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Media, Gender, and Politics in Mormon Fundamentalism
Recently, polygamy has become a "primetime" phenomenon. Television shows like Big Love and Sister Wives demonstrate the "progressive" side of polygamy while horror stories from victims of abusive marriages offer less upbeat experiences among the adherents of the fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS Church). In general, the American public views fundamentalist Mormons, and polygamy in particular, with salacious interest or disgust.
Bennion, herself a product of Mormon polygamy, seeks to dispel the myths and misinformation that surround this topic. This study, based on 17 years of ethnographic research among the Allred Group (Apostolic United Brethren) and an analysis of recent blog journal entries written by a range of polygamous women, examines the variability and complexity of contemporary Mormon fundamentalist life in the Intermountain West.
Although Bennion highlights problems associated with polygamy, including evidence that some forms are at high risk for father-child incest, she challenges the media-driven depiction of plural marriage as uniformly abusive and harmful to women. She shows how polygamist families can provide both economic security and social sustenance for some women, and how the authority of the husband can be undermined by the stresses of providing for multiple wives and children. Going beyond the media's obsession with the sexual aspects of polygamist marriage, Bennion offers a rich description of familial, social, and legal contexts. Throughout, she makes the case for legalizing polygamy in order to allow greater visibility and regulation of the practice.
This illuminating study explores the role of religious institutions in the makeup of Jewish identity in the former Soviet Union, against the backdrop of the government's antireligion policies from the 1940s to the 1960s. Foregrounding instances of Jewish public and private activities centered on synagogues and prayer groups--paradoxically the only Jewish institutions sanctioned by the government--Altshuler dispels the commonly held perception of Soviet Jewry as "The Jews of Silence" and reveals the earliest stirrings of Jewish national sentiment that anticipated the liberation movement of the 1960s and 1970s.
Paul R. Katz has composed a fascinating account of the fate of Chinese religions during the modern era by assessing mutations of communal religious life, innovative forms of religious publishing, and the religious practices of modern Chinese elites traditionally considered models of secular modernity. The author offers a rare look at the monumental changes that have affected modern Chinese religions, from the first all-out assault on them during the 1898 reforms to the eve of the Communist takeover of the mainland. Tracing the ways in which the vast religious resources (texts, expertise, symbolic capital, material wealth, etc.) that circulated throughout Chinese society during the late imperial period were reconfigured during this later era, Katz sheds new light on modern Chinese religious life and the understudied nexus between religion and modern political culture.
Religion in China and Its Modern Fate will appeal to a broad audience of religionists and historians of modern China.
A Challenge to Collectivism
A provocative history of Israeli society in the 1950s that demonstrates how a voluntarist collectivism gave way to an individualist ethos In this sharply argued volume, Orit Rozin reveals the flaws in the conventional account of Israeli society in the 1950s, which portrayed the Israeli public as committed to a collectivist ideology. In fact, major sectors of Israeli society espoused individualism and rejected the state-imposed collectivist ideology. Rozin draws on archival, legal, and media sources to analyze the attitudes of black-market profiteers, politicians and judges, middle-class homemakers, and immigrants living in transit camps and rural settlements. Part of a refreshing trend in recent Israeli historiography to study the voices, emotions, and ideas of ordinary people, Rozin’s book provides an important corrective to much extant scholarly literature on Israel’s early years.
Contradicting the views commonly held by westerners, many Muslim countries in fact engage in a wide spectrum of reform, with the status of women as a central dimension. This anthology counters the myth that Islam and feminism are always or necessarily in opposition. A multidisciplinary group of scholars examine ideology, practice, and reform efforts in the areas of marriage, divorce, abortion, violence against women, inheritance, and female circumcision across the Islamic world, illuminating how religious and cultural prescriptions interact with legal norms, affecting change in sometimes surprising ways.
