Race, Religion, Region: Landscapes of Encounter in the American West

By Van Nuys, Frank | The Catholic Historical Review, July 2007 | Go to article overview

Race, Religion, Region: Landscapes of Encounter in the American West


Van Nuys, Frank, The Catholic Historical Review


Race, Religion, Region: Landscapes of Encounter in the American West. Edited by Fay Botham and Sara M. Patterson. (Tucson: University of Arizona Press. 2006. Pp. x, 190. $40.00.)

These eight essays seek further to enrich historical analysis of the American West with what the editors term the "three R's" of race, religion, and region. The first three chapters explore religion and community formation in early twentieth-century Los Angeles. William Deverell and Mark Wild examine Social Gospel minister G. Bromley Oxnam's Church of AE Nations in Los Angeles, which served a diverse working-class population but also came under fire from conservative defenders of Americanism in the 1920's. Michael E. Engh's essay focuses on a liberal Catholic Americanizer, Mary Julia Workman, who established the Brownson Settlement House in Los Angeles in 1901. With a clientele composed primarily of Japanese and Mexican laborers, Workman also faced a growing chorus of 100 Percent Americanism after World War I. Daniel Cady in a study of Robert Shuler and the Ku Klux Klan, argues that historians have not been as cognizant of the cultural impact of white transplants from the South, particularly upon Midwesterners living in southern CaUfornia. This helps explain the success of Shuler's Trinity Methodist Church, South, and the Klan as examples of a "general appropriation of southern social strategies by nonsouthern whites" (p. 42). Together, these three essays demonstrate the prodigious chaUenges that faced those seeking to resolve racial and religious tensions by advocating tolerance of diversity.

Chapters four through six explore "how physical bodies shaped religious and racial encounters in the West" (p. 12) and includes the strongest piece in the coUection, Laurie Maffly-Kipp's essay on how late nineteenth-century Americans viewed Chinese religions. WhEe impressed with the trappings, Americans were dismissive of Chinese idols, rituals, and temples as being genuinely religious, an attitude that echoed Protestant perceptions of Catholicism. Another good point in Maffly-Kipp's piece has to do with American Protestants' dismay at the Chinese work ethic, which was frightening because of its seemingly "inscrutable" motivation. …

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