The Chance of Salvation
Lincoln A. Mullen Harvard University Press, 2017 Library of Congress BL639+ | Dewey Decimal 248.240973
The United States has a long history of religious pluralism, and yet Americans have often thought that people’s faith determines their eternal destinies. The result is that Americans switch religions more often than any other nation. Lincoln Mullen traces the history of the distinctively American idea that religion is a matter of individual choice.
In The Choice, Arnine Cumsky Weiss and Carol Weiss Rubel present the stories of forty-five converts to Judaism. These reflective narratives demonstrate that no two converts’ experiences are alike, yet most share some common characteristics: a spiritual uneasiness, fear, doubt, and a gradual development of spiritual and intellectual understanding and acceptance of conversion. The stories in The Choice will be a source of inspiration and affirmation for anyone who is struggling with a conversion decision or knows someone who is.
A massive religious transformation has unfolded over the past forty years in Latin America and the Caribbean. In a region where the Catholic Church could once claim a near monopoly of adherents, religious pluralism has fundamentally altered the social and religious landscape.
Conversion of a Continent brings together twelve original essays that document and explore competing explanations for how and why conversion has occurred. Contributors draw on various insights from social movement theory to religious studies to help outline its impact on national attitudes and activities, gender relations, identity politics, and reverse waves of missions from Latin America aimed at the American immigrant community.
Unlike other studies on religious conversion, this volume pays close attention to who converts, under what circumstances, the meaning of conversion to the individual, and how the change affects converts’ beliefs and actions. The thematic focus makes this volume important to students and scholars in both religious studies and Latin American studies.
Man Ray (1890–1976) has long been considered one of the most versatile and innovative artists of the twentieth century. As a painter, writer, sculptor, photographer, and filmmaker, he is best known for his intimate association with the French Surrealist group in Paris during the 1920s and 1930s, particularly for his highly inventive and unconventional photographic images. These remarkable accomplishments, however, have tended to overshadow the importance of his earlier work—significant not only for comprehending Man Ray’s future artistic development, but also for fleshing out our understanding of the visual arts in America during one of the most important and crucial phases of the evolution of modernism.
The book, and the exhibition for which this work will serve as the catalog, concentrate on Man Ray’s production from 1907 to 1917. Conversion to Modernism will be the first comprehensive, fully illustrated work to examine this artist’s seminal years. The show and the catalog begin with Man Ray’s high school years in Brooklyn, his studies at the Art Students League and the American Academy in New York, and the time he spent in life drawing classes at the more progressive Ferrer Center
From 1913 to 1915, Man Ray lived in a small artists’ colony in Grantwood, New Jersey. It was here, studying with Samuel Halpert (a former student of Matisse), that Man Ray began to become the artist we know today. The last section of the show and of the book include recently discovered photographs and other works that are influenced by a knowledge of the emergent Dada movement. Here is Man Ray in recognizable form just before he leaves the country for France in 1921.
This exhibit will first be on display at the Montclair Art Museum from January 26 through March 2003. It will then travel to museums in Athens, Georgia, Philadelphia, and Chicago.
Apuleius' wonderful Latin novel Metamorphoses, written in the second century C.E., was for a long time neglected. In recent years some have attempted to understand the Metamorphoses by applying contemporary critical theory to the work, without notable success. In Crisis and Conversion in Apuleius' "Metamorphoses" Nancy Shumate takes a new and profitable approach: she uses an epistemologically oriented model of religious conversion to study the experiences of the novel's central character, Lucius, who is turned into an ass and back again.
Shumate draws on a wide range of literary and nonliterary representations of conversion in order to establish a useful theoretical framework. The Metamorphoses is exposed as a text anticipating later narratives in its concern with world-building, with the narrator's subjective reality, and with the invocation and critique of religious experience.
Crisis and Conversion in Apuleius' "Metamorphoses" will be of interest to classicists and scholars of Silver Latin and of the increasingly popular ancient novel, as well as to students of psychology and the sociology of religious experience.
Nancy Shumate is Associate Professor of Classical Languages and Literatures, Smith College.
