while regularly pushing the button on my space heater to stay warm. The first half of the book captivated me. The second half about secularization puzzled me and made me angry—I thought Berger was wrong, while the instructor who taught the course for which I was reading the book thought he was right. This volume, and the passionately argued paper I wrote that semester about how the secularization thesis could not be simplistically applied to the American case, drew me to the sociology of religion—a field and discipline I had never heard of when I started college.



The Ongoing Plausibility of Peter Berger: Sociological Thoughts on The Sacred Canopy at Fifty

Thu, 21 Dec 2017 00:00:00 GMT

A full half century after its initial publication, The Sacred Canopy (TSC) remains the most elegant and original theory of religion ever produced by an American sociologist. What is more, TSC anticipates many of the most important theoretical developments of the following decades. And yet, despite its relatively advanced age, Berger’s text does not read like yesterday’s news. Not any more, at least. Because some of its core ideas have been out of fashion for so long, that they now feel fresh all over again.



The Sacred Canopy in China

Thu, 21 Dec 2017 00:00:00 GMT

Peter Berger published his tour de force, The Sacred Canopy, early in 1967. But I didn’t read the book until about twenty years later, in 1986, when it became the focal point of my master’s thesis in religious sociology. I then translated the book into Chinese, and it was later published by Shanghai People’s Press in 1991.



Peter Berger’s Theory of Secularization in Latin America: The Two Sacred Canopies

Thu, 21 Dec 2017 00:00:00 GMT

The social studies of religion have a longstanding presence in Latin America, and Peter Berger has had a ubiquitous presence in this subject area. In Argentinean universities, for instance, sociology of religion has been taught consistently for the past sixty years. At least two regular courses are offered each semester in the schools of sociology at the University of Buenos Aires. And there, as in other higher education institutions, Berger’s oeuvre, in particular The Sacred Canopy, has been part of the syllabi of these courses.



Peter Berger, The Sacred Canopy, and Theorizing the African Religious Context

Thu, 21 Dec 2017 00:00:00 GMT

When The Sacred Canopy was published fifty years ago, the author hardly envisaged that what he framed as “the final sociological consequence [of] an understanding of religion as a historical product” (Berger 1967, vi) was only a few bricks in the foundation of a vibrant debate about the future of religion and pathways to understanding and studying socio-religious transformation in contemporary society. From its publication until the 1980s—that is, the beginning of the radical questioning of the secularization thesis by proponents of the religious market paradigm—The Sacred Canopy achieved a near-canonical status in the training of graduate students in sociological theory in many departments of sociology and religious studies.



The Bible and Art: Perspectives from Oceania. Edited by Caroline Blyth and Nasili Vaka’uta

Sat, 04 Nov 2017 00:00:00 GMT

The Bible and Art: Perspectives from Oceania. Edited by Caroline Blyth and Nasili Vaka’uta. Bloomsbury, 2017. 288 pages. $128.00 (hardcover).



Religion and the Making of Nigeria. By Olufemi Vaughan

Wed, 01 Nov 2017 00:00:00 GMT

Religion and the Making of Nigeria. By Olufemi Vaughan. Duke University Press, 2016. 336 pages. $94.95 (hardcover), $25.95 (paperback), $24.63 (e-book).



The Oxford Handbook of the Study of Religion. Edited by Michael Stausberg and Steven Engler

Wed, 25 Oct 2017 00:00:00 GMT

The Oxford Handbook of the Study of Religion. Edited by Michael Stausberg and Steven Engler. Oxford University Press, 2017. 672 pages. $150.00 (hardcover).



Set in Stone: America’s Embrace of the Ten Commandments. By Jenna Weissman Joselit

Mon, 23 Oct 2017 00:00:00 GMT

Set in Stone: America’s Embrace of the Ten Commandments. By Jenna Weissman Joselit. Oxford University Press, 2017. 232 pages. $29.95 (hardcover), $9.99 (e-book).



American Covenant: A History of Civil Religion from the Puritans to the Present. By Philip Gorski

Mon, 23 Oct 2017 00:00:00 GMT

American Covenant: A History of Civil Religion from the Puritans to the Present. By Philip Gorski. Princeton University Press, 2017. 336 pages. $35.00 (hardcover), $19.25 (e-book).



Crescent Over Another Horizon: Islam in Latin America, the Caribbean, and Latino USA. Edited by Maria del Mar Logroño Narbona, Paulo G. Pinto, and John Tofik Karam

Mon, 23 Oct 2017 00:00:00 GMT

Crescent Over Another Horizon: Islam in Latin America, the Caribbean, and Latino USA. Edited by Maria del Mar Logroño Narbona, Paulo G. Pinto, and John Tofik Karam. University of Texas Press, 2016. 356 pages. $34.95 (paperback), $19.22 (e-book).



