Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

The Secular Spectacle: Performing Religion in a Southern Town

Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

The Secular Spectacle: Performing Religion in a Southern Town

Article excerpt

The Secular Spectacle: Performing Religion in a Southern Town. By Chad E. Seales. (New York: Oxford University Press. 2013. Pp. xiv, 238. $24.95. ISBN 978- 0-19-986028-9.)

Briefly stated, this is a book about religion, civic and social power, and culture in the American South, as experienced in the relatively small North Carolina town of Siler City, from the latter 1800s through the beginning of the twenty-first century. Utilizing various concepts of "secularization" as defined by several contemporary sociologists, Seales explores the transformation of religious, civic, and community life, with special attention to race relations, in Siler City throughout the period indicated. In particular, he studies and describes the changing status of African Americans and immigrant Latinos in relation to a once-dominant white Protestant political and cultural landscape. By 2000, he reports, Latinos-mostly Mexican immigrants-constituted 40 percent of the population of Siler City. Employing "thick description," Seales both provides many examples of the theories provided and often raises interesting questions about the relation of religion, race, and culture.

Chad Seales is an assistant professor of religious studies at the University of Texas at Austin. This volume apparently began as his PhD dissertation at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, which is not situated far from the locus of this study. There are sixty-one pages of detailed endnotes and a helpful index. There are also several helpful photos interspersed throughout the text. Sadly, there are no maps to assist the reader and only one chart, whereas more might have been useful. Because of its heavy reliance on and description of sociological theories, this book might best be considered for graduate students rather than a general readership. …

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