AAPI Month Reading

Some Suggested Titles from AAR's Reading Religion

Reading Religion is an openly accessible 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

Daoism: A Contemporary Philosophical Investigation (1st Edition)

By Livia Kohn

From the review:

“Kohn scrutinizes the traditional periodization of Daoist development, developing an alternative (and original) account of the tradition’s transitional stages that profoundly revises the intellectual history of Daoism. Through her careful, micro-scale historical analysis, Kohn identifies subtle changes in Daoism, paying particular attention to the reception and understanding of certain beliefs, ideas, and principles.” - Samuel (Yu-sum) Lee

The Buddha's Tooth: Western Tales of a Sri Lankan Relic

By John S. Strong

From the review:

“Strong’s work operates at the intersection of the study of material culture and narrative studies, contributing to the range of new approaches that continue to find their way into Buddhist studies. The history revealed by the study of material culture complements more common historical narratives of kings and wars, founders and doctrines. And for the history of Buddhism, perhaps no element of material culture is more important than the relics of the Buddha.” - Richard Payne

Middle-Class Dharma: Women, Aspiration, and the Making of Contemporary Hinduism

By Jennifer D. Ortegren

From the review:

“. . . Ortegren shows how religion doesn’t consist merely of the fixed and of the male, but also of women who were formerly seen as largely lacking in agency in this regard. She seeks to expand the understanding of religion by using the concept of dharma. . . In essence, this is an intriguing book that traverses diverse terrains that are often overlooked by scholars focusing on the areas of class and religion.” - Dorothy Kalita

Stealing My Religion: Not Just Any Cultural Appropriation

By Liz Bucar

From the review:

“[This book] not only deftly grapples with fascinating case studies to name and center the ethical challenges of religious appropriation, but also models how to use this knowledge to reassess our relationship to practices of religious appropriation that we all collude with in various ways. [It] also invites us to pause to (re)assess our participation in these complicated spheres of praxis—as educators and scholars, or just everyday folks—and ultimately our responsibilities to the communities we have harmed along the way.” - Shobhana Xavier

Theology Without Borders: Essays in Honor of Peter C. Phan

By Leo D. Lefebure

From the review:

“Nevertheless, Theology Without Borders is worthy of a huge reception. Overall, the book offers a thoughtful, broad, and vivid picture of Phan’s legacy in Christian theology. This book will be a great asset for researchers working on world Christianity, ecclesiology, eschatology, Asian theology, and religious pluralism.” - Heejun Yang

Available for Review

A History of Uyghur Buddhism

By Johan Elverskog

From the publisher:
“This book presents the first comprehensive history of Buddhism among the Uyghurs from the ninth to the seventeenth century. Johan Elverskog traces how the Uyghurs forged their distinctive tradition, considering a variety of social, political, cultural, and religious contexts. He argues that the religious history of the Uyghurs challenges conventional narratives of the meeting of Buddhism and Islam, showing that conversion took place gradually and was driven by factors such as geopolitics, climate change, and technological innovation. Elverskog also provides a nuanced understanding of lived Buddhism, focusing on ritual practices and materiality as well as the religion’s entanglements with economics, politics, and violence. A groundbreaking history of Uyghur Buddhism, this book makes a compelling case for the importance of the Uyghurs in shaping the course of both Buddhist and Asian history.”





Esoteric Buddhism in China: Engaging Japanese and Tibetan Traditions, 1912–1949

By Wei Wu

From the publisher:
"Based on a wide range of previously unexplored Chinese sources, this book explores how esoteric Buddhist traditions have shaped the Chinese religious landscape. Wei Wu examines cross-cultural religious transmission of ideas from Japanese and Tibetan traditions, considering the various esoteric currents within Chinese Buddhist communities and how Chinese individuals and groups engaged with newly translated ideas and practices. She argues that Chinese Buddhists’ assimilation of doctrinal, ritual, and institutional elements of Tibetan and Japanese esoteric Buddhism was not a simple replication but an active process of creating new meanings. Their visions of Buddhism in the modern world, as well as early twentieth-century discourses of nation building and religious reform, shaped the reception of esoteric traditions. By analyzing the Chinese interpretation and strategic adaptations of esoteric Buddhism, this book sheds new light on the intellectual development, ritual performances, and institutional formations of Chinese Buddhism in the twentieth century.”



