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Perspectives on a Contested History

Simon A. Wood

Publication Year: 2014

Through a collection of essays, Fundamentalism: Perspectives on a Contested History explores the ways in which the concept of global fundamentalism does and does not illuminate developments in modern Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. At issue is whether, beyond the specific milieu of American Protestantism in the early decades of the twentieth century, the word ‘fundamentalism’ captures something important on a global scale that is not captured—or not as well—by other words. Readers will quickly discover that in exploring this issue the book is “at war with itself.” In Fundamentalism Simon A. Wood and David Harrington Watt have deliberately assembled a range of voices that is reflective of the broad spectrum of views scholars have offered on the topic, from those who find the concept not merely helpful but also important, those who have concerns about it but do not reject it, those who find that it has been misapplied in critical instances, and those who simply find it unhelpful and lacking in any meaningful specificity or content. While there are more than two perspectives presented, Wood and Watt identify two very broad groups of scholars from each end of the spectrum: those who find the concept illuminating and those who do not. The book does not privilege or advocate either of these positions, nor does it attempt to resolve the numerous problems that scholars on both sides of the debate have identified with the concept of global fundamentalism. Rather, it presents some of the key arguments on both sides of the contemporary debate. If it thereby provides readers with a sense of the current state of the discourse on fundamentalism it will have achieved its aim.

Published by: University of South Carolina Press

Series: Studies in Comparative Religion

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. v-vi

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Series Editor’s Preface

Frederick M. Denny

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pp. vii-viii

As series editor of Studies in Comparative Religion and as a religious studies professor who has addressed “fundamentalism” for many years in courses and discussions with students and colleagues, I am confident that this book will take the extensive, diverse, and often passionate discourses on fundamentalism to a newer and higher level as we think of the concept globally and comparatively. As editors...

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pp. ix-x

We are very grateful for the generous support we have received from the Harris Center for Judaic Studies at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln. The University of Nebraska–Lincoln, the American Academy of Religion, the Midwestern Political Science Association, Columbia University, and Monash University all gave us opportunities to try out our ideas about fundamentalism before intelligent, generous, and...

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Simon A. Wood, David Harrington Watt

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pp. 1-17

This book explores the ways in which the concept of fundamentalism does and does not illuminate developments in modern Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. For reasons elaborated below, Asian religions are not examined in detail. At issue is whether the word fundamentalism captures something important that is not captured—or not as well—by some other word. Readers will quickly discover...

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Fundamentalists of the 1920s and 1930s

David Harrington Watt

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pp. 18-35

The term fundamentalists was invented in 1920 in order to talk about a specific group of Protestants. Nearly everyone agrees that calling those Protestants fundamentalists is a perfectly legitimate thing to do; almost everyone agrees, too, that a proper definition of fundamentalists has to be structured in a way that includes them. And many people would go on to say that the validity of describing other...

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The Idea of Militancy in American Fundamentalism

Dan D. Crawford

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pp. 36-54

By the time Curtis Lee Laws, the editor of the conservative Baptist magazine Watchman-Examiner, proposed that the “men among us . . . who still cling to the great fundamentals and who mean to do battle royal for the fundamentals shall be called ‘fundamentalists’” (in 1920), the terms fundamental and fundamentals had already been widely used in evangelical circles. It was first put into active service as the title of a twelve-volume series...

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Fundamentalism and Christianity

Margaret Bendroth

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pp. 55-69

Fundamentalism is a Christian word, at least in its original incarnation. It came into play in the early twentieth century to describe a series of complex disputes among white, mostly American Protestants concerned about the state of society and of the churches. Their disagreements covered a range of thorny issues, from the timing of Christ’s Second Coming to tenure at Princeton Theological...

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“America Is No Different,” “America Is Different”—Is There an American Jewish Fundamentalism? Part I. American Habad

Shaul Magid

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pp. 70-91

Fundamentalism is arguably one of the most widely used and least understood terms in the popular discourse about religion. We find it applied to all kinds of groups, religions, communities, even societies. The formal term applies to a defined group of American Protestants at the beginning of the twentieth century who viewed themselves as part of a particular spiritual trajectory that extended...

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“America Is No Different,” “America Is Different”—Is There an American Jewish Fundamentalism? Part II. American Satmar

Shaul Magid

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pp. 92-107

When Hillary Clinton was campaigning for a New York State Senate seat in 2000 she met with a group of Hasidic women from the town of New Square in Rockland County, north of New York City. New Square is an incorporated village made up almost exclusively of Hasidic Jews, mostly descendants from the Hasidic town of Skver and it environs in present-day Ukraine. She began her talk by noting what a...

