April 2019

CSSH congratulates Alan Strathern, author of “Transcendentalist Intransigence: Why Rulers Rejected Monotheism in Early Modern Southeast Asia and Beyond” (CSSH 49-2, 2007), on the publication of his new monograph, Unearthly Powers: Religious and Political Change in World History (Cambridge University Press, 2019). From Cambridge’s summary:

Why was religion so important for rulers in the pre-modern world? And how did the world come to be dominated by just a handful of religious traditions, especially Christianity, Islam, and Buddhism? Drawing on sociology and anthropology, as well as a huge range of historical literature from all regions and periods of world history, Alan Strathern sets out a new way of thinking about transformations in the fundamental nature of religion and its interaction with political authority. His analysis distinguishes between two quite different forms of religiosity – immanentism, which focused on worldly assistance, and transcendentalism, which centred on salvation from the human condition – and shows how their interaction shaped the course of history. Taking examples drawn from Ancient Rome to the Incas or nineteenth-century Tahiti, a host of phenomena, including sacred kingship, millenarianism, state-church struggles, reformations, iconoclasm, and, above all, conversion are revealed in a new light.

Congratulations to Stephan Palmié (“Thinking with Ngangas: Reflections on Embodiment and the Limits of “Objectively Necessary Appearances,” CSSH 48-4, 2004; and “When Is a Thing? Transduction and Immediacy in Afro-Cuban Ritual; or, ANT in Matanzas, Cuba, Summer of 1948,” CSSH 60-4, 2018) on his new co-edited volume, The Varieties of Historical Experience, Routledge University Press, 2019. Routledge describes the book as follows:

This book considers how history is not just objectively lived but subjectively experienced by people in the process of orienting their present toward the past. It analyses affectivity in historical experience, examines the digital mediation of history, and assesses the current politics of competing historical genres. The contributors explore the diverse ways in which the past may be activated and felt in the here and now, juxtaposing the practices of professional historiography with popular modes of engaging the past, from reenactments, filmmaking/viewing and historical fiction to museum collections and visits to historical sites. By examining the divergent forms of historical experience that flourish in the shadow of historicism in the West, this volume demonstrates how, and how widely (socially), the understanding of the past exceeds the expectations and frameworks of professional historicism. It makes the case that historians and the discipline of History could benefit from an ethnographic approach in order to assess the social reception of their practice now, and into a near future increasingly conditioned by digital media and demands for experiential immediacy.