Religion, Culture, and Politics in the Twentieth-Century United States

Religion, Culture, and Politics in the Twentieth-Century United States

Religion, Culture, and Politics in the Twentieth-Century United States

Religion, Culture, and Politics in the Twentieth-Century United States

Synopsis

Anyone who seeks to understand the dynamics of culture and politics in the United States must grapple with the importance of religion in its many diverse and contentious manifestations. With conservative evangelicals forming the base of the Republican Party, racial-ethnic communities often organised along religious lines, and social-political movements on the left including major religious components, many of the country's key cultural-political debates are carried out through religious discourse. Thus it is misleading either to think of the US as a secular society in which religion is marginal, or to work with overly narrow understandings of religion which treat it as monolithically conservative or concerned primarily with otherworldly issues. In this volume, Mark Hulsether introduces the key players and offers a select group of case studies that explore how these players have interacted with major themes and events in US cultural history. Students in American Studies and Cultural Studies will appreciate how he frames his analysis using categories such as cultural hegemony, race and gender contestation, popular culture, and empire. Key Features:
• Provides a concise introduction to the field
• Balances a stress on religious diversity with attention to power conflicts within multiculturalism
• Dramatizes the internal complexity and dynamism of religious communities
• Brings religious issues into the field of cultural studies, building bridges that can enable more informed and constructive discussion of religion in these fields
• Provides an integrated view of religion and its importance in recent US history.

Excerpt

On issues from A to Z, abortion to Zionism, it is impossible to understand the full contours of US political culture without attention to religion. Therefore, this book is not solely for people with a personal commitment to a religious or spiritual practice; it is for anyone who wants to understand where culture and politics in the US has been and where it is going. Our goal is an overview of the interplay among religious practices and identities, sociopolitical competition and conflict, and wider dynamics in US culture.

Two things make this study distinctive compared with other books covering similar ground. First, it is especially concise. Several excellent books are available that survey the territory of US religion in the context of US history, society, and culture. However, whereas we might imagine many of these texts as fairly comprehensive atlases – thus cumbersome for some purposes – this book is more like an orientation map and a guide to a set of representative cases. It is ruthless in paring down the boundless sets of names and dates that might claim a place in a comprehensive survey. Its goal is an uncluttered introduction that can be used in conjunction with other books. Some readers may use it in courses on US religion to contextualize and weave together finer grained studies of specific issues. Others may use it to bring religious issues into dialogue with other explorations in US cultural history.

Secondly, this book focuses its argument and selects its examples in a distinctive way – to relate religion to issues of cultural recognition and sociopolitical power that are particular concerns in the fields of American Studies and cultural studies. We will not neglect theology, denominational histories, secularization, devotional practices, or other matters that are commonly stressed in books on US religion. However, compared with other books, we will give less attention to dialogues with theology and religious studies, and more attention to multiculturalism and cultural hegemony. Each of these points deserves more refection.

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