Haunted by the Archive

Sarah E. Dees

On December 29, 1890, U.S. army troops opened fire on a group of Lakota people who had been participants in the Ghost Dance. The dance, a religious ceremony that infused innovative visions into established ceremonial practices, promised to bring about a new way of life for Indigenous communities that were struggling to resist devastating federal Indian policies. Detractors of the dancers had suggested that they were a danger to local non-Native communities as well as broader American society. When the 7th Cavalry was deployed to western South Dakota, dancers led by Big Foot left their nearby reservation against the wishes of the Indian agents. The military’s response was bloody. After tracking down the dancers and surrounding their encampment, US military personnel attempted to disarm the Lakota. When shooting broke out during the process, soldiers began to fire at the Lakota group at a close range and from a distance using high-powered automatic weapons. The camp descended into chaos, and when many of the dancers—men, women, and children—tried to escape the bloodshed, soldiers chased them down and executed them. 

How many times has this story been told? Too many? Certainly too many to count.

Islamophobia has a long history: A Review of Karine Walther's Sacred Interests

Today's guest post comes from Matt Smith, a doctoral student in American Religions at Northwestern University. His work is on Anglo-American Protestantism during the mid-nineteenth to early-twentieth century with a focus on U.S. empire, race and gender/sexuality, racial and settler colonialism, and critical white studies.

Matt Smith

In a series of late September interviews, Republican Presidential candidate Ben Carson was asked about whether faith should matter in the running of the United States. When pressed further about what he meant by “consistent with the values and principles of America,” Carson said he “would not advocate that we put a Muslim in charge of this nation.” In November, on the heels of Paris Attacks which killed 129 people, the specter of U.S. islamophobia arose again as Donald Trump and other GOP nominees were quick to declare they did not want Syrian refugees entering U.S. borders for fear of Trojan horse terrorists. And just earlier this month, suspicion arose when President Obama delivered a speech at a Baltimore mosque, the very first in his two terms in office. While the recent anxiety over Muslim “extremism” may not surprise many in our ‘War on Terror’ Age, the roots of this religious imaginary extend much earlier.

Karine Walther’s Sacred Interests: The United States and the Islamic World, 1821-1921, illuminates a series of transnational engagements which helped shape U.S. foreign policy throughout the 19th and 20th centuries and which reveal the roots of a persistent racialization of Islam in America today. Walther examines four historical moments which shaped the U.S. gaze on the Islamic world: a) Greeks and Bulgarians under the Ottoman Empire and the influential philhellene movement in the U.S., b) Jewish persecution and Jewish American activism in Morocco, c) Filipino “Moros” and U.S. imperial rule in the Philippines, and d) Armenian persecutions leading up to World War I, the League of Nations, and the mandate system. This century-long account offers a story of U.S.-Islamic relations which blurs the often rigid boundaries between religion, race, civilization, and nationhood. Placed upon divergent ends of a hierarchical imagination, Walther not only shows how American’s viewed Islam but also how U.S. missionaries, religious organizations, businessmen, clergymen, diplomats, soldiers, and Presidents negotiated their own understandings of what it meant to be an American.

Trip to the Archives: An Odawa Petition for a Catholic Missionary

[This month Cushwa welcomes 2015 Research Travel Grant recipient Jason Sprague to discuss an archival source critical to his dissertation research at the University of Iowa. (Thanks to Kevin Cawley and Charles Lamb of the Notre Dame Archives for providing photos -- below the jump cut.) Jason's current research interests are in Great Lakes Native American religions, American Catholicism, and new religious movements in the United States. He is interested in lived religious experience, kinship networks, women’s religious roles, Catholic/Protestant tensions, education, religious hybridity, identity formation, colonialism and the state, and power relationships. And speaking of research travel grants -- we are currently sending out award letters for an exciting group of 2016 projects. By next month we should be able to link to a complete list of recipients.]

Jason Sprague

My dissertation examines Odawa Catholicism in the L’Arbre Croche region of northern Michigan as it was practiced in the absence of a priestly presence between 1765 and 1825. Part of my study addresses the effort to reestablish the Catholic mission at L’Arbre Croche in the 1820s. I argue that encroaching pressures from the American state and Protestant missionaries were contributing factors to the timing of this endeavor.

