CFP: Religion and Politics in Early America & A Recent H-Diplo Roundtable of Interest



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Lauren Turek

This past month, I have come across two pieces of information that may be of interest to the readers of this blog. The first is a call for papers from the John C. Danforth Center on Religion and Politics, which is holding a conference next year on Religion and Politics in Early America. The details are as follows:

Call For Papers – Religion and Politics in Early America (Beginnings to 1820)
St. Louis, March 1-4, 2018

Conference Website: https://sites.wustl.edu/religionpolitics2018/

Sponsored by:
The John C. Danforth Center on Religion and Politics
The Kinder Institute on Constitutional Democracy
The Society of Early Americanists
St. Louis University
Washington University in St. Louis

Seeking Panel and Paper Proposals
We seek proposals for panels and individual papers for the special topics conference on Religion and Politics in Early America, March 1-4, 2018, in St. Louis, Missouri. Individual papers are welcome, but preference will be given to completed panel submissions.

This conference will explore the intersections between religion and politics in early America from pre-contact through the early republic. All topics related to the way religion shapes politics or politics shapes religion—how the two conflict, collaborate, or otherwise configure each other—will be welcomed. We define the terms “religion” and “politics” broadly, including (for example) studies of secularity and doubt. This conference will have a broad temporal, geographic, and topical expanse. We intend to create a space for interdisciplinary conversation, though this does not mean that all panels will need be composed of multiple disciplines; we welcome both mixed panels and panels composed entirely of scholars from a single discipline.

Panels can take a traditional form (3-4 papers, with or without a respondent), roundtable form (5 or more brief statements with discussion), or other forms.

Panel submissions must have the following:

1. An organizer for contact information

2. Names and titles for each paper in the panel.

3. A brief abstract (no more than 250 words) for the panel.

4. A briefer abstract (no more than 100 words) for each paper.

5. Brief CV’s for each participant (no more than two pages each).

Individual paper submissions must include the following:

1. Name and contact information

2. Title

3. Abstract (no more than 150 words)

4. A brief CV (no more than two pages)

Please send your proposals to religion.politics.2018@gmail.com by Friday, May 26, 2017.

If you have any questions, please email Abram Van Engen at religion.politics.2018@gmail.com.



The second recent item of interest is a roundtable review that H-Diplo published earlier this month. Samuel Moyn (Harvard University), Stephen Hopgood (SOAS, University of London), James Loeffler (University of Virginia), and Janice Gross Stein (University of Toronto) reviewed Michael N. Barnett's book The Star and the Stripes: A History of the Foreign Policies of American Jews, which Princeton University Press published in 2016.


The roundtable, with author response, is very robust and provides an excellent overview of the book, which is on an understudied topic in the field of American foreign relations and religion. To access the review, follow this link: https://networks.h-net.org/node/28443/discussions/174974/h-diplo-roundtable-xviii-21-star-and-stripes-history-foreign


Taking Classes to the Archives



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Emily Suzanne Clark

Readers of the blog might remember that I like to post about teaching. A big part of my teaching is primary sources and that increasingly includes archives. I first blogged about taking a class into the Jesuit archives back in November 2015, shortly after having my American Christianities class work in the archives. That was my first time taking my class on an archival field trip, and since then I've taken four more classes back. I'm hooked, and it seems they are too. Many have told me that they hope the assignment remains on the syllabus for future classes.

Two students digitizing photos,
from spring 2016 Native American Religions.
Back when I took my first class into the archives, I blogged and raved about Anthony Grafton and James Grossman's piece in The American Scholar about how student experiences in archives help them develop "habits of mind" and begin to form their scholarly selves. Now, when I take my class into the archives we're not doing full-blown research projects, but we might be getting there. Since that initial foray into archives and pedagogy, I've taken my spring 2016 Native American Religions class into the Jesuit archives, along with a first-year seminar called Race in America (fall 2016 and spring 2017), and my American Christianities class again (spring 2017). With the exception of Native American Religions each class spent one week on an archival project; Native American Religions spent about four weeks. Each class I've learned more about how to effectively teach with archives, and each time, I have loved it.

