Bruce Lawrence, professor of Islamic studies at Duke University and author of Defenders of God: The Fundamentalist Revolt Against the Modern Age (South Carolina, 1995) and Shattering the Myth: Islam Beyond Violence (Princeton, forthcoming).
"In reassessing fundamentalism, one would be hard pressed to find an issue more central or more contested than its relation to civil society. Is religion part of civil society or not? If so, what role does it play in either countering totalitarian politics or supporting them? Are fascism, fundamentalism, and fanaticism categorically equivalent in denying freedom and individual rights in the name of ideological conformity? Two recent books grapple with these questions while examining the persistence of fundamentalism as nationalism in Eastern Europe and elsewhere. Tracing the many secular sources of post-1989 Polish democracy, Jose Casanova's Public Religions in the Modern World (Chicago, 1994) exposes the political limits of Catholic-inspired dissent. And Dominique Colas, in Civil Society and Fanaticism (Stanford, 1997), argues that there must be a law-governed state, with institutions of representation and mediation, to create and sustain civil society."
R. Scott Appleby, professor of history at the University of Notre Dame, co-editor of the five-volume Fundamentalist Project (Chicago, 199195), and editor of Spokesmen for the Despised: Fundamentalist Leaders of the Middle East (Chicago, 1996).
"After a decade of defining fundamentalism as a broad comparative category encompassing an array of anti-secular, anti-pluralist religio- political movements, scholars are now using it as one of several lenses to analyze social-protest movements. And the best studies reserve the term 'fundamentalism' for movements that react primarily to the secular state's marginalization of religion (as in Pakistan) rather than apply it to competing ethnic, religious, or nationalistic blocs (as in the former Yugoslavia). Thus Stanley J. Tambiah's Leveling Crowds: Ethnonationalist Conflicts and Collective Violence in South Asia (California, 1996) portrays Sikh radicalism as truly fundamentalist but regards Hindu, Muslim, and Buddhist activism as subordinate to ethnic- and language-based nationalisms vying for influence in India, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka."
Joel Carpenter, provost of Calvin College and author of Revive Us Again: The Reawakening of American Fundamentalism (Oxford, 1997).
"Is Jesus Your Personal Savior?: In Search of Canadian Evangelicalism in the 1990s (McGill-Queen's, 1996), by the late George Rawlyk, is a powerful book by a shrewd and eloquent Canadian historian. Rawlyk draws on historical research, a national opinion survey, and personal interviews to argue that Canadian evangelical and fundamentalist movements have been more spiritually intense, populist, and peaceable than their U.S. counterparts. Rawlyk was at once an ardent Baptist and a democratic socialist who wrote religious history from the ground up, insisting that 'if you want to know what people are doing in the religious realm, and why they are doing it, you have to ask them.' The book is richly descriptive of ordinary people's religious experiences, and through them it shows the changing‹and unchanging‹nature of Canadian religiosity."
Faye Ginsburg, professor of anthropology at New York University, author of Contested Lives: The Abortion Debate in an American Community (California, 1989), and co-editor of Conceiving the New World Order: The Global Politics of Reproduction (California, 1995).
"Nancy Ammerman's Bible Believers: Fundamentalists in the Modern World (Rutgers, 1987) broke new ground in helping readers to understand the lives of those absorbed in fundamentalist Christianity. An exciting new work that offers insight into fundamentalist life is Susan Harding's Standing in the Gap: American Fundamentalism and the Language of Jerry Falwell (Princeton, forthcoming). Harding's innovative, elegantly written study is based on a decade of intensive, multi-sited fieldwork following the emergence and evolution of Falwell's independent Baptist ministry, which she takes as paradigmatic of the new fundamentalism. Central to the study is an analysis of the rhetorical and narrative conventions embedded in the born-again experience, which Harding all but experienced as a participant-observer."
Janet Belcove-Shalin, an independent scholar and editor of New World Hasidim: Ethnographic Studies of Hasidic Jews in America (SUNY, 1995).
