digitial mapping projects from Lincoln Mullen inspired me to think about the possibility of combining mapping with bibliography. The idea was to make a map of city-based studies of religion so that someone could click on a location -- say, "Chicago" -- and up would pop a list of books dealing with religion in that city.
Unfortunately, my CartoDB mapping skills were simply not up to the task. Fortunately, though, Lincoln offered to use his digital wizardry to make the bibliographic map a reality. Thanks to Lincoln's efforts, I'm proud to announce that our little project is now ready for public use. The end result is even better and more robust than I had imagined: easy to navigate, searchable, clean, and crisp. Although the difficult work is done, now we need your help. Our initial set of data includes only about 170 books. If you have time, browse over to the map and help us make it more complete by letting us know what books we have missed.
A couple quick notes about the data. First, we included books that focused broadly on religion or a religious tradition within one city, as well as books that more narrowly analyzed one particular religious group, church, temple, neighborhood, etc. within a city. The books did not have to (but some did) use the local study make a broad claim about "American religion." Second, we included only academic books: that is, books reviewed by academic journals, published by a university press, and/or written by a trained scholar. This means no books published by a hyper-local history press and also no dissertations or articles (not even those in American Congregations). Our reasoning was partly pragmatic -- there is only so much time in the day. But it also serves a larger purpose. We'd like to show where historians and scholars of U.S. religion have focused their book-length attention, and also where they have had their attention legitimized by one of the gatekeepers of academic production in the humanities -- the book publisher (usually a university press).
There are, of course, plenty of other geographic contexts from which scholars can conduct studies. Our map does not account for them. Still, we hope that it will be a useful resource for anyone interested in the study of U.S. religious history. Perhaps it can also help us think about why some cities loom larger than others in U.S. religious historiography and what the implications for this might be. So, too, it might serve as an interesting contrast with a general bibliography of U.S. religious history, allowing for reflection on what is gained and what is lost in a city-based glimpse at academically-produced U.S. religious history.
Anyway, without further ado: A Bibliography of Urban American Religious History