Five Questions with Eladio Bobadilla on Immigration and Catholic History



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Catherine R. Osborne (for the Cushwa Center for the Study of American Catholicism, University of Notre Dame)

Eladio Bobadilla
Eladio Bobadilla is a Ph.D. candidate in U.S. History at Duke University. His dissertation is entitled "'One People Without Borders': The Chicano Roots of the Immigrants Rights Movement, 1954-1994," and explores how Mexican-Americans, long ambivalent and even opposed to undocumented immigration, came to see themselves and the undocumented as "one people." He was awarded a 2016 Theodore M. Hesburgh Travel Grant to consult Fr. Hesburgh's papers related to his work on the Commission on Immigration and Refugee Policy. (The next grant applications will be due October 1, so start thinking of topics now!)

CO: What got you interested in this topic?

EB: My interest in this topic is largely autobiographical. Immigration is part of my story and has shaped me and my worldview since I was a child. My father was, at various points in his life, a bracero, an undocumented immigrant, a permanent resident, and a U.S. citizen. I, too, was undocumented until the age of 19. So questions about immigration—and about shifting and unstable identities—were always part of my experience. Similarly, growing up in Delano, CA, home of the farm labor movement, inspired me to ask questions about the relationship(s) between labor, immigration, capitalism, and social movements.


Fun with Polygamy, or, "A House Full of Females" & the Benefits of Teaching Mormon History



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Andrea L. Turpin

I love Mormon history. I have found a way to work it into literally all the courses I have ever taught. I am neither a Mormon nor a historian of Mormonism, but I've discovered that teaching the history of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints brings to life so many aspects of nineteenth-century American history in a way that students always find gripping. Specifically, recounting the development of the LDS church during this era provides a fresh way to present topics as diverse as racial prejudice, Western expansion, revivalism and the larger significance of Protestant theological debates, changing gender roles, anti-Catholic prejudice, the utopian impulse, the expansion and contraction of the franchise, and debates over religious freedom, among others.

I teach in a history department, so an additional asset of Mormon history for me is that the church's formative years run from the publication of the Book of Mormon in 1830 through the renouncing of polygamy by LDS church president Wilford Woodruff in 1890. In other words, early Mormon history can be used in both halves of the US Survey course, whether you divide it at the end of the Civil War in 1865 or the end of Reconstruction in 1877.

I also teach at an institution (Baylor) where many students identify as Christians, so discussing Mormon history allows for class reflection about how historians treat faiths that believe that God has broken into human history in miraculous ways. Many students affirm that God raised Jesus from the dead on a specific date in history but dismiss Joseph Smith's assertion that the Book of Mormon is the result of digging up and translating golden plates whose location was revealed to him by the angel Moroni. Teasing out the similarities and differences between these historical claims makes for fruitful discussion.

Of course, a big part of why my classes are so interested in nineteenth-century Mormons is their practice of polygamy, or "plural marriage" as it was known. When I first started teaching in 2009 and asked undergraduates for their associations with Mormonism, the number one answer was Big Love--now it's Sister Wives. (Honorable mention in different years has gone to Mitt Romney, the Broadway musical The Book of Mormon, and "those guys in black suits.") Students' association of Mormons with polygamy makes LDS history especially useful for teaching women's history.

Crossing Parish Boundaries: An Interview with Tim Neary



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Karen Johnson

Tim Neary's recent book Crossing Parish Boundaries: Race, Sports, and Catholic Youth in Chicago, 1914-1954 traces the decades of interracial contact between Chicago's youth in Bishop Bernard Sheil's Catholic Youth Organization (CYO).  Tim complicates the argument that working-class white ethnics were some the most anti-black people in the urban north at mid-century, situates black Catholics' experiences squarely in the Black Metropolis, illuminates how black Catholics created their own places, and speaks to the civil rights movement historiography, as it merges urban and religious history wonderfully.  Recently I interviewed Tim, and I have posted our conversation below.  You can also see a recording of Tim's recent talk the Cushwa Center here.