Why are domestic workers converting to Islam in the Arabian Peninsula and Persian Gulf region? In Everyday Conversions Attiya Ahmad presents us with an original analysis of this phenomenon. Using extensive fieldwork conducted among South Asian migrant women in Kuwait, Ahmad argues domestic workers’ Muslim belonging emerges from their work in Kuwaiti households as they develop Islamic piety in relation—but not opposition—to their existing religious practices, family ties, and ethnic and national belonging. Their conversion is less a clean break from their preexisting lives than it is a refashioning in response to their everyday experiences. In examining the connections between migration, labor, gender, and Islam, Ahmad complicates conventional understandings of the dynamics of religious conversion and the feminization of transnational labor migration while proposing the concept of everyday conversion as a way to think more broadly about emergent forms of subjectivity, affinity, and belonging.
In this work, anthropologist Robert Leroy Canfield discusses several powerful social systems in central Afghanistan and their impact on the geographical distribution of religious sects in the area. Territorial groups, the kinship network, and community fission all play a part in why people live where they do. Canfield did his fieldwork among the residents of the province of Bamian during the years 1966 to 1968.
Winner, 2015 LAJSA Best Book in Latin American Jewish Studies
The practices of interrogation, torture, and confession have resurfaced in public debates since the early 2000s following human rights abuses around the globe. Yet discussion of torture has remained restricted to three principal fields: the legal, the pragmatic, and the moral, eclipsing the less immediate but vital question of what torture does.Figurative Inquisitions seeks to correct this lacuna by approaching the question of torture from a literary vantage point.
This book investigates the uncanny presence of the Inquisition and marranismo (crypto-Judaism) in modern literature, theater, and film from Mexico, Brazil, and Portugal. Through a critique of fictional scenes of interrogation, it underscores the vital role of the literary in deconstructing the relation between torture and truth. Figurative Inquisitions traces the contours of a relationship among aesthetics, ethics, and politics in an account of the "Inquisitional logic" that continues to haunt contemporary political forms. In so doing, the book offers a unique humanistic perspective on current torture debates.
"I knew a Man, who having nothing but a summary Notion of Religion himself, and being wicked and profligate to the last Degree in his Life, made a thorough Reformation in himself, by labouring to convert a Jew." —Daniel Defoe, The Farther Adventures of Robinson Crusoe (1719)
When the hero of Defoe’s novel listens skeptically to this anecdote related by a French Roman Catholic priest, he little suspects that in less than a century the conversion of the Jews would become nothing short of a national project—not in France but in England. In this book, Michael Ragussis explores the phenomenon of Jewish conversion—the subject of popular enthusiasm, public scandal, national debate, and dubbed "the English madness" by its critics—in Protestant England from the 1790s through the 1870s. Moving beyond the familiar catalog of anti-Semitic stereotypes, Ragussis analyzes the rhetoric of conversion as it was reinvented by the English in sermons, stories for the young, histories of the Jews, memoirs by Jewish converts, and popular novels. Alongside these texts and the countertexts produced by English Jews, he situates such writers as Edgeworth, Scott, Disraeli, Arnold, Trollope, and Eliot within the debate over conversion and related issues of race, gender, and nation-formation. His work reveals how a powerful group of emergent cultural projects—including a revisionist tradition of the novel, the new science of ethnology, and the rewriting of European history—redefined English national identity in response to the ideology of conversion, the history of the Jews, and "the Jewish question." Figures of Conversion offers an entirely new way of regarding Jewish identity in nineteenth-century British culture and will be of importance not only to literary scholars but also to scholars of Judaic and religious studies, history, and cultural studies.
The spread of Islam eastward into South and Southeast Asia was one of the most significant cultural shifts in world history. As it expanded into these regions, Islam was received by cultures vastly different from those in the Middle East, incorporating them into a diverse global community that stretched from India to the Philippines.
