Kelly Baker, New Reviews on Religon from H-AMSTDY
New reviews on Religion from H-Amstdy
First up, Seth Perry, a doctoral candidate at University of Chicago, Divinity School, reviewed W. Paul Reeve’s Making Space on the Western Frontier: Mormons, Miners, and Southern Paiutes. The work touches on the relationships between Mormons and the Paiutes, which eventually lead to Paiute conversions to Mormonism. What is intriguing is the author’s understanding of the “hierarchy of Americanism.” Seth writes:
Eschewing simple racial or ethnic categories, Reeve uses the categories of "spiritual" and "worldly" to divide miners from both Paiutes and Mormons, and to plot the groups on a continuum of "Americanness" that, he says, explains how the groups were regarded (regarded _by whom_ is an important question which will be touched on in a moment). "A hierarchy of Americanness emerged that favored the miners as the embodiment of American progress, industry, and quest for wealth. Mormons and Southern Paiutes, however, valued community over individualism and celestial rewards over material gain, ideals that placed them well outside prevailing standards of what it meant to be an American" (pp. 4-6).
For the rest of the review, click here.
Note that progress and wealth, in Reeve’s view, are more “American” than spiritual leanings that emphasize immaterial rewards.
Next, another Seth reviews quite a different book. Seth Feman, a doctoral candidate at the College of William and Mary, explore James Hudnut-Beumler’s In Pursuit of the Almighty Dollar. This book, one I keep meaning to read, explores the place of money in American denominations, which Feman points out is an often contentious point among congregations. His review highlights the importance of understanding the fiscal in the realm of the immaterial. He writes:
To highlight how the shifting economy has inflected theology and denominational development, Hudnut-Beumler considers common but often overlooked fundraising homiletics and tithing advice literature written by ministers and their advocates from the 1750s to the present. This is no easy task. Placing fiscal matters front and center in religious history not only demands a careful revision of traditional narratives. But, since doing so pins the invisible hand to a cross of gold, it also calls for the reassessment of long-held assumptions about the immateriality of faith and the immateriality of finance.
Finally, Elizabeth “Betsy” Barre, a doctoral candidate at Florida State University in the Department of Religion, approaches Zachary Shore’s Breeding Bin Ladens with a critical eye and a sense of grace. She braced herself for a polemic (as books like this tend to be) but found merit in his work. In her review, she notes that Shore uses the term “ambi-Americanism” to describe Muslim reaction to the U.S. as ambivalent rather than full-sale rejection of the national culture. She notes:
Shore argues that the underlying cause of "ambi-Americanism" and "ambi-Europeanism" is "a growing discomfort with mainstream European and American cultural values" (p. 165). He is never entirely clear about what he means by "mainstream" or "values," but he notes that many European Muslims believe that Europe and America are "spiritually empty" (p. 8). As a result, they do their best to resist "American secular values" (p. 127), seeking out products and services that will reflect their own (p. 121).
On a related note, I am always seeking reviewers for H-Amstdy. Currently, I am in dire need of scholars in African American studies, Gender History, History of the West, Catholicism, Religion and Politics, and more generally, American religious history. To be a reviewer, one must be at least ABD. If you are interested or know someone who might be, please send me an email, kellyjbaker (at) gmail (dot) com, with a short CV and a current list of scholarly areas of interest.