Race, Nation, and Religion in the Americas

Race, Nation, and Religion in the Americas

Race, Nation, and Religion in the Americas

Race, Nation, and Religion in the Americas

Synopsis

The pioneering essays collected in this volume bring critical new perspectives to the interdisciplinary study of racial, national, and religious identities. The authors demonstrate that one cannot study these categories of identity formation in isolation, but must instead examine the ways eachintersects with-and ultimately helps construct-the others. This innovative theoretical perspective sheds new light on the role of religion in shaping the lives of diverse communities throughout the Americas and forces us to reevaluate the reductive opposition between secular and religiousidentities. The twelve essays in the volume explore the ties between race, nation, and religion in ethnographic and historical detail. Topics range from Jesuit mission work to Hollywood film, manifest destiny to liberation theology, the Haitian Rara festival to American immigration law. In these andother contexts, the authors explore the intertwined histories of a hemisphere defined at the charged intersections of race, nation, and religion.

Excerpt

Henry Goldschmidt

Writing, as I am, in New York City in the summer of 2003—at the dawn of a thus far violent millennium—it is difficult to overlook, or overstate, the sociopolitical significance of religious discourses and identities. the horrific terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, continue to haunt the individual and collective imaginations of New Yorkers and other Americans. the growth of militant religious movements throughout the world would seem, at least, to shake the once popular faith in the inevitable secularization of "modern" society. We who watched in shocked disbelief as plumes of acrid smoke rose from the streets of lower Manhattan—and the walls of the Pentagon and the fields of Pennsylvania, then the streets of Kabul and Muzar-e-Sharif, then Basra and Baghdad, and who knows where next—need not be reminded of the enduring power of religion to shape the social world.

Or perhaps we do. Perhaps, at the very least, we in the United States, and throughout the Americas, need to be reminded of our own complex relationships to this world-shaping power. For our reactions to the events of 9/11 have all too often reinscribed the most misleading and dangerous assumptions of secularization theory and modern self-identity. As Americans have responded to changing world events, many have continued to assume a stark opposition between "the West" and "the Rest"—the former imagined as modern, rational and secular, while the latter is thought to languish in a fantastical world of tradition, superstition, and religion. Against all evidence to the contrary, we tend to believe that religious politics and identities thrive only—or at least primarily—on the other side of a . . .

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