Publications List

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Sponsored by the Institute for Religion, Culture, and Public Life, in partnership with Columbia University Press, the publication series Religion, Culture, and Public Life is devoted to the investigation of the role of religion in society and culture today.

Edited by Karen Barkey, the series is dedicated to exploring the ways in which religion intersects with public life in practice and theory, and examines connections between religion and art, literature, science, politics, and history. Publications focus on issues related to questions of difference, identity, and practice within local, national, and international contexts.  Special attention is paid to religious traditions in relation to conflict, violence, and intolerance, as well as to human rights, ecumenical values, and practices of mutual understanding.  Drawing on diverse methodologies and different religious, social and cultural traditions, works published in the series open channels of communication that facilitate critical analysis. The series includes both single author texts and edited collections of multi-author essays.

Blood: A Critique of Christianity

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By Gil Anidjar
Published: May, 2014

Blood, according to Gil Anidjar, maps the singular history of Christianity. As a category for historical analysis, blood can be seen through its literal and metaphorical uses as determining, sometimes even defining Western culture, politics, and social practices and their wide-ranging incarnations in nationalism, capitalism, and law.

Engaging with a variety of sources, Anidjar explores the presence and the absence, the making and unmaking of blood in philosophy and medicine, law and literature, and economic and political thought from ancient Greece to medieval Spain, from the Bible to Shakespeare and Melville. The prevalence of blood in the social, juridical, and political organization of the modern West signals that we do not live in a secular age into which religion could return. Flowing across multiple boundaries, infusing them with violent precepts that we must address, blood undoes the presumed oppositions between religion and politics, economy and theology, and kinship and race. It demonstrates that what we think of as modern is in fact imbued with Christianity. Christianity, Blood fiercely argues, must be reconsidered beyond the boundaries of religion alone.

Recovering Place: Reflections on Stone Hill

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By Mark C. Taylor
Published: February, 2014

Mark C. Taylor recounts a poignant love affair not with a person but with a place that, paradoxically, cannot be easily localized. For many years, Taylor has lived in the Berkshire Mountains, where he writes and creates land art and sculpture. In a world of mobile screens and virtual realities, where speed is the measure of success and place is disappearing, his work slows down thought and brings life back to earth to give readers time to ponder the importance of place before it slips away.

Taylor extends reflection beyond the page and returns with new insights about what is hiding in plain sight all around us. Weaving together words and images, his artful work enacts what it describes. Things long familiar suddenly appear strange, and the strange, unexpected, and unprogrammed unsettle readers in surprising ways. This timely meditation gives pause in the midst of harried lives and turns attention toward what we usually overlook: night, silence, touch, grace, ghosts, water, earth, stones, bones, idleness, infinity, slowness, and contentment.Recovering Place is a unique work with reflections that linger long after the book is closed.

Boundaries of Toleration

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Edited by Alfred Stepan and Charles Taylor
Published: February, 2014

How can people of diverse religious, ethnic, and linguistic allegiances and identities live together without committing violence, inflicting suffering, or oppressing each other? In this volume, contributors explore the limits of toleration and suggest we think beyond them to mutual respect. Salman Rushdie reflects on the once tolerant Sufi-Hindu culture of Kashmir. Ira Katznelson follows with an intellectual history of toleration as a layered institution in the West. Charles Taylor advances a new approach to secularism in our multicultural world, and Akeel Bilgrami responds by offering context and caution to that approach. Nadia Urbinati explores why Cicero’s humanist ideal of Concord was not used in response to religious discord. The volume concludes with a refutation of the claim that toleration was invented in the West. Rajeev Bhargava writes on Asoka’s India, and Karen Barkey explores toleration within the Ottoman and Habsburg Empires. Sudipta Kaviraj examines accommodations and conflicts in India, and Alfred Stepan highlights contributions to toleration and multiple democratic secularisms in such Muslim-majority countries as Indonesia and Senegal.