This work hinges on a very curious document: a petition from the Odawas of L’Arbre Croche to President James Monroe for a Catholic missionary. I argue that this letter, dated August 12, 1823, is one example of the Odawa Catholics of L’Arbre Croche using their Catholic history and identity to create a dialogue between themselves and the encroaching American state. Through the hand of a Catholic priest, Father Gabriel Richard, the Odawas were able to establish a line of communication with the American government to express their desires. [1] Although not initially effective, it made the Catholic hierarchy aware of the Odawa’s longing to reestablish an official Catholic presence and shaped future relations with the United States government.

What's Next in Civil War Religious History?

The following is a guest post from Baylor Ph.D. candidate Tim Grundmeier. Tim's dissertation will examine Lutheranism and American culture in the Civil War era. You can check out his previous posts at the blog here and here.

Tim Grundmeier

Over the last ten to fifteen years, religion has been one of the hottest sub-fields in Civil War-era history. (For a great, if slightly dated, summary of the literature, see this essay by Timothy Wesley.) Besides numerous excellent monographs and articles, we have been treated to a field-defining set of questions posed by one of the best scholars of American religion, a provocative trade-press book by a distinguished Yale professor, and a monumental synthesis by an eminent Civil War historian. The religious history of the Civil War can even claim an op-ed in The Atlantic. All that’s left is a best-selling historical novel (The Killer Theologians?).

Yet success is often followed by exhaustion. So as someone who is writing a dissertation in this field, I’m beginning to worry that the heyday of Civil War religious history might soon be over. If this denouement is indeed looming, in what new ways can the field move in order to sustain itself? Or if the field’s glory years still await, how can old questions be looked at in fresh ways so as to ensure this flourishing future?

With these questions on my mind, William B. Kurtz’s Excommunicated from the Union: How the Civil War Created a Separate Catholic America (Fordham University Press, 2015) comes at an ideal time. Kurtz’s monograph not only takes its place as the most thorough treatment of Northern Catholicism and the war (the book is part of Fordham University Press’s series, The North’s Civil War), but also asks questions and utilizes approaches that other historians of Civil War-era religion would do well to note.

The first welcome feature of Excommunicated from the Union is its focus on the years before, during, and after the war. Such a compliment might seem trite, but books featuring this broader chronological outline have been surprisingly rare. This may be changing, however. Two of the best recent works in field—Molly Oshatz’s Slavery and Sin: The Fight against Slavery and the Rise of Liberal Protestantism and Luke Harlow’s Race, Religion, and the Making of Confederate Kentucky, 1830-1880—employ this longer framework. Like Oshatz and Harlow, Kurtz treats the Civil War as the turning point in a larger story. Contra the book’s subtitle, he does not argue that the Civil War created a separate Catholic America. Instead, it “accelerat[ed] the antebellum trend in American Catholicism toward isolation and separatism” (8; emphasis mine). This is not merely the story of Catholics in the Civil War, but the war’s effect on American Catholicism.

Last Call for ASCH Spring Meeting

Elesha Coffman

Today, February 19, is the deadline for submitting a paper or session proposal for the April 7-10 ASCH Spring Meeting in Edmonton, Alberta. I have it on good authority, however, that proposals will still be accepted over the weekend, so keep 'em coming. You'll find information about the conference and submission procedures at the ASCH website.

Korean Missionaries in America: An Interview with Rebecca Kim

Karen Johnson

During the late 1970s, a Korean Christian movement began sending missionaries to evangelize white American university students in the United States.  I recently read Rebecca Kim's new book The Spirit Moves West: Korean Missionaries in America (Oxford, 2015), which analyzes the history of this movement by looking at the history of University Bible Fellowship (UBF), one of the largest Korean missionary sending organization in South Korea.

"Wait, what?" you might say.  "Korean missionaries trying to convert Americans?"  That was my response when I first heard about Rebecca's project.  When I pictured a Christian missionary, even though I was aware that the center of Christianity globally was shifting south, my image was a of white American or European going to a country like Korea.