In Islam Translated, Ronit Ricci uses the Book of One Thousand Questions—from its Arabic original to its adaptations into the Javanese, Malay, and Tamil languages between the sixteenth and twentieth centuries—as a means to consider connections that linked Muslims across divides of distance and culture. Examining the circulation of this Islamic text and its varied literary forms, Ricci explores how processes of literary translation and religious conversion were historically interconnected forms of globalization, mutually dependent, and creatively reformulated within societies making the transition to Islam.
In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, competing scholarly communities sought to define a Spain that was, at least officially, entirely Christian, even if many suspected that newer converts from Islam and Judaism were Christian in name only. Unlike previous books on conversion in early modern Spain, however, Parables of Coercion focuses not on the experience of the converts themselves, but rather on how questions surrounding conversion drove religious reform and scholarly innovation.
In its careful examination of how Spanish authors transformed the history of scholarship through debate about forced religious conversion, Parables of Coercion makes us rethink what we mean by tolerance and intolerance, and shows that debates about forced conversion and assimilation were also disputes over the methods and practices that demarcated one scholarly discipline from another.
When cities gentrify, it can be hard for working-class and low-income residents to stay put. Rising rents and property taxes make buildings unaffordable, or landlords may sell buildings to investors interested in redeveloping them into luxury condos.
In her engaging study The Politics of Staying Put, Carolyn Gallaher focuses on a formal, city-sponsored initiative—The Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act (TOPA)—that helps people keep their homes. This law, unique to the District of Columbia, allows tenants in apartment buildings contracted for sale the right to refuse the sale and purchase the building instead. In the hands of tenants, a process that would usually hurt them—conversion to a condominium or cooperative—can instead help them.
Taking a broad, city-wide assessment of TOPA, Gallaher follows seven buildings through the program’s process. She measures the law’s level of success and its constraints. Her findingshave relevance for debates in urban affairs about condo conversion, urban local autonomy, and displacement.
To listen to David M. Schneider is to hear the voice of American anthropology. To listen at length is to hear much of the discipline’s history, from the realities of postwar practice and theory to Schneider’s own influence on the development of symbolic and interpretive anthropology in the 1970s and 1980s. Schneider on Schneider offers readers this rare opportunity, and with it an engrossing introduction into a world of intellectual rigor, personal charm, and wit. In this work, based on conversations with Richard Handler, Schneider tells the story of his days devoted to anthropology—as a student of Clyde Kluckhohn and Talcott Parsons and as a writer and teacher whose work on kinship and culture theory revolutionized the discipline. With a master’s sense of the telling anecdote, he describes his education at Cornell, Yale, and Harvard, his fieldwork on the Micronesian island of Yap and among the Mescalero Apache, and his years teaching at the London School of Economics, Berkeley, and the University of Chicago. Musing on the current state and the future of anthropology, Schneider’s cast of characters reads like a who’s who of postwar social science. His reflections on anthropological field research and academic politics address some of the most pressing ethical and epistemological issues facing scholars today, while yielding tales of unexpected amusement. With its humor and irony, its wealth of information and searching questions about the state of anthropology, Schneider on Schneider not only provides an important resource for the history of twentieth-century social science, but also brings to life the entertaining voice of an engaging storyteller.
Medieval European culture encompassed Judaic, Christian, Muslim, and pagan societies, forming a complex matrix of religious belief, identity, and imagination. Through incisive readings of a broad range of medieval texts and informed by poststructuralist, queer, and feminist theories, The Spectral Jew traces the Jewish presence in Western Europe to show how the body, gender, and sexuality were at the root of the construction of medieval religious anxieties, inconsistencies, and instabilities.
Looking closely at how medieval Jewish and Christian identities are distinguished from each other, yet intimately intertwined, Kruger demonstrates how Jews were often corporealized in ways that posited them as inferior to Christians—archaic and incapable of change—even as the two mutually shaped each other. But such attempts to differentiate Jews and Christians were inevitably haunted by the knowledge that Christianity had emerged out of Judaism and was, in its own self-understanding, a community of converts.