KJ: I’m fascinated by your arguments that Sheil and black Catholics assumed that social change would come by working “within the system,” rather than challenging it.  Could you speak to this dynamic in and beyond your book's time frame?

TN: When I first started doing research in the late 1990s on African American Catholics in Chicago, I began noticing that disproportionate numbers of Chicago’s African American political and business leaders during the twentieth century were black Catholics—or at least educated in Catholic schools. While only a small percentage of African Americans were Catholic, they seemed to pop up everywhere in the historical record as civic leaders. The first African American elected to citywide office in 1971—City Treasurer Joseph Bertrand—for example, was a Catholic who attended Corpus Christi grade school and St. Elizabeth’s high school in the Bronzeville neighborhood on Chicago’s South Side before attending the University of Notre Dame on a basketball scholarship. And there were many others like him, including the first African American president of the Cook County Board, John Stroger, a black Catholic who grew up in Arkansas and moved to Chicago in 1953 after graduating from the nation’s only African American Catholic university—Xavier in New Orleans. Ralph Metcalfe, a Chicago native, was another example. Metcalfe attended Marquette University in Milwaukee on a track scholarship, starred in the 1932 and 1936 Summer Olympics, and rose through the political ranks to become a U.S. Congressman representing the Illinois First Congressional District during the 1970s.

In addition to sharing the same race and religion, each man was a product of Chicago’s Irish Catholic Democratic Party political machine.

"Evangelical Gotham" Roundtable: An Audience Comment



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Jonathan Den Hartog

I very much appreciated the just-concluded roundtable on Kyle Roberts' Evangelical Gotham.

I found myself taking in the roundtable just as I was finishing reading the book. 

So, in the spirit of an "audience comment," let me add one additional point that particularly struck me.

I was much impressed by the way Roberts' focus on religion in New York City opened up consideration of the meaning of New York City on other levels--the national and the international. The book works as a fine-grained study of one particular place (Manhattan), expressed with even more particular details of congregations and individuals. Yet, by choosing New York, the book has situated its local story in a city where developments in local religious life could produce effects beyond its borders.

One direction the City faced was westward, to the American continent. New York grew in economic and cultural significance throughout the nineteenth century, and its impact was energized by the opening of the Erie Canal in 1825. New York print culture came to shape, if not the nation, at least a much larger region of the North. Thus, it mattered what was printed and that much of the printed materials were Bibles or Christian tracts or religious magazines. 

Further, New York City became the headquarters for national organizations such as the American Bible Society and the American Tract Society. These organizations had a national reach and a national impact, but their activities were coordinated by individuals living and working in New York. So, the religious life of Gotham shaped the practice of faith throughout the nation. This linking of the local and the national was evident in the annual celebrations that these national organizations put on simultaneously in New York's public spaces, with events such as addresses and parades.

At the same time, the City continued to face the Atlantic. Roberts begins with the Atlantic orientation, as travelers of all kinds came to relocate in the city. But it's worth remembering that New York remained a significant port throughout the period covered in the book. It was a node in the web of exchange that was the Atlantic World. Local events and figures influenced the people and ideas which circulated throughout the Atlantic.

I suspect that international ideal motivated the evangelism to sailors that Roberts documents. Not only were sailors resident in New York, but their journeys would take them to many other ports, making them potential evangelists themselves. At the same time, as a port, New York was ideally situated as an embarkation point for American missionaries heading abroad.

As a receiving port, New York could also hear of new developments in the broader, transatlantic evangelical culture. So, the American Bible Society grew under the inspiration of the British and Foreign Bible Society, just as missionary endeavors were motivated by the example of the London Missionary Society.

Thus the story of Evangelical Gotham was not just about itself, but its influence was felt nationally and internationally. I'm appreciative for Roberts' illustration of how historical particularity, when studied deeply, can open up into broader stories and significances. So, in agreement with the roundtable contributors, let me encourage people to give the book some careful consideration.
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