Kim's fascinating book argues that the Koreans who came to America as missionaries did so self-consciously as Korean evangelicals.  That is, although they came from a nation that Americans had evangelized, they were not carbon copies of American Christians.  The way they practiced their faith reflected their particular social and historical contexts.  They were born around the time of the Korean War and grew up in poor economic conditions under oppressive Cold War military regimes that targeted students.  They practiced a Christian faith infused with Confucian notions of hierarchy, an emphasis on group-centered conformity, and adhered to military-like organizational structure.  Most were laypeople, working as professionals in their 30s who were able to come to America after the nation's immigration policies opened up in 1965 with the Hart-Cellar Act.  Outside of the work they did as "tent-makers" (the jobs that paid their bills), they spent nearly all their time doing cold-turkey evangelism among college students and leading those students in Bible studies.  Weekends, holidays, and evenings were not time for these missionaries to relax or be with their children; they were the time to make disciples.

The students the missionaries targeted, however, were not other ethnic Koreans. 

CFP: U.S. Catholic Historian Future Issue: Protesant and Catholic: The Reformation in America

The following is a call for papers for a future issue of the U.S. Catholic Historian

Protestant and Catholic: The Reformation in America

For more than thirty years the U.S. Catholic Historian has published theme-based issues relevant to the history of American Catholicism.  In view of the Protestant Reformation’s 500th anniversary, an upcoming issue will address the relationship of Protestants and Catholics in the United States. Contributions could include, but are not limited to, studies of the following:
  • Ecumenical cooperation between Protestants and Catholics
  • Supra-denominational efforts involving Protestants and Catholics prior to Vatican II
  • Influences/impact of Catholicism on Protestant America and Protestantism on Catholic America
  • Anti-Catholicism and/or anti-Protestantism
  • Relationships between Catholic and Protestant clergy/hierarchy
Scholars considering a submission are asked to contact the editor, Fr. David Endres at DEndres@Athenaeum.edu before preparing a contribution. Approximate length is 7,000-10,000 words. We ask for submissions by February 1, 2017 and look forward to hearing from potential contributors.

Fr. David Endres
Editor, U.S. Catholic Historian

CFP: S-USIH Conference at Stanford

Mark Edwards

The deadline is fast approaching for panel proposals for the Society of U. S. Intellectual History's Eighth Annual Conference at Stanford, Oct. 13-15th.  Recent S-USIH conferences have spotlighted excellent work in the field of American religion, and Stanford will be no different.  The roundtable on Puritan studies--featuring David Hollinger, David Hall, Sara Rivett, Chris Beneke, and Mark Peterson--will itself be worth the price of admission.  You can find out more about the conference details and how to submit a panel proposal here.  Below is an overview of the plenaries and keynote address.

From the Mayflower to Silicon Valley: Tools and Traditions in
American Intellectual History
October 13-15, 2016

Submissions are now being accepted for S-USIH’s eighth annual conference! The committee will be accepting full panel proposals only until March 1, 2016. The committee is especially eager to ensure ethnic, gender and institutional diversity at the conference. We welcome the participation of graduate students, independent scholars, and all faculty ranks.

Proposals may be for traditional paper sessions, roundtable format with audience comment, workshop/seminar-style discussions, “author meets critics” events, retrospectives on significant works or thinkers, or other formats that encourage the exchange of ideas.

Panels which take up our theme of “tools and traditions” in American intellectual history are encouraged, as are panels engaging the following topics, periods and methods:

  • Gender as a Tool of Analysis
  • Feminist Thought
  • Latino/Borderlands
  • Religion
  • Technology
  • Early America
  • Nineteenth Century America
  • History of Capitalism

Remembering Antonin Scalia

Michael Graziano

Justices Scalia and Ginsburg in India, 1994
The death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia has provoked a number of reactions. Within seconds of the news breaking, Twitter was predictably consumed in disagreement over when and how his successor should be nominated. The political consequences, especially in an election year, are obvious. There are many thoughtful articles attempting to read the tea leaves and prophesy a successor. This is not one of them.

