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Race, Religion, Region
Landscapes of Encounter in the American West
Edited by Fay Botham and Sara M. Patterson
University of Arizona Press, 2006
Racial and religious groups have played a key role in shaping the American West, yet scholars have for the most part ignored how race and religion have influenced regional identity. In this collection, eleven contributors explore the intersections of race, religion, and region to show how they transformed the West. From the Punjabi Mexican Americans of California to the European American shamans of Arizona to the Mexican Chinese of the borderlands, historical meanings of race in the American West are complex and are further complicated by religious identities.

This book moves beyond familiar stereotypes to achieve a more nuanced understanding of race while also showing how ethnicity formed in conjunction with religious and regional identity. The chapters demonstrate how religion shaped cultural encounters, contributed to the construction of racial identities, and served as a motivating factor in the lives of historical actors. The opening chapters document how religion fostered community in Los Angeles in the first half of the twentieth century. The second section examines how physical encounters—such as those involving Chinese immigrants, Hermanos Penitentes, and Pueblo dancers—shaped religious and racial encounters in the West. The final essays investigate racial and religious identity among the Latter-day Saints and southern California Muslims. As these contributions clearly show, race, religion, and region are as critical as gender, sexuality, and class in understanding the melting pot that is the West. By depicting the West as a unique site for understanding race and religion, they open a new window on how we view all of America.

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Rachel's Daughters
Newly Orthodox Jewish Women
Kaufman, Debra Renee
Rutgers University Press, 1991

Debra Kaufman writes about ba'alot teshuva women who have returned to Orthodox Judaism, a form of Judaism often assumed to be oppressive to women. She addresses many of the most challenging issues of family, feminism, and gender. Why, she asks, have these women chosen an Orthodox lifestyle?  What attracts young, relatively affluent, well-educated, and highly assimilated women to the most traditional, right-wing, patriarchal, and fundamentalist branch of Judaism?  The answers she discovers lead her beyond an analysis of religious renewal to those issues all women and men confront in public and private life.

Kaufman interviewed and observed 150 ba'alot teshuva. She uses their own stories, in their own words, to show us how they make sense of the choices they have made.  Lamenting their past pursuit of individual freedom over social responsibility, they speak of searching for shared meaning and order, and finding it in orthodoxy. 

The laws and customs of Orthodox Judaism have been formulated by men, and it is men who enforce those laws and control the Orthodox community. The leadership is dominated by men. But the women do not experience theologically-imposed subordination as we might expect. Although most ba'alot teshuva reject feminism or what they perceive as feminism, they maintain a gender consciousness that incorporates aspects of feminist ideology, and often use feminist rhetoric to explain their lives.

Kaufman does not idealize the ba'alot teshuva world. Their culture does not accommodate the non-Orthodox, the homosexual, the unmarried, the divorced. Nor do the women have the mechanisms or political power to reject what is still oppressive to them. They must live within the authority of a rabbinic tradition and social structure set by males. Like other religious right women, their choices reinforce authoritarian trends current in today's society. Rachel's Daughters provides a fascinating picture of how newly orthodox women perceive their role in society as more liberating than oppressive.


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A Reader in Latina Feminist Theology
Religion and Justice
Edited by María Pilar Aquino, Daisy L. Machado, and Jeanette Rodríguez
University of Texas Press, 2002

Speaking for the growing community of Latina feminist theologians, the editors of this volume write, "With the emergence and growth of the feminist theologies of liberation, we no longer wait for others to define or validate our experience of life and faith.... We want to express in our own words our plural ways of experiencing God and our plural ways of living our faith. And these ways have a liberative tone."

With twelve original essays by emerging and established Latina feminist theologians, this first-of-its-kind volume adds the perspectives, realities, struggles, and spiritualities of U.S. Latinas to the larger feminist theological discourse. The editors have gathered writings from both Roman Catholics and Protestants and from various Latino/a communities. The writers address a wide array of theological concerns: popular religion, denominational presence and attraction, methodology, lived experience, analysis of nationhood, and interpretations of life lived on a border that is not only geographic but also racial, gendered, linguistic, and religious.