Muslim Civil Society and the Politics of Religious Freedom in Turkey. By Jeremy F. Walton

Mon, 23 Oct 2017 00:00:00 GMT

Muslim Civil Society and the Politics of Religious Freedom in Turkey. AAR Religion, Culture, and History series. By Jeremy F. Walton. Oxford University Press, 2017. 272 pages. $105.00 (hardcover), $99.75 (e-book).



The Hindu Tantric World: An Overview. By André Padoux

Mon, 23 Oct 2017 00:00:00 GMT

The Hindu Tantric World: An Overview. By André Padoux. University of Chicago Press, 2017. 240 pages. $90.00 (hardcover), $30.00 (paperback), $30.00 (e-book).



Goddess on the Frontier: Religion, Ethnicity, and Gender in Southwest China. By Megan Bryson

Sun, 08 Oct 2017 00:00:00 GMT

Goddess on the Frontier: Religion, Ethnicity, and Gender in Southwest China. By Megan Bryson. Stanford University Press, 2016. 264 pages. $60.00 (hardcover), $48.44 (e-book).



Three Streams: Confucian Reflections on Learning and The Moral Heart-Mind in China, Korea and Japan. By Philip J. Ivanhoe

Sat, 23 Sep 2017 00:00:00 GMT

Three Streams: Confucian Reflections on Learning and The Moral Heart-Mind in China, Korea, and Japan. By Philip J. Ivanhoe. Oxford University Press. 2016. 250 pages. $74.00 (hardcover), $72.99 (e-book).



Religion on the Battlefield. By Ron E. Hassner

Sat, 23 Sep 2017 00:00:00 GMT

Religion on the Battlefield. By Ron E. Hassner. Cornell University Press, 2016. 232 pages. $24.95 (hardcover), $9.99 (e-book).



Strange Tales of an Oriental Idol: An Anthology of Early European Portrayals of the Buddha. Edited by Donald S. Lopez, Jr

Tue, 08 Aug 2017 00:00:00 GMT

Strange Tales of an Oriental Idol: An Anthology of Early European Portrayals of the Buddha. Edited by Donald S. Lopez, Jr. University of Chicago Press, 2016. 288 pages. $90.00 (hardcover), $27.50 (paperback), $27.50 (e-book).



Is Chinese Culture Dualist? An Answer to Edward Slingerland from a Medical Philosophical Viewpoint

Mon, 10 Jul 2017 00:00:00 GMT

Abstract
A recent challenge by Edward Slingerland to the conventional view of Chinese thought is that China is no exception to the recent cognitive science hypothesis that dualism is an innate cognitive universal. However, a close reexamination of Slingerland’s evidence shows that it is biased. Extensive evidence across philosophy and medicine suggests that a concept of degrees of substantiality rather than a distinct barrier between mind and body underlies both early Chinese afterlife beliefs and ideas about the xin-body relationship. In particular, medical accounts of the xin’s dual role as the organ of thought and a physical organ does not reject the division between mind and body. A dualist claim, however weak, cannot explain China’s traditional focus on the link between physicality and mentality, especially in medicine. The cognitive science-driven attempt to recast the conventional holist claim of Chinese thought is an overly hasty attempt to take refuge in science.



Sacred Pregnancy in the Age of the “Nones”

Wed, 28 Jun 2017 00:00:00 GMT

Abstract
Through the creation of Sacred Living retreats, books and online community, Anni Daulter has tapped into an increasingly widespread desire to rearticulate pregnancy and childbirth as rites of passage requiring community support, ritual, and spiritual meaning. In a pendulum swing away from the increased medicalization of childbirth in the United States, new spiritual birth movements such as the Sacred Living Movement seek to overcome the individualization and isolation of the transition into motherhood through pregnancy and childbirth. Responding to Kathryn Lofton’s recent call to see parenthood as religious expression, this article positions Sacred Living in the context of the increased disaffiliation of religious individuals in the United States and describes the ways in which movements such as these attempt to resacralize rites of passage in modern life and, in so doing, demonstrate a new paradigm of spiritual and religious community for the age of the religious “nones.”



On Not Operationalizing Disability in Theology

Wed, 28 Jun 2017 00:00:00 GMT

Abstract
Informed by debates on the reductionism of defining disciplinary concepts in disability studies and religion, this article argues that theology faces a unique ethical and methodological challenge in whether to operationalize experiences with disability into anything theologically significant or useful. Analyzing how some scholarship in disability theology has problematically appropriated disability even for liberatory purposes, it contends that theology struggles methodologically to distinguish itself from ideological rhetoric that deliberately marginalizes persons with disability. However, rejecting operationalization not only threatens the collaboration between theology and the social sciences afforded by operationalizing shared inquiries, but risks suggesting that disability is not worthy of sustained theological attention. The article proposes that this double-bind forces theology to critique operationalization by scrutinizing its relationship to usefulness itself. This means resisting the methodological compulsion for all persons and things to become useful, and retaining the theological possibility that interpersonal experience—disabled and otherwise—may be useless.



