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The Production of American Religious Freedom Finbarr Curtis

the production of american religious freedom

finbarr curtis

Spirituality and the State Managing Nature and Experience in America’s National Parks Kerry Mitchell

“Learned, provocative, and interdisciplinary in the best sense, this book is an archaeology of conceptual confusion and a model for new conversations that might deepen our understandings of American religion and public life, historically and at present.” Jason C. Bivins, North Carolina State University

Americans love religious freedom. Few agree, however, about what they mean by either “religion” or “freedom.” Rather than resolve these debates, Finbarr Curtis argues that there is no such thing as religious freedom. Lacking any consistent content, religious freedom is a shifting and malleable rhetoric employed for a variety of purposes. While Americans often think of freedom as the right to be left alone, the free exercise of religion works to produce, challenge, distribute, and regulate different forms of social power. The book traces shifts in the notion of religious freedom in America from William Jennings Bryan and the Scopes Trial, to the work of Louisa May Alcott and W. D. Griffith, through The Second Great Awakening and up to debates over the Tea Party to illuminate how Protestants have imagined individual and national forms of identity. A chapter on Al Smith considers how the first Catholic presidential nominee of a major party challenged Protestant views about the separation of church and state. Moving later in the twentieth century, the book analyzes Malcolm X’s more sweeping rejection of Christian freedom in favor of radical forms of revolutionary change. The final chapters examine how contemporary controversies over intelligent design and the claims of corporations to exercise religion are at the forefront of efforts to shift regulatory power away from the state and toward private institutions like families, churches, and corporations.

Spirituality & the State

“A must read for anyone interested in American religion.” John Modern, Franklin & Marshall College

America’s national parks are some of the most powerful, beautiful, and inspiring spots on the earth. They are Kerry Mitchell often considered “spiritual” places in which one can connect to oneself and to nature. But it takes a lot of work to make nature appear natural. To maintain the apparently pristine landscapes of our parks, the National Park Service must engage in traffic management, landscape design, crowd-diffusing techniques, viewpoint construction, behavioral management, and more— and to preserve the “spiritual” experience of the park, they have to keep this labor invisible. Managing Nature and Experience in America’s National Parks

Spirituality and the State analyzes the way that the state manages spirituality in the parks through subtle, sophisticated, unspoken, and powerful techniques. Through indirect communication, the design of trails, roads, and vista points, and the management of land, bodies, and sense perception, the state invests visitors in a certain way of experiencing reality that is perceived as natural, individual, and authentic. This construction of experience naturalizes the exercise of authority and the historical, social, and political interests that lie behind it. In this way a personal, individual, nature spirituality becomes a public religion of a particularly liberal stripe. Drawing on surveys and interviews with visitors and rangers as well as analyses of park spaces, Spirituality and the State investigates the production and reception of nature and spirituality in America’s national park system.

KERRY MITCHELL is Director of the Comparative Religion and Culture Program at Global College, Long Island University.

FINBARR CURTIS is Assistant Professor of Religious Studies in the Department of Literature and Philosophy at Georgia Southern University. AUGUST 240 PAGES PAPER • 978-1-4798-5676-3 • $28.00A (£18.99) CLOTH • 978-1-4798-8211-3 • $89.00X (£62.00) In the North American Religions series POLITICS WWW.NYUPRESS.ORG

MAY 272 PAGES PAPER • 978-1-4798-7301-2 • $30.00A (£20.99) CLOTH • 978-1-4798-8641-8 • $89.00X (£62.00) In the North American Religions series POLITICS SPR I NG 2 0 1 6 • NY U PRESS


NYU Press Spring 2016 Catalog  
NYU Press Spring 2016 Catalog