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The Jewish Settler Movement and the Concept of Fundamentalism

Jean Axelrad Cahan

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pp. 108-124

It is not clear when the term fundamentalism was introduced into the scholarly literature with regard to Judaism. It may have been in the wake of the 1979 Iranian Revolution, but it is also possible that the development of Khomeinism was itself in part a reaction to the Six-Day War of 1967.1 Be that as it may, in this essay I argue that the term fundamentalism, when applied to the Israeli–Jewish...

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The Concept of Global Fundamentalism: A Short Critique

Simon A. Wood

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pp. 125-143

The concept of fundamentalism as a global rather than merely a Protestant phenomenon has been a controversial topic for at least three decades, particularly since the publication of the Fundamentalism Project (edited by Martin E. Marty and R. Scott Appleby) in the 1990s. Yet one point acknowledged by most scholars who write about fundamentalism is that the concept is—or has been—somewhat...

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Muslim “Fundamentalism,” Salafism, Sufism, and Other Trends

Khalid Yahya Blankinship

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pp. 144-162

When the term fundamentalism began to be applied to various trends among Muslims in the 1970s, it soon came into wide and somewhat indiscriminate use. But what exactly its users meant by the term and why especially they began to use it at that time have remained rather unclear. While at its origin in 1920, the term referred to a specific Christian movement and tendency in the United...

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Fundamentalism and Shiism

Lynda Clarke

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pp. 163-180

This essay points to features of Shiism that inhibit the growth of Islamic fundamentalism seen in the Sunni world.1 Much has been written, including many essays in the works of the Fundamentalism Project, about fundamentalism in relation to the Iranian Islamic revolution and other Shiite movements, but there has been no attempt to relate it to Shiism as a religious tradition with its own characteristics...

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Fundamentalism, Khomeinism, and the Islamic Republic of Iran

Lynda Clarke

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pp. 181-198

In the preceding essay I point out that the fundamentalism currently seen in Islam is not originally a Shiite phenomenon. Islamic fundamentalism began in Sunni circles and then found its way to the Shiite world. This influence was always limited by features of Shiism not consistent with Sunni-style fundamentalism such as quietism, nonliteralism, and extraordinarily strong clerical authority. Nevertheless, some...

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Fundamentalism Diluted: From Enclave to Globalism in Conservative Muslim Ecological Discourse

David L. Johnston

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pp. 199-216

In this essay I argue that as religion continues to expand as a key factor related to globalization the notion of “fundamentalism” must be seen in a new light. Contrary to expectations, the world became more “religious” in the late 1970s. This phenomenon caught the attention of scholars and the Fundamentalism Project was launched. But as time passed, it became increasingly clear that facile and confident...

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Islamic Education and the Limitations of Fundamentalism as an Analytical Category

Florian Pohl

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pp. 217-234

Past decades have seen the confident reassertion of religion in public life in many parts of the world. Seemingly defying predictions of religion’s demise in modernity, religion reentered the public stage as a key player in the political and moral discourses over the public life of citizens and the state. Variously described as the “desecularization” or “deprivatization” of religions, this process has challenged...

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Gordon D. Newby

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pp. 235-252

This is a book at war with itself over the term fundamentalism. This is intentional, for the definition of the term, its use, and the ability of the term to be used in comparative and transnational contexts are highly contested among scholars and the general public. At one extreme there are those who contend that the term should not be used except in a very narrow, historical way to refer to the original...

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Simon A. Wood, David Harrington Watt

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pp. 253-258

Clearly, this book has not resolved the question of whether or not comprehending certain modern forms of Christianity, Judaism, and Islam is facilitated by labeling them examples of “fundamentalism.” But it has, in our view, presented some of the major current arguments on both sides of this debate. The views of Shaul Magid and Lynda Clarke, who cogently argue that...

Selected Bibliography

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pp. 259-268

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pp. 269-270

Margaret Bendroth is author of Fundamentalism and Gender, 1875 to the Present (1993) and most recently contributed the essay “Fundamentalism” to the Cambridge History of Religion in America (2012). She is the director of the Congregational Library in Boston, Massachusetts.

Khalid Yahya Blankinship is associate professor in the Department...


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pp. 271-284

E-ISBN-13: 9781611173550
E-ISBN-10: 1611173558
Print-ISBN-13: 9781611173543

Page Count: 296
Publication Year: 2014

Series Title: Studies in Comparative Religion