Particularly for those of us interested in American religion, I think Scalia is a valuable figure to consider, study, and teach (as I've argued here). (It seems odd that this would need qualification, but I’ll pre-emptively point out that my interest in his work is different from agreeing with him or his ideas.) I looked forward to reading his opinions each term, and anticipating how I could work them into the classroom. Teaching about American religion and law means communicating to students the importance of thinking about legal categories and their real-world implications for our families, friends, and neighbors (“Who gets to get married?”). This requires students to think about the politics of the category “religion,” processes of social formation, and identity contestation. For this, I assign Bruce Lincoln and Jonathan Z. Smith. I also assign Antonin Scalia:

Kate Bowler in the NYT

Michael Hammond

Just a quick note to point alert readers to the courageous and honest article "Death, the Prosperity Gospel and Me" in the New York Times Sunday Review by RiAH contributor Kate Bowler. Her open discussion of her cancer is remarkable, as is her new perspective on her work in chronicling the prosperity gospel. Here's an excerpt:

"The prosperity gospel has taken a religion based on the contemplation of a dying man and stripped it of its call to surrender all. Perhaps worse, it has replaced Christian faith with the most painful forms of certainty."

For more on how you may support her, check out this post from September as well. Prayers for you and yours, Kate. 

Histories of Capitalism Conference, Cornell, September 29 to October 1

Paul Harvey

Here is the link, for those interested, for the fall Histories of Capitalism conference at Cornell, organized in part by my friend and outstanding cultural historian Larry Glickman. Larry writes that they are very interested in those looking at the intersection of religion and capitalism. Click the link and check it out. A little more info. below note that submissions for panels or papers are due by March 1.

CALL FOR PAPERSHistories of Capitalism, 2.0
Cornell University
September 29 to October 1, 2016

In 2014, Cornell’s History of Capitalism Initiative hosted a conference on the “Histories of American Capitalism” to showcase the deep connection between traditional subfields of social history (race, gender, sexuality and class) and the new history of capitalism. Building on the success of that conference and on developments in this rapidly-growing field, we invite proposals for panels that continue to illustrate the diversity of the histories of capitalism(s) through a variety of perspectives, including intellectual, legal, gender, environmental history, as well as the history of science and technology.
We hope that the previous conference’s focus, which sought to bring social and cultural history categories into dialogue with capitalism, will continue to infuse the conversation this year. We would also especially like to see panels and papers that incorporate non-U.S., regional, transnational, or global histories.
For the 2016 conference we are open to all proposals and particularly encourage submissions on:
Plenary Speakers include:
  • Jedidiah Purdy (Duke)
  • Marcus Rediker (Pittsburgh)
  • Emma Rothschild (Harvard University)
  • Juliet Walker (University of Texas-Austin)
  • Our invitation is open to scholars at any stage of their careers. We will accept both panels and individual papers.
    • For each panel, please include a 500 word description of the panel, a 250 word description of each paper in the panel and a short c.v. for each paper giver.
    • For each paper, please submit a 250 word description of the paper and a short c.v.
  • To submit the paper proposals please go to http://hoc.ilr.cornell.edu/fall-2016-conference
  • Submissions are due by March 1, 2016

Theory, Football-Religion, and Metaphors

Adam Park

Pondering the profundities of yesterday's Super Bowl and all its associated ballyhoo, I wiped the chicken wing sauce-dribble from my chin and thought of Mircea Eliade, J.Z. Smith, and the nature of metaphors. Not so much because the chicken wings, but because the "religion." Or, at least, what some might call religion.

There are always the religious athletes, the tattoos, and the pre-game prayers. But I'm talking about something different, something more second-order. Namely, the conceptualization of football in religious terms. Players, fans, commentators, and even academics. It's everywhere (and not just in football). Stadium-cathedrals. Umpire-priests. Fan-believers. Player-gods. Game-day pilgrimages. Various and sundry superstitious rituals. Game-chant liturgies. Prodigal-son-athletes. Rule-doctrines. Nacho-sacraments and whatnot. So let's do some abbreviated theorizing here.

Congratulations to Bruce Dorsey and Judith Weisenfeld!

Samira K. Mehta

Bruce Dorsey, Professor of History at Swarthmore College, received the 2015-2016 LGBT Religious History Award for his paper "Making Men What They Should Be: Male Same-Sex Intimacy and Evangelical Religion in Nineteenth-Century New England" published in the Journal of the History of Sexuality (September 2015).

Judith Weisenfeld, Agate Brown and George L. Collord Professor of Religion at Princeton University, received an honorable mention for her paper, "'Real True Buds:' Celibacy and Same-Sex Desire Across the Color Line in Father Divine's Peace Mission Movement."

