In the fall of 2011, I was appointed to the Chair of Religious Studies in the Department of Religious Studies and Theology in the Faculty of Humanities. As I soon realized, my appointment occurred amid major transitions regarding the institutionalization of the study of religion at Utrecht University. This is part of a broader trend of renegotiating the space between ‘theology’ and ‘religious studies’. This trend echoes a wider process of ‘unchurching’: as the number of students of theology declines nationwide, religion in new and unexpected guises has become both a hot item and an intriguing socio-cultural and political phenomenon. Over the past year, as part of the process of adapting to my new post, I have grappled with these complicated institutional transformations.
Around Birgit Meyer’s "Mediation and the Genesis of Presence: Toward a Material Approach to Religion"
Hans Belting, Pamela Klassen, Birgit Meyer, Christopher Pinney and Monique Scheer
The predominant vision of war, in the system of sovereign nation-states that evolved in the aftermath of the Treaty of Westphalia, has been one of violence used by nation-states, or alliances of nation-states, against one another. Indeed, as Martin van Creveld in The Rise and Decline of the State suggests, one of the principal functions of the modern state was to wage war. War, in von Clausewitz’s famous formulation, was an instrument of international statecraft that entailed the ‘continuation of politics by other means’. The great wars of the twentieth century to a large extent took this form. It might even be said that inter-state war came to be seen by some as a ‘natural’, if somewhat episodic and terrifying, feature of the modern nation-state system.
A Diagram of Coordination in a Satoyama Forest
Elaine Gan and Anna Tsing
This article experiments with combining three concepts— coordination, assemblage, diagram—to make vivid the composition of a satoyama forest in central Japan. The forest comes to life as a more-than-human assemblage that emerges through coordinations established by evolutionary and historical accommodations to life cycles, seasonal rhythms, and activity patterns. These coordinations are expressed through a diagram of intersecting temporalities of people, plants, and woodlands that condition the flourishing or decline of wild matsutake mushrooms. Working diagrammatically, we can better articulate how juxtapositions of humans and non-humans become assemblages that hold together through coordinations—without a unified purpose or design. We argue that understanding coordination is key to more livable multispecies worlds.
The Art Fair, the Culture Industry, and the ‘Creative Class’
The complicity of the arts and the state in the mutual legitimation of corporate market practice is addressed in this critique of the so-called culture industries and 'Creative Class' of late capitalist imagination. The certification of the state-market couple as the dominant ideology of national, transnational, and post-national politics and economics is examined through an analysis of the Frieze Art Fair between 2006 and 2009. I contend that the decline of a culture-debating society and the rise of a culture-consuming society herald the waning of a habit of independent rationality and informed argument that characterized Horkheimer and Adorno's 'Enlightenment project'. The managerialist moment in the arts (as in education) signifies the diminishing status of culture as the cornerstone of an enlightened social formation.
Moral and Sexual Geographies in Cape Town, South Africa
'Spiritual mapping' is a transnational Pentecostal 'spiritual warfare' practice that aims to identify and fight 'territorial spirits', or demons that possess specific places. It was unique in Cape Town, South Africa, at the beginning of democracy, because it was both racialized and sexualized. This article examines how Pentecostals in Cape Town employed spiritual mapping techniques to identify and police groups they understood as morally and spiritually 'dangerous': black and 'coloured' communities and gays and lesbians. I argue that South African spiritual mapping was a response to the material and physical insecurities of democracy, particularly the declining economy, failed promises of the African National Congress, and some of the highest rates of crime in the world.
In the aftermath of World War I, public concerns about the “female surplus” promoted various efforts to stimulate women’s emigration to the dominions in order to relieve the presumed burden on the postwar economy. Opportunities for women in agriculture were part of the campaign to relocate women for work, but the plan soon encountered challenges from domestic groups that objected to the “dumping” of “surplus” females in the dominions and argued that, although farming in Britain experienced a decline in the 1920s, there were opportunities for women who wished to work in agriculture. This article examines the legacy of women agricultural workers in postwar Britain and argues that, although emigration efforts ultimately failed, the new farm woman of the 1920s and 1930s was presented as an educated professional, with evocations of traditional womanhood, making her an acceptable, nonconfrontational, progressive British woman worker by the outbreak of World War II.
Bioarchaeological Perspectives on Pinker’s “Prehistoric Anarchy”
Steven Pinker’s thesis on the decline of violence since prehistory has resulted in many popular and scholarly debates on the topic that have ranged—at times even raged— across the disciplinary spectrum of evolution, psychology, philosophy, biology, history, and beyond. Those disciplines that made the most substantial contribution to the empirical data underpinning Pinker’s notion of a more violent prehistoric past, namely, archaeology and bioarchaeology/physical anthropology, have not featured as prominently in these discussions as may be expected. This article will focus on some of the issues resulting from Pinker’s oversimplifi ed cross-disciplinary use of bioarchaeological data sets in support of his linear model of the past, a model that, incidentally, has yet to be incorporated into current accounts of violent practices in prehistory.
Selina Stead, Tim Daw and Tim Gray
This article reviews methods used in the increasing use of fishers' knowledge in contemporary fisheries management. During the last one hundred years, fisheries science has been used extensively to inform management decisions for the regulation of sea fisheries. However, the decline of many fish stocks has cast doubt on the sufficiency of fisheries science, and has led to demands from fishers that their own expertise—fishers' knowledge—should be taken into account in decision-making. In this article, we examine four case studies of such attempts to take account of fishers' knowledge in the management of North Sea fisheries, comparing their different methods of identifying and using fishers' expertise, and assessing their respective outcomes. Our conclusion is that the value of fishers' knowledge improves according to the extent to which the method of obtaining it is participative and interactive.
Among the descendants of the Jews who had been exiled from Spain in 1492 and had reached the Ottoman Empire, the tradition of writing and reading serious religious material in their spoken language, often known as Ladino, began in the eighteenth century with the massive scriptural commentary Me'am Lo'ez. In the later nineteenth century there was a surge in the publication of newspapers in Ladino, accompanied by the serialization of novels in the press or their weekly publication in parts. The Ladino novel and novelette, mostly of adventure or family conflict, reached its peak in the first decade of the twentieth century and again in the 1920s, after which it began to decline. The estimated 300 to 500 novels were translations and adaptations of foreign, largely French, originals, but there were also many original works, of which the two best known authors were Elia Karmona and Alexandre Ben-Ghiat.
David Rodman, Defense and Diplomacy in Israel’s National Security Experience: Tactics, Partnerships, and Motives by Uri Bar-Joseph
Amos Oz, A Tale of Love and Darkness by Nathan P. Devir
Yoav Gelber, Israeli-Jordanian Dialogue, 1948–1953: Cooperation, Conspiracy, or Collusion? by Adam Garfinkle
Efraim Karsh, ed., Israeli Politics and Society Since 1948: Problems of Collective Identity by Sara Helman
Ronit Chacham, Breaking Ranks: Refusing to Serve in the West Bank and Gaza Strip by Ruth Linn
Gregory S. Mahler, Politics and Government in Israel: The Maturation of a Modern State by William Safran
Rachel Feldhay Brenner, Inextricably Bonded: Israeli Arab and Jewish Writers Re-visioning Culture by Smadar Shiffman
Baruch Kimmerling, The Invention and Decline of Israeliness: State, Society and the Military by Laurence J. Silberstein