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Reclaiming the Spirit
Gay Men and Lesbians Come to Terms with Their Religion
Shallenberger, David
Rutgers University Press, 1998

In a world in which religion and homosexuality are often by definition incompatible, it is crucial to hear from gay men and women about how they perceive themselves to be religious or spiritual people. Eliciting powerful, frank, and sometimes troubling responses, David Shallenberger interviewed gay men and women who grew up in families that belonged to traditional religions-Jewish, Roman Catholic, and Protestant-that rejected homosexuality as an unacceptable life-style. When these children grew into adulthood and "came out," many rejected the religion of their childhood as they sought out a more accepting gay community. But once they became comfortable with their new gay identity, they began to experience a spiritual hunger and a desire to be part of a religious community. Some sought to return to the traditions from which they came; others desired membership in new religious communities.

The quest for an integration of homosexuality and spirituality is the focus of Reclaiming the Spirit. Shallenberger asks how individuals can balance both a gay and a religious identity, whether coming out is a spiritual experience, and how coming out affects an individual's relationship to a traditional religious community. Divided into chapters that correspond to the common stages of spiritual integration, Reclaiming the Spirit is immensely readable and introduces an important group of voices into the hotly contested debates surrounding religion and gay participation.


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Recovering Origins
A Unique Healing Program for Adult Children of Divorce
Margaret Harper McCarthy
Catholic University of America Press, 2021
Recovering Origins is a healing program offered to adult children of divorced parents who now, with a certain distance from the practical difficulties that burden younger children, wrestle with the core problem at the heart of those difficulties. Having lost the community that brought them into the world, they have suffered a “primal loss.” Children are the literal embodiment of that community. When it is voluntarily dismantled, and worse–wished never to have been–the effect is not negligible. Children of divorce, by their own description, are now “pulled apart” as if “between two worlds.” They are “torn asunder.” Paradoxically the idea for Recovering Origins was occasioned by this straight talk about divorce. For, by going to the depths of the loss of one’s primal community one can be opened up to the Community that stands at the root of it. “Deep calls unto deep,” as the Psalmist says. In short, Recovering Origins invites participants to move through the broken image of love that they see in their parents, to the loving Origin which is more fundamental than any human reflection of it, broken or not. Recovering Origins begins with an invitation to look honestly at the actual experience of divorce, beyond all the “happy talk” about the “good divorce.” Participants are then invited to follow the path of the Lord’s Prayer, to recover what is at once challenging and precious to those whose very identities are on uncertain ground: the memory of God the Father, the goodness of their lives, and the real possibility of a good future. In this way, the program offers adult children of divorce a path to healing in the deepest sense. Recovering Origins offers an occasion to encounter the Christian Faith more deeply, especially where it bears on fundamental question faced by children of divorce in a particularly dramatic way. Recovering Origins addresses adult children of divorce, then, not only as individuals in need of pastoral care, but as potential witnesses to something they can, perhaps, see more clearly: the goodness and fidelity of the One on whom their lives ultimately depend and the possibility (and need) that that be reflected in an irrevocable and fruitful love between the creatures made in his image.

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The Reformation of Machismo
Evangelical Conversion and Gender in Colombia
By Elizabeth E. Brusco
University of Texas Press, 1995

Protestant evangelicalism has spread rapidly in Latin America at the same time that foreign corporations have taken hold of economies there. These concurrent developments have led some observers to view this religious movement as a means of melding converts into a disciplined work force for foreign capitalists rather than as a reflection of conscious individual choices made for a variety of personal, as well as economic, reasons.