This collection of essays examines an important and under-studied topic in early modern Jewish social history"--the family life of Sephardi Jewish families in the Ottoman Empire as well as in communities in Western Europe. At the height of its power in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the Ottoman Empire spanned three continents, controlling much of southeastern Europe, western Asia, and North Africa. Thousands of Jewish families that had been expelled from Spain and Portugal at the end of the fifteenth century created communities in these far-flung locations. Later emigrants from Iberia, who converted to Christianity at the time of the expulsion or before, created communities in Western European cities such as Amsterdam, Hamburg, and Livorno. Sephardi communities were very different from those of Ashkenazi Jews in the same period. The authors of these essays use the lens of domestic life to illuminate the diversity of the post-Inquisition Sephardi Jewish experience, enabling readers to enter into little-known and little-studied Jewish historical episodes.
Contributors include: Tirtsah Levie Bernfeld, Hannah Davidson, Cristina Galasso, David Graizbord, Ruth Lamdan, and Julia Lieberman
Using testimonies, Nazi documents, memoirs, and artistic representations, this volume broadens and deepens comprehension of Jewish women's experiences of rape and other forms of sexual violence during the Holocaust. The book goes beyond previous studies, and challenges claims that Jewish women were not sexually violated during the Holocaust.
This anthology by an interdisciplinary and international group of scholars addresses topics such as rape, forced prostitution, assaults on childbearing, artistic representations of sexual violence, and psychological insights into survivor trauma. These subjects have been relegated to the edges or completely left out of Holocaust history, and this book aims to shift perceptions and promote new discourse.
The Future of the Jewish Past
Modern Jews tend to relate to the past through "history," which relies on empirical demonstration and rational thought, rather than through "memory," which relies on the nonrational architectures of mythology. By now "history" has surpassed "memory" as a means of relating to the past, a development that falls short in building identity and creates disconnection between Jews and their collective history. Kurtzer seeks to mend this breach. Drawing on key classical texts, he shows that "history" and "memory" are not exclusive and that the perceived dissonance between them can be healed by a selective reclamation of the past and a translation of that past into purposefulness.
Jews Raised as Gentiles Discover Their Jewish Roots
One woman learned on the eve of her Roman Catholic wedding. One man as he was studying for the priesthood. Madeleine Albright famously learned from the Washington Post when she was named Secretary of State.
"What is it like to find out you are not who you thought you were?" asks Barbara Kessel in this compelling volume, based on interviews with over 160 people who were raised as non-Jews only to learn at some point in their lives that they are of Jewish descent. With humor, candor, and deep emotion, Kessel's subjects discuss the emotional upheaval of refashioning their self-image and, for many, coming to terms with deliberate deception on the part of parents and family. Responses to the discovery of a Jewish heritage ranged from outright rejection to wholehearted embrace.
For many, Kessel reports, the discovery of Jewish roots confirmed long-held suspicions or even, more mysteriously, conformed to a long-felt attraction toward Judaism. For some crypto-Jews in the southwest United States (descendants of Jews who fled the Spanish Inquisition), the only clues to their heritage are certain practices and traditions handed down through the generations, whose significance may be long since lost. In Poland and other parts of eastern Europe, many Jews who were adopted as infants to save them from the Holocaust are now learning of their heritage through the deathbed confessions of their adoptive parents.
The varied responses of these disparate people to a similar experience, presented in their own words, offer compelling insights into the nature of self-knowledge. Whether they had always suspected or were taken by surprise, Kessel's respondents report that confirmation of their Jewish heritage affected their sense of self and of their place in the world in profound ways. Fascinating, poignant, and often very funny, Suddenly Jewish speaks to crucial issues of identity, selfhood, and spiritual community.
Travails and Encounters in the Early Modern World
Sanjay Subrahmanyam's Three Ways to Be Alien draws on the lives and writings of a trio of marginal and liminal figures cast adrift from their traditional moorings into an unknown world. The subjects include the aggrieved and lost Meale, a "Persian" prince of Bijapur (in central India, no less) held hostage by the Portuguese at Goa; English traveler and global schemer Anthony Sherley, whose writings reveal a surprisingly nimble understanding of realpolitik in the emerging world of the early seventeenth century; and Nicolo Manuzzi, an insightful Venetian chronicler of the Mughal Empire in the later seventeenth century who drifted between jobs with the Mughals and various foreign entrepots, observing all but remaining the eternal outsider. In telling the fascinating story of floating identities in a changing world, Subrahmanyam also succeeds in injecting humanity into global history and proves that biography still plays an important role in contemporary historiography.