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Religion and Politics in the Contemporary United States

, 552 pages

20 halftones

May 2008



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Religion and Politics in the Contemporary United States

This collection of essays from a special issue of American Quarterly explores the complex and sometimes contradictory ways that religion matters in contemporary public life.

Religion and Politics in the Contemporary United States offers a groundbreaking, cross-disciplinary conversation between scholars in American studies and religious studies. The contributors explore numerous modes through which religious faith has mobilized political action. They utilize a variety of definitions of politics, ranging from lobbying by religious leaders to the political impact of popular culture. Their work includes the political activities of a very diverse group of religious believers: Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, and others. In addition, the book explores the meanings of religion for people who might contest the term—those who are spiritual but not religious, for example, as well as activists who engage symbols of faith and community but who may not necessarily consider themselves members of a specific religion. Several essays also examine the meanings of secular identity, humanist politics, and the complex evocations of civil religion in American life.

No other book on religion and politics includes anything like the diversity of religions, ethnicities, and topics that this one does—from Mormon political mobilization to attempts at Americanizing Muslims in the post-9/11 United States, from César Chávez to James Dobson, from interreligious cooperation and conflict over Darfur to the global politics surrounding the category of Hindus and South Asians in the United States.

R. Marie Griffith is a professor of religion at Princeton University. She is the author or coeditor of several books, including Women and Religion in the African Diaspora: Knowledge, Power, and Performance, also published by Johns Hopkins. Melani McAlister is an associate professor of American studies and international affairs at George Washington University. She is the author of Epic Encounters: Culture, Media, and U.S. Interests in the Middle East since 1945.

"Griffith and McAlister offer a superb historiographical overview of trends in both religious studies and American studies—their discussion of religious studies within the academy is especially insightful."

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