In this pioneering study, Elizabeth Brusco challenges such assumptions and explores the intra-household motivations for evangelical conversion in Colombia. She shows how the asceticism required of evangelicals (no drinking, smoking, or extramarital sexual relations are allowed) redirects male income back into the household, thereby raising the living standard of women and children. This benefit helps explain the appeal of evangelicalism for women and questions the traditional assumption that organized religion always disadvantages women.

Brusco also demonstrates how evangelicalism appeals to men by offering an alternative to the more dysfunctional aspects of machismo. Case studies add a fascinating human dimension to her findings.

With the challenges this book poses to conventional wisdom about economic, gender, and religious behavior, it will be important reading for a wide audience in anthropology, women’s studies, economics, and religion. For all students of Latin America, it offers thoughtful new perspectives on a major, grass-roots agent of social change.


front cover of Religion and Social Justice For Immigrants
Religion and Social Justice For Immigrants
Hondagneu-Sotelo, Pierrette
Rutgers University Press, 2006

Religion has jumped into the sphere of global and domestic politics in ways that few would have imagined a century ago. Some expected that religion would die as modernity flourished.  Instead, it now stares at us almost daily from the front pages of newspapers and television broadcasts. Although it is usually stories about the Christian Right or conservative Islam that grab headlines, there are many religious activists of other political persuasions that are working quietly for social justice. This book examines how religious immigrants and religious activists are working for equitable treatment for immigrants in the United States.

The essays in this book analyze the different ways in which organized religion provides immigrants with an arena for mobilization, civic participation, and solidarity. Contributors explore topics including how non-Western religious groups such as the Vietnamese Caodai are striving for community recognition and addressing problems such as racism, economic issues, and the politics of diaspora; how interfaith groups organize religious people into immigrant civil rights activists at the U.S.–Mexican border; and how Catholic groups advocate governmental legislation and policies on behalf of refugees.


front cover of Religion and Spirituality in Korean America
Religion and Spirituality in Korean America
Edited by David K. Yoo and Ruth H. Chung
University of Illinois Press, 2007
Religion and Spirituality in Korean America examines the ambivalent identities of predominantly Protestant Korean Americans in Judeo-Christian American culture. Focusing largely on the migration of Koreans to the United States since 1965, this interdisciplinary collection investigates campus faith groups and adoptees. The authors probe factors such as race, the concept of diaspora, and the ways the improvised creation of sacred spaces shape Korean American religious identity and experience. In calling attention to important trends in Korean American spirituality, the essays highlight a high rate of religious involvement in urban places and participation in a transnational religious community.

Contributors: Ruth H. Chung, Jae Ran Kim, Jung Ha Kim, Rebecca Kim, Sharon Kim, Okyun Kwon, Sang Hyun Lee, Anselm Kyongsuk Min, Sharon A. Suh, Sung Hyun Um, and David K. Yoo


front cover of Religion at the Corner of Bliss and Nirvana
Religion at the Corner of Bliss and Nirvana
Politics, Identity, and Faith in New Migrant Communities
Lois Ann Lorentzen, Joaquin Jay Gonzalez III, Kevin M. Chun and Hien Duc Do, eds.
Duke University Press, 2009
Based on ethnographic research by an interdisciplinary team of scholars and activists, Religion at the Corner of Bliss and Nirvana illuminates the role that religion plays in the civic and political experiences of new migrants in the United States. By bringing innovative questions and theoretical frameworks to bear on the experiences of Chinese, Filipino, Mexican, Salvadoran, and Vietnamese migrants, the contributors demonstrate how groups and individuals negotiate multiple religious, cultural, and national identities, and how religious faiths are transformed through migration. Taken together, their essays show that migrants’ religious lives are much more than replications of home in a new land. They reflect a process of adaptation to new physical and cultural environments, and an ongoing synthesis of cultural elements from the migrants’ countries of origin and the United States.