Religion, the Secular, and the Politics of Sexual Difference

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Edited by Linell E. Cady and Tracy Fessenden
Published: November, 2013

Global struggles over women’s roles, rights, and dress increasingly cast the secular and the religious in tense if not violent opposition. When advocates for equality speak in terms of rights and modern progress, or reactionaries ground their authority in religious and scriptural appeals, both tend to presume women’s emancipation is ineluctably tied to secularization. Religion, the Secular, and the Politics of Sexual Difference upsets this certainty by drawing on diverse voices and traditions in studies that historicize, question, and test the implicit links between secularism and expanded freedoms for women. Rather than position secularism as the answer to conflicts over gender and sexuality, this volume shows both religion and the secular collaborate in creating the conditions that generate them.

Democracy and Islam in Indonesia

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Edited by Mirjam Künkler and Alfred Stepan
Published: August, 2013

Indonesia’s military government collapsed in 1998, igniting fears that economic, religious, and political conflicts would complicate any democratic transition. Yet in every year since 2006, the world’s most populous Muslim country has received high marks from international democracy-ranking organizations. In this volume, political scientists, religious scholars, legal theorists, and anthropologists examine the theory and practice of Indonesia’s democratic transition and its ability to serve as a model for other Muslim countries. They compare the Indonesian example with similar scenarios in Chile, Spain, India, and Tunisia, as well as with the failed transitions of Yugoslavia, Egypt, and Iran. Essays explore the relationship between religion and politics and the ways in which Muslims became supportive of democracy even before change occurred, and they describe how innovative policies prevented dissident military groups, violent religious activists, and secessionists from disrupting Indonesia’s democratic evolution. The collection concludes with a discussion of Indonesia’s emerging “legal pluralism” and of which of its forms are rights-eroding and rights-protecting.

Rewiring the Real: In Conversation with William Gaddis, Richard Powers, Mark Danielewski, and Don DeLillo

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By Mark C. Taylor
Published: January, 2013

Digital and electronic technologies that act as extensions of our bodies and minds are changing how we live, think, act, and write. Some welcome these developments as bringing humans closer to unified consciousness and eternal life. Others worry that invasive globalized technologies threaten to destroy the self and the world. Whether feared or desired, these innovations provoke emotions that have long fueled the religious imagination, suggesting the presence of a latent spirituality in an era mistakenly deemed secular and posthuman.

William Gaddis, Richard Powers, Mark Danielewski, and Don DeLillo are American authors who explore this phenomenon thoroughly in their work. Engaging the works of each in conversation, Mark C. Taylor discusses their sophisticated representations of new media, communications, information, and virtual technologies and their transformative effects on the self and society. He focuses on Gaddis’s The Recognitions, Powers’s Plowing the Dark, Danielewski’s House of Leaves, and DeLillo’s Underworld, following the interplay of technology and religion in their narratives and their imagining of the transition from human to posthuman states. Their challenging ideas and inventive styles reveal the fascinating ways religious interests affect emerging technologies and how, in turn, these technologies guide spiritual aspirations. To read these novels from this perspective is to see them and the world anew.

Tolerance, Democracy, and Sufis in Senegal

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Edited by Mamadou Diouf
Published: January, 2013

This collection critically examines “tolerance,” “secularism,” and respect for religious “diversity” within a social and political system dominated by Sufi brotherhoods. Through a detailed analysis of Senegal’s political economy, essays trace the genealogy and dynamic exchange among these concepts while investigating public spaces and political processes and their reciprocal engagement with the state, Sunni reformist and radical groups, and non-religious organizations. The anthology provides a rich and nuanced historical ethnography of the formation of Senegalese democracy, illuminating the complex trajectory of the Senegalese state and reflecting on similar postcolonial societies. Offering rare perspectives on the country’s “successes” since liberation, the volume identifies the role of religion, gender, culture, ethnicity, globalization, politics, and migration in the reconfiguration of the state and society, and it makes an important contribution to democratization theory, Islamic studies, and African studies.