"Debra Renee Kaufman's Rachel's Daughters: Newly Orthodox Jewish Women (Rutgers, 1991) examines the relation between feminism and fundamentalism by exploring the attraction of secular Jewish women to the Jewish religious right. Culling interviews with 150 newly Orthodox Jewish women, Kaufman demonstrates that many of her subjects have disavowed their feminism yet maintain, and even celebrate, a set of women-centered values in the sex-segregated, patriarchal society of contemporary Hasidism. In a field where Jewish orthodoxy is often studied only in terms of Hasidic men, Kaufman is one of a handful of feminist scholars who have uncovered the voices of Hasidic women."
Paul Boyer, professor of history at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and author of When Time Shall Be No More: Prophecy Belief in Modern American Culture (Harvard, 1992).
"Christine Leigh Heyrman's rich historical insights in Southern Cross: The Beginnings of the Bible Belt (Knopf, 1997) shed fascinating light on today's religious scene, from the Christian Coalition to the Promise Keepers. Even though the Bible Belt knows no regional boundaries, the South for many reasons has long been congenial to evangelicalism and fundamentalism. And Heyrman argues that in the early nineteenth century, populist Southern evangelicals radically challenged the region's mores on a whole range of issues, including hierarchies of race, gender, class, and even age. But as they battled hostility and courted respectability, evangelicals eventually embraced and later staunchly defended the status quo. Whether the conservative, if not reactionary, political and social views of today's evangelicals and fundamentalists might change remains an open question. But Heyrman at least demonstrates that such views did not always prevail in the Bible Belt."
Linda Kintz, professor of English at the University of Oregon and author of Between Jesus and the Market: The Emotions That Matter in Right-Wing America (Duke, 1997).
Kintz says she has explored fundamentalism "through the popular-culture texts of fundamentalist and evangelical writers themselves. From another direction, the socio-psychoanalytic work of Jacqueline Rose in Why War?: Psychoanalysis, Politics, and the Return to Melanie Klein (Blackwell, 1993) traces the way economic fragmentation produces fear and anxiety that in turn inspire fantasies of symbolic cohesion. Rose analyzes the dangers of a politics that rests on literal interpretations of language and natural law, whether in biblical or constitutional contexts‹examining in the process the role of conservative think tanks that currently turn fundamentalist beliefs into public-policy initiatives."
George Marsden, professor of history at the University of Notre Dame and author of Fundamentalism and American Culture (Oxford, 1982) and Understanding Fundamentalism and Evangelicalism (Eerdmans, 1991).
"After the Scopes trial in 1925, social scientists predicted fundamentalism would retreat as secular education advanced. Joel Carpenter's Revive Us Again: The Reawakening of American Fundamentalism (Oxford, 1997) illustrates why fundamentalism is still with us. Focusing on the 1930s and 1940s, he shows that political reaction is not the essence of fundamentalism. Rather, fundamentalists built independent bases through revivals, although they remained militant defenders of biblical Christianity. Their methods, including radio and radio-style rallies, were modern and novel. Billy Graham, who in the 1950s built a large evangelical coalition, got his start in this network of independent fundamentalist agencies. From these roots, a host of innovative revival-oriented movements has continued to grow. Not only fundamentalists like Jerry Falwell, but many evangelicals, such as Campus Crusade for Christ, are heirs to the spirit that Carpenter depicts."
Ali Mirsepassi, professor of sociology and Middle Eastern studies at Hampshire College, who is at work on a study of Islam and modernity.
Mirsepassi takes issue with an important recent book by the French scholar Olivier Roy The Failure of Political Islam (Harvard, 1994). "Roy argues that 'Islamism, now faded into neofundamentalism, is not a geostrategic factor: It will neither unify the Muslim world nor change the balance of power in the Middle East.' For Roy, the course of events in Iran, Pakistan, and Sudan demonstrates that political Islam is nothing but 'unemployment plus Shari'a' (Islamic law). However, in dismissing Islamists for pinning their hopes to a utopian Islamic community that never existed, Roy ignores a crucial question: Why have Muslims mobilized around the nostalgia for a utopian community? Anyone interested in addressing that question would do well to read Muslim Politics (Princeton, 1996), by Dale Eickelman and James Piscatori."
Are there any great books you think we missed? Let us know.