Good Mosque, Bad Mosque: Boundaries to Belonging in Contemporary Germany

Tue, 13 Jun 2017 00:00:00 GMT

Abstract
How do Muslim institutions in Europe relate to national and European values? How do they visibly challenge boundaries that other/exclude Islam? This analysis identifies two factors that result in the acceptance or rejection of mosques, showing the boundary work at play in this process: (1) the ability of Muslim leadership to achieve a positive visibility of the mosque through the performance and staging of key German civic ideals; and (2) the role of local contexts of reception. Through ethnography, interview data, and analysis of newspaper coverage of the Penzberg Mosque and the Cologne Mosque, I argue that the strategic presentation of both form and function by Muslim communities interacts with constraining environmental factors in delineating possibilities of belonging. This leads to the labeling of mosques as “good” or “bad,” evoking the “good Muslim”/“bad Muslim” binary.



Mirror Mausoleums, Mortuary Arts, and Haitian Religious Unexceptionalism

Fri, 26 May 2017 00:00:00 GMT

… the dead will dwell in separate houses suitable to their status.—Joseph Roach (1996, 53)



Ray Navarro’s Jesus Camp, AIDS Activist Video, and the “New Anti-Catholicism”

Thu, 04 May 2017 00:00:00 GMT

Abstract
This essay examines the 1990 documentary Like a Prayer, emphasizing performances by Chicano AIDS activist Ray Navarro, to reassess two prevailing narratives in religion and politics. First, it challenges the culture wars distinction between secular progressivism and religious conservatism that haunts histories of religion and sexuality. It locates American AIDS activism at the center of religious and sexual narratives to question the range of subjects that become visible as “religious.” Second, reading Like a Prayer as part of the archive of modern Catholicism exposes scholarly assumptions about the relationships between religion and politics, sincerity and performance, religion and secularism. This essay expands the archive of the culture wars—and of queer and Catholic history—to include another form of religious engagement: the use of camp. Thinking with an analytics of camp suggests how AIDS activists employed religious imagery in ways that confound the very division between Catholic and anti-Catholic, religious and secular.



Religion without Religion: Integrating Islamic Origins into Religious Studies

Fri, 28 Apr 2017 00:00:00 GMT

Abstract
This article makes a case as to why the topic of Islamic origins, long ignored in religious studies on account of its Orientalist pedigree, ought to be revisited. Rather than reverting back to Orientalism, however, it argues that a more appropriate model for understanding Islamic origins is one that is aware of the fluidity of religious and social identity in late antiquity. Rather than simply reading later Islamic sources back onto the emergence of Islam, it is important to examine late antique sources responsible for the complexity of all identity formations (not only Muslim) in sixth-century Arabia.



The Distant Reading of Religious Texts: A “Big Data” Approach to Mind-Body Concepts in Early China

Fri, 31 Mar 2017 00:00:00 GMT

Abstract
This article focuses on the debate about mind-body concepts in early China to demonstrate the usefulness of large-scale, automated textual analysis techniques for scholars of religion. As previous scholarship has argued, traditional, “close” textual reading, as well as more recent, human coder-based analyses, of early Chinese texts have called into question the “strong” holist position, or the claim that the early Chinese made no qualitative distinction between mind and body. In a series of follow-up studies, we show how three different machine-based techniques—word collocation, hierarchical clustering, and topic modeling analysis—provide convergent evidence that the authors of early Chinese texts viewed the mind-body relationship as unique or problematic. We conclude with reflections on the advantages of adding “distant reading” techniques to the methodological arsenal of scholars of religion, as a supplement and aid to traditional, close reading.



“On Such Texts Comment is Unnecessary”: Biblical Interpretation in the Trial of Denmark Vesey

Thu, 16 Mar 2017 00:00:00 GMT

Abstract
On July 2, 1822, Denmark Vesey was hanged in Charleston, South Carolina for allegedly plotting an insurrection involving enslaved persons. During his trial, several witnesses testified about Vesey’s interpretations of biblical texts. When sentencing Vesey to death, Lionel H. Kennedy accused Vesey of “attempting to pervert the sacred words of God into a sanction for crimes of the blackest hue.” As many scholars have noted, Vesey and Kennedy choose different texts to cite in support of their respective positions. Yet this article argues that Vesey and Kennedy’s uses of biblical material go deeper than simply countering one set of proof texts with another. They differ on how to apply biblical texts to then current events in Charleston. Ultimately, this difference informs their selection of biblical texts and the strategies they use to interpret them.