AAPI Month Reading

Some Suggested Titles from AAR's Reading Religion

Reading Religion is an open book review website published by the American Academy of Religion. The site provides up-to-date coverage of scholarly publishing in religious studies, reviewed by scholars with special interest and/or expertise in the relevant subfields. Reviews aim to be concise, comprehensive, and timely.

Below, the editors of Reading Religion have selected some books and reviews from the site and have shared some titles available to review. If you’re interested in reviewing books for Reading Religion, take a look at the guidelines. If there are any books missing from the Reading Religion site that you think should be there, email [email protected].

Reviews to Read

Climate Change and the Art of Devotion: Geoaesthetics in the Land of Krishna, 1550–1850

By Sugata Ray

From the review:

To call the methodology of this book transdisciplinary does not do justice to this well-constructed and beautiful masterpiece. . . . Ray elegantly shows the non-dualistic ‘heterogeneity of beauty’ and the ‘theo-anthropo-cosmic harmony’ of humans and gods, humans and non-humans, and organic things and materiality, all while tying the discussion to climate change and visual culture.” - Jea Sophia Oh

The Sound of Salvation: Voice, Gender, and the Sufi Mediascape in China

By Guangtian Ha

From the review:

“Such a sophisticated and deep ethnography is hard to come across in the study of Sinophone Muslims. And with the heightening surveillance of the Chinese government over its Muslim population, one could expect this type of scholarship to become even rarer in the coming years. In addition to its rich content, the beautiful prose and captivating vignettes make [this] an accessible and rewarding read . . .” - Shuangxia Wu

Invisible: Theology and the Experience of Asian American Women

By Grace Ji-Sun Kim

From the review:

“[This book] is valuable for those who want to begin understanding and responding to the experiences of Asian American people, especially Asian American women, in the practice of Christian theology. . . . [It] leaves readers with a call to love continuously those forced into invisibility, just as God loves the invisible—as God’s own children, worthy of visibility.” - Joy Clarisse Saavedra

Adopting for God: The Mission to Change America through Transnational Adoption

By Soojin Chung

From the review:

"Chung does not write about the adoption evangelists because of their virtue or importance to the movement. . . ; rather, she identifies them because of how they used their power—for better or worse—to shape congregations, institutions, and media in the service of transnational adoption. This is what makes [this book] so compelling and noteworthy.”- Maci Sepp

Becoming Guanyin: Artistic Devotion of Buddhist Women in Late Imperial China

By Yuhang Li

From the review:

“In a word, the book is rich—in illustrations, narratives, descriptions, and details, some public and some private and even intimate. . . . {T]he book is a tribute to the many lay mothers, daughters, wives, concubines, and lovers described in the book, one to put on a nice place on your bookshelf and browse through every so often, to again and again get intoxicated by the power of Guanyin—almost an of mimicry itself.” - Mariske Westendorp 

Available for Review

Asian Americans and the Spirit of Racial Capitalism

By Jonathan Tran

From the publisher:
"Any serious consideration of Asian American life forces us to reframe the way we talk about racism and antiracism. There are two contemporary approaches to antiracist theory and practice. The first emphasizes racial identity to the exclusion of political economy, making racialized life in America illegible. This approach's prevalence, in the academy and beyond, now rises to the level of established doctrine. The second approach views racial identity as the function of a particular political economy -- what is called “racial capitalism -- and therefore analytically subordinates racial identity to political economy.

Jonathan Tran develops arguments in favor of this second approach. He does so by means of an extended analysis of two case studies: a Chinese migrant settlement in the Mississippi Delta (1868-1969) and the Redeemer Community Church in the Bayview/Hunters Point section of San Francisco (1969-present). While his analysis is focused on particular groups and persons, he uses it to examine more broadly racial capitalism's processes and commitments at the sites of their structural and systemic unfolding. In pursuing a research agenda that pushes beyond the narrow confines of racial identity, Tran reaches back to trusted modes of analysis that have been obscured by the prevailing antiracist orthodoxy and proposes reframing antiracism in terms of a theologically salient account of political economy.”