The formal announcement of their awards can be found here and a press release with descriptions of their respective work can be found here.

Congratulations to Bruce Dorsey and Judith Weisenfeld!

CFP: Charismatic Renewal in Historical Perspective, 1950-2000

Charismatic renewal in historical perspective, c.1950 –2000
Dates: September 13-14, 2016. 
Venue: Wycliffe Hall, Oxford. 

Amongst the post-war Christian movements for renewal, revival or reform, charismatic renewal (sometimes known as neo-Pentecostalism or the ‘second wave’) has been highly significant. Expanding rapidly it displayed various denominational and national trajectories but also ecumenical and transnational networks. Its influence was felt within the historic ‘mainline’ Churches, where it became more or less welcome. It also resulted in new denominations and expressions of church, and in some places new theological, organizational and practical emphases. Taking root within both evangelical and ‘sacramental’ Christianity, its characteristics included Pentecostal experiences and gifts; ecumenical engagement; fresh expressions of worship, liturgy, music and creative arts; radical approaches to community life. From a contemporary vantage point, the movement has been transformative in a variety of denominational and geographical contexts: it has contributed to a fresh and vibrant stream of Christianity, including within global traditions such as Anglicanism and Roman Catholicism.

Despite the historical importance of this diverse movement, relatively few historians of religion have engaged substantively with it. What has been meant by ‘renewal’ as an emic term and etic category? Indeed, was there a coherent charismatic renewal ‘movement’?  What has been its relationship with society and culture? How did theologies and practices change over time? What was the significance of different leaders, organisations, networks or grassroots manifestations?

This conference invites historically-based research papers on all aspects of the charismatic renewal between c. 1950 and 2000. Possible topics might include its:
  • Emergences and antecedents;
  • Historiographies; hagiographies; narratives and ‘myths’;
  • Relationships with Pentecostals/Pentecostalism, healing and revivalist movements;
  • Denominational or ecumenical national and transnational networks;
  • Trajectories within denominations (locally, nationally, and transnationally);
  • Internal (e.g. Shepherding movement) or external (e.g. cessationist) controversies; 
  • Theologies and spiritualities; integration with rites and patterns of worship;
  • Connection to indigenizing and synthesizing practices and theologies
  • Embodiments and practices;
  • Materialities; engagement with culture and the arts;
  • Attitudes towards gender and sexuality;
  • Use of aural and visual media.
Speakers include: David Bebbington, Mark Hutchinson, Larry Eskridge, Connie Ho Yan Au, John Maiden, Andrew Atherstone. We welcome proposals for papers (20 minutes). Please send proposals (250 words max) to John.maiden@open.ac.uk by 8 April 2016. 

Cost: £75/person (including food, accommodation), £50 for post-graduate students. Information on alternative rates available on request. Please send initial booking enquiries to John.maiden@open.ac.uk.

CFP: Specters, Hauntings, Presences at Northwestern University


Northwestern University

Department of Religious Studies 

Graduate Conference

October 7-9, 2016

The Religious Studies Department of Northwestern University invites graduate student papers for a conference on “Specters, Hauntings, Presences,” to be held in Evanston, Illinois on October 7-9, 2016. We request abstracts by April 15, 2016.

Through this conference, we aim to foster dialogue about religio-cultural forces that are as elusive as they are powerful. The central theme invites a variety of approaches and topics. We seek papers on presences invisible, otherworldly, esoteric, uncanny, monstrous, or mysterious. We also invite papers that explore the specters of politics, economics, and colonialism in connection with religion. Overall, the conference aims to question the concept of disenchantment—as method, as theory, as history. Some examples of possible paper topics include: Chinese hungry ghosts, “enchantment” in colonial modernity, Afro-Caribbean spirit possession, capitalism’s hauntings, golems in Jewish thought, presences in digital or mediated religion, and specters of the future (threatening or inspiring). Such diverse topics will bring together academic discussions about hauntology, neo-colonialism, critical race theory, transhumanism, modernity, identity politics, affect, materiality, mysticism, and popular culture. We seek burgeoning scholars from religious studies, cultural studies, literature and media studies, anthropology, performance studies, and history for this robustly interdisciplinary conference.

