Fundamentalism: Perspectives on a Contested History

Fundamentalism: Perspectives on a Contested History

Fundamentalism: Perspectives on a Contested History

Fundamentalism: Perspectives on a Contested History

Synopsis

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.

Excerpt

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 Wood and Watt remarked early in discussing their proposal with the press: “Originally embedded in American Protestantism, fundamentalism was subsequently applied to Islam and thence to Judaism and world religions generally. Here Islam is the critical pivot in the development of a genuinely global concept and hence the attention paid to it. Audience was also a consideration, seminars on Islam being one of the course categories for which our book is designed.”

I am pleased to add that this book will in itself be valued as a major “study in comparative religion,” not only with respect to theories and methods but equally with respect to deeper understandings of actual “brand name” religious traditions in their own spaces and times. I am confident that the book will be received as a solid contribution to advanced scholarship as well as an accessible guide for college-and graduate-level students in a variety of humanities and social science courses beyond religious studies as well as thoughtful readers outside academe generally and in a wide range of religious traditions and organizations.

                                                                            Frederick M. Denny . . .

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