As they conducted research, the contributors not only visited churches and temples but also single-room-occupancy hotels, brothels, tattoo-removal clinics, and the streets of San Francisco, El Salvador, Mexico, and Vietnam. Their essays include an exploration of how faith-based organizations can help LGBT migrants surmount legal and social complexities, an examination of transgendered sex workers’ relationship with the unofficial saint Santisima Muerte, a comparison of how a Presbyterian mission and a Buddhist temple in San Francisco help Chinese immigrants to acculturate, and an analysis of the transformation of baptismal rites performed by Mayan migrants. The voices of gang members, Chinese and Vietnamese Buddhist nuns, members of Pentecostal churches, and many others animate this collection. In the process of giving voice to these communities, the contributors interrogate theories about acculturation, class, political and social capital, gender and sexuality, the sociology of religion, transnationalism, and globalization. The collection includes twenty-one photographs by Jerry Berndt.

Contributors. Luis Enrique Bazan, Kevin M. Chun, Hien Duc Do, Patricia Fortuny Loret de Mola, Joaquin Jay Gonzalez III, Sarah Horton, Cymene Howe, Mimi Khúc, Jonathan H. X. Lee, Lois Ann Lorentzen, Andrea Maison, Dennis Marzan, Rosalina Mira, Claudine del Rosario, Susanna Zaraysky


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Rethinking India's Oral and Classical Epics
Draupadi among Rajputs, Muslims, and Dalits
Alf Hiltebeitel
University of Chicago Press, 1999
Throughout India and Southeast Asia, ancient classical epics—the Mahabharata and the Ramayana—continue to exert considerable cultural influence. Rethinking India's Oral and Classical Epics offers an unprecedented exploration into South Asia's regional epic traditions.

Using his own fieldwork as a starting point, Alf Hiltebeitel analyzes how the oral tradition of the south Indian cult of the goddess Draupadi and five regional martial oral epics compare with one another and tie in with the Sanskrit epics. Drawing on literary theory and cultural studies, he reveals the shared subtexts of the Draupadi cult Mahabharata and the five oral epics, and shows how the traditional plots are twisted and classical characters reshaped to reflect local history and religion. In doing so, Hiltebeitel sheds new light on the intertwining oral traditions of medieval Rajput military culture, Dalits ("former Untouchables"), and Muslims.

Breathtaking in scope, this work is indispensable for those seeking a deeper understanding of South Asia's Hindu and Muslim traditions.

This work is the third volume in Hiltebeitel's study of the Draupadi cult. Other volumes include Mythologies: From Gingee to Kuruksetra (Volume One), On Hindu Ritual and the Goddess (Volume Two), and Rethinking the Mahabharata (Volume Four).

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Riders for God
The Story of a Christian Motorcycle Gang
Rich Remsberg
University of Illinois Press, 2000
Riders for God takes us into a world generally inaccessible to outsiders, one situated at the crossroads of two seemingly incongruous realms: motorcycle gangs and Spirit-filled Christianity.
Founded by a former biker and located in southern Indiana, the Unchained Gang is a group of former outlaw bikers, ex-convicts, and recovering addicts who are now born-again Christians. Although they have given up drugs, alcohol, tobacco, and violence they have kept their motorcycles--which they consider to be anointed--and use them as tools in their witness of the word of God as they understand it. The Unchained Gang is an outreach ministry, going into prisons and jails, biker rallies, and other places where people on the fringe are often ignored by other churches and the rest of society.
Combining powerful photographic images with gang members' first-person testimonies, Rich Remsberg shows the ironic juxtaposition of tattoos, leather vests, and the iconography of the biker world with the Christian practices of Bible study, speaking in tongues, and praying at an altar. He explores the lives of men and women who have redirected the extreme nature of their former ways.
Through their own powerful stories, they explain how the addictions and uncontrollable violence that once shaped their lives have given way to dramatic worship and zealous ministry.
An afterword by Colleen McDannell situates the Unchained Gang's
interpretation of Christian living in the larger constellation of pentecostal, born-again, fundamentalist, and mainstream churches.

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