Examining the points of contact between Christian and Jewish communities, Kruger discloses the profound paradox of the Jew as different in all ways, yet capable of converting to fully Christian status. He draws from central medieval authors and texts such as Peter Damian, Guibert of Nogent, the Barcelona Disputation, and the Hebrew chronicles of the First Crusade, as well as lesser known writings such as the disputations of Ceuta, Majorca, and Tortosa and the immensely popular Dialogues of Peter Alfonsi.
By putting the conversion narrative at the center of this analysis, Kruger exposes it as a disruption of categories rather than a smooth passage and reveals the prominent role Judaism played in the medieval Christian imagination.
Steven F. Kruger is professor of English and medieval studies at Queens College and the Graduate Center, CUNY. He is author of several books and editor with Glenn Burger of Queering the Middle Ages (Minnesota, 2001).
If the People of Israel understood themselves to share a common ancestry as well as a common religion, how could a convert to their faith who did not share their ethnicity fit into the ancient Israelite community? While it is comparatively simple to declare religious beliefs, it is much more difficult to enter a group whose membership is defined in ethnic terms. In showing how the rabbis struggled continually with the dual nature of the Israelite community and the dilemma posed by converts, Gary G. Porton explains aspects of their debates which previous scholars have either ignored or minimized.
The Stranger within Your Gates analyzes virtually every reference to converts in the full corpus of rabbinic literature. The intellectual dilemma that converts posed for classical Judaism played itself out in discussions of marriage, religious practice, inheritance of property, and much else. Reviewing the rabbinic literature text by text, Porton exposes the rabbis' frequently ambivalent and ambiguous views.
The Stranger within Your Gates is the only examination of conversion in rabbinic literature to draw upon the full scope of contemporary anthropological and sociological studies of conversion. It is also unique in its focus on the opinions of the community into which the convert enters, rather than on the testimony of the convert. By approaching data with new methods, Porton heightens our understanding of conversion and the nature of the People of Israel in rabbinic literature.
In this original and collaborative creation, John Brown-Childs offers unique insights into some of the central problems facing communities, social movements, and people who desire social change: how does one build a movement that can account for race, class and gender, and yet still operate across all of these lines? How can communities sustain themselves in truly social ways? And perhaps most important, how can we take the importance of community into account without forgoing the important distinctions that we all ascribe to ourselves as individuals?Borrowing from the Haudenosaunee, or Iroquois federation, Brown-Childs offers a way of thinking about communities as coalitions, ones that account for differences in the very act of coming together. Using the Iroquois as an example of transcommunality in action, he also offers specific outcomes that many people desire—racial justice and peace are two examples—as points of focus around which many disparate groups may organize, without ever subsuming questions of identity as an expense of organizing.In addition to Brown-Childs' own exegesis, twelve scholars and thinkers from all walks of life offer their own responses to his thinking, enriching the book as an illustration and example of transcommunality.In an age of fractured identities and a world that is moving toward a global community, Transcommunality offers a persuasive way of imagining the world where community and individual identity may not only coexist, but also depend upon the other to the benefit of both.
Examining autobiographical texts by Malcolm X (The Autobiography of Malcolm X), Oscar Zeta Acosta (The Autobiography of a Brown Buffalo and Revolt of the Cockroach People), Amiri Baraka (The Autobiography of LeRoi Jones), and Richard Rodriguez (Hunger of Memory, Days of Obligation, and Brown), Walker questions the often rosy views and simplistic binary conceptions of religious conversion. Her reading of these texts takes into account the conflict and serial changes the authors experience in a society that marginalizes them, the manner in which religious conversion offers ethnic Americans “salvation” through cultural assimilation or cultural nationalism, and what conversion, anticonversion, and deconversion narratives tell us about the problematic effects of religion that often go unremarked because of a code of “special respect” and political correctness.
Walker asserts that critics have been too willing to praise religion in America as salutary or beyond the ken of criticism because religious belief is seen as belonging to an untouchable arena of cultural identity. The Trouble with Sauling Around goes beyond traditional literary criticism to pay close attention to the social phenomena that underlie religious conversion narratives and considers the potentially negative effects of religious conversion, something that has been likewise neglected by scholars.