Keynote speakers:
 Arvind-Pal S. Mandair, Associate Professor and S.C.S.B Endowed Professor of Sikh Studies at the University of Michigan
John Modern, Associate Professor of Religious Studies at Franklin & Marshall College
Wonhee Anne Joh, Associate Professor of Systematic Theology at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary

 Presentations should not exceed fifteen minutes in length and may approach the topic from any discipline or methodology.

Please send a 500-word abstract, along with your name, institution, and year of study to nureligiousstudiesconference@gmail.com by April 15, 2016. Decisions will be communicated by the beginning of June.

Visit the Specters, Hauntings, Presences website for more information.

Research Tools and the Dissertation

Michael Graziano

As I prepare to defend my dissertation, I thought it might be useful to share the tools I found helpful during the research and writing process. I enjoyed these kinds of posts when I was starting my diss. I hope this post will be helpful to others in the same place.

When I started the research process, I spent a lot of time scouring the web for suggestions on setting up good academic workflows. In particular, I was interested in programs that would help me acquire sources in the archive, organize the material in useful ways, and make the writing process more efficient. I wanted to have a process already in place to accommodate the large amount of archival material I expected to gather. I was looking for apps that were inexpensive (if not free) and easy to use.

“Only the ways of space”: Benjamin Zeller’s Heaven’s Gate and UFO Religion

Andy McKee

Lately, maybe because I have a paper deadline soon, I have been thinking a lot about “New Religious Movements.” Among the tens of library books I have checked-out and pretended to read, nearly all reference UFO religions, but few give sustained looks at these movements. If ancient aliens has taught us anything, which (spoiler alert: it has) it is Americans love a good UFO conspiracy theory. Except when they don't. Except when groups invested in UFO theories enter the realm of the "cult." Perhaps the most famous group, at least of late, to be accused of being a cult, is Heaven's Gate, a group that while popular in NRM books, has received less analysis in many circles. Enter Benjamin E. Zeller’s Heaven’s Gate: Americas UFO Religion (New York Press, 2014), the first, and only, book-length treatment of the Heaven’s Gate movement.

Spotlight as Teaching Tool in the American History Classroom: A Lesson Plan

This past semester I had the opportunity to teach “American Religious History Since 1945” to undergraduate students at Boston College. The syllabus offered three forays into the twenty-first century: religion and 9/11, and the release of Pope Francis’ encyclical on global warming and, in the final two classes of the semester, the sex abuse crisis in the Catholic Church. Mid-semester a colleague informed me about the release of Spotlight, the film about The Boston Globe journalists who broke the story of abuse in the Archdiocese of Boston in 2002. I quickly made plans (and secured funds) for my class to see the film at a downtown Boston theater. Our final two classes would include a brief lecture, five short Boston Globe newspaper articles, a discussion, and a trip downtown to see the film. In this blog post, I share the lesson plan I assembled to use Spotlight as a teaching tool in the American History classroom.

A Very Preliminary Taxonomy of Sources of Nineteenth-Century U.S. Religious Data


by Lincoln Mullen

In my last post I explained that historians of U.S. religion have barely begun to scratch the surface of the data (meaning, sources that are amenable to computation) that are available to them. To demonstrate this I gave the example of a single source, the Minutes of the Annual Conferences of the Methodist Episcopal Church.

In this post I want to attempt a very preliminary taxonomy of the kinds of sources that are available to religious historians who wish to use mapping or quantitative analysis of some kind or another. Let’s call this a taxonomy instead of a catalog, because I’m going to list the kinds of sources that I’ve come about rather than try to give a bibliography of all of the sources themselves. I’d love to be able to list all the sources, but I haven’t done all that work yet. And let’s say this is very preliminary, because I hope this post is an example of the so-called Cunningham’s Law: “the best way to get the right answer on the Internet is not to ask a question; it’s to post the wrong answer.” That is to say, if you know of a source or category of source that I don’t know about, I hope you’ll correct me in the comments. Finally, I should mention that I’m teaching a course this semester on “Data and Visualization in Digital History” where we are working on nineteenth-century U.S. religious statistics. I’m indebted to the excellent students in that course, who have already turned up many sources that I didn’t know about.

Enough throat clearing.

All U.S. religious statistics are divided into two parts, those from the Census, and those not from the Census.

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