The Sikh World

Edited by Pashaura Singh and Arvind-Pal Singh Mandair

From the publisher:
“The Sikh World is an outstanding guide to the Sikh faith and culture in all its geographical and historical diversity. Written by a distinguished team of international contributors, it contains substantial thematic articles on the dynamic living experiences of the global Sikh community. The volume is organised into ten distinct sections: History, Institutions, and Practices; Global Communities; Ethical Issues; Activism; Modern Literature and Exegesis; Music, Visual Art, and Architecture; Citizenship, Sovereignty, and the Nation State; Diversity and its Challenges; Media;
Within these sections, interdisciplinary themes such as intellectual history, sexuality, ecotheology, art, literature, philosophy, music, cinema, medicine, science and technology, politics, and global interactions are explored.

Integrating textual evidence with Sikh practice, this volume provides an authoritative and accessible source of information on all topics of Sikhism. The Sikh World will be essential reading to students of Sikh studies, South Asian studies and religious studies. It will also be of interest to those in related fields, such as sociology, world philosophies, political science, anthropology, and ethics.”



In the Land of Tigers and Snakes: Living with Animals in Medieval Chinese Religions

By Huaiyu Chen

From the publisher:
“Animals play crucial roles in Buddhist thought and practice. However, many symbolically or culturally significant animals found in India, where Buddhism originated, do not inhabit China, to which Buddhism spread in the medieval period. In order to adapt Buddhist ideas and imagery to the Chinese context, writers reinterpreted and modified the meanings different creatures possessed. Medieval sources tell stories of monks taming wild tigers, detail rituals for killing snakes, and even address the question of whether a parrot could achieve enlightenment.

Huaiyu Chen examines how Buddhist ideas about animals changed and were changed by medieval Chinese culture. He explores the entangled relations among animals, religions, the state, and local communities, considering both the multivalent meanings associated with animals and the daily experience of living with the natural world. Chen illustrates how Buddhism influenced Chinese knowledge and experience of animals as well as how Chinese state ideology, Daoism, and local cultic practices reshaped Buddhism. He shows how Buddhism, Confucianism, and Daoism developed doctrines, rituals, discourses, and practices to manage power relations between animals and humans.”



Krishna's Mahabharatas: Devotional Retellings of an Epic Narrative

By Sohini Sarah Pillai

From the publisher:
“Recognized as the longest poem ever composed, the ancient Sanskrit Mahabharata epic tells the tale of the five Pandava princes and the cataclysmic battle they wage with their one hundred cousins, the Kauravas. This story is one of the most popular and widely-told narratives in South Asia, let alone the world. Between 800 and 1700 CE, a plethora of Mahabharatas were created in Assamese, Bengali, Gujarati, Hindi, Kannada, Konkani, Malayalam, Marathi, Oriya, Tamil, Telugu, and several other regional South Asian languages.

Krishna's Mahabharatas: Devotional Retellings of an Epic Narrative is a comprehensive study of premodern regional Mahabharata retellings. This book argues that Vaishnavas (devotees of the Hindu god Vishnu and his various forms) throughout South Asia turned this epic about an apocalyptic, bloody war into works of ardent bhakti or “devotion” focused on the beloved Hindu deity Krishna. Examining over forty retellings in eleven different regional South Asian languages composed over a period of nine hundred years, it focuses on two particular Mahabharatas: Villiputturar's fifteenth-century Tamil Paratam and Sabalsingh Chauhan's seventeenth-century Bhasha (Old Hindi) Mahahbharat."