The Politics of Inclusive Pluralism: A Proposed Foundation for Religious Freedom in a Post-Communist, Democratic China

By Bob Fu

From the publisher:
"'Long live the red terror!' This and other political slogans were used by China's communist rulers as leverage for conflict and conflict management during 1949. China's Cultural Revolution movement understandably fueled anger, fear, and terror among Chinese citizens. Currently, contrary to the positive facade that China, under the control of the Communist Chinese Party (CCP), tries to project regarding human rights, a dark reality reveals a brutal authoritarian state with no concern for religious freedom. What guiding philosophy could best help procure, provide, and protect religious freedom for all in a post-communist, Christianized, democratic China? Bob Fu argues that while various Christianity-oriented theories may appear promising, they fail to provide an adequate pluralistic foundation for protecting the religious freedoms of people of all faiths and none. The predominant theory of political liberalism in the West likewise fails to prove sufficiently inclusive for all faiths and worldviews. As an alternative, the author defends Baorong Duoyuan (inclusive pluralism), his own contextualized theory modeled after principled pluralism. This model, he believes, has the potential to help ensure that religious freedom for all becomes a reality."


The Shamaness in Asia: Gender, Religion and the State

Edited by Davide Torri and Sophie Roche

From the publisher:
“This book concentrates on female shamanisms in Asia and their relationship with the state and other religions, offering a perspective on gender and shamanism that has often been neglected in previous accounts.

An international range of contributors cover a broad geographical scope, ranging from Siberia to South Asia, and Iran to Japan. Several key themes are considered, including the role of bureaucratic established religions in integrating, challenging and fighting shamanic practices, the position of women within shamanic complexes, and perceptions of the body. Beginning with a chapter that places the shamaness at the centre of the discussion, chapters then approach these issues in a variety of ways, from historically informed accounts, to presenting the findings of extensive ethnographic research by the authors themselves.

Offering an important counterbalance to male dominated accounts of shamanism, this book will be of great interest to scholars of Indigenous Peoples across Religious Studies, Anthropology, Asian Studies, and Gender Studies.”


Spiritual Subjects: Central Asian Pilgrims and the Ottoman Hajj at the End of Empire

By Lâle Can

From the publisher:
“At the turn of the twentieth century, thousands of Central Asians made the annual pilgrimage to Mecca. Traveling long distances, many lived for extended periods in Ottoman cities dotting the routes. Though technically foreigners, these Muslim colonial subjects often blurred the lines between pilgrims and migrants. Not quite Ottoman, and not quite foreign, Central Asians became the sultan's spiritual subjects. Their status was continually negotiated by Ottoman statesmen as attempts to exclude foreign Muslim nationals from the body politic were compromised by a changing international legal order and the caliphate's ecumenical claims. Spiritual Subjects examines the paradoxes of nationality reform and pan-Islamic politics in late Ottoman history. Lâle Can unravels how imperial belonging was wrapped up in deeply symbolic instantiations of religion, as well as prosaic acts and experiences that paved the way to integration into Ottoman communities. A complex system of belonging emerged--one where it was possible for a Muslim to be both, by law, a foreigner and a subject of the Ottoman sultan-caliph. This panoramic story informs broader transregional and global developments, with important implications for how we make sense of subjecthood in the last Muslim empire and the legacy of religion in the Turkish Republic.”


The Camphor Tree and the Elephant: Religion and Ecological Change in Maritime Southeast Asia

By Faizah Zakaria

From the publisher:
“What is the role of religion in shaping interactions and relations between the human and nonhuman in nature? Why are Muslim and Christian organizations generally not a potent force in Southeast Asian environmental movements? The Camphor Tree and the Elephant brings these questions into the history of ecological change in the region, centering the roles of religion and colonialism in shaping the Anthropocene—'the human epoch.'

Historian Faizah Zakaria traces the conversion of the Batak people in upland Sumatra and the Malay Peninsula to Islam and Christianity during the long nineteenth century. She finds that the process helped shape social structures that voided the natural world of enchantment, ushered in a cash economy, and placed the power to remake local landscapes into the hands of a distant elite. Using a wide array of sources such as family histories, prayer manuscripts, and folktales in tandem with colonial and ethnographic archives, Zakaria brings everyday religion and its far-flung implications into our understanding of the environmental history of the modern world.”