Shagan’s Popular Politics and the English Reformation (2000) is a political and social history that argues that the Reformation in England was a proceShagan’s Popular Politics and the English Reformation (2000) is a political and social history that argues that the Reformation in England was a process of collaboration between ordinary people, gentry, and the state, in which shared religious idioms were used in order to advance multiple and sometimes conflicting political, economic, and theological agendas held by different groups who cannot be easily broken down into simply “Protestant” and simply “Catholic.” Shagan is responding to two main historiographical camps within the study of the English Reformation. The first camp is made up of Protestant historians who offer a paradigm of the English Reformation as “liberation” for the English people, a model that contains anti-Catholic prejudices and argues that the English nation was entirely converted to Protestantism by 1559. The second camp are the revisionist historians (beginning in 1975 with Haigh, Scarisbrick, and Duffy) who argue that a better paradigm for understanding the English Reformation is that of “enforcement” by the state, and they emphasize its negative effects on the common people as well as popular piety and resistance. Shagan criticizes both these camps for being controlled by a “confessional lens” that necessarily assesses the English Reformation in terms of its “success” or “failure,” and in so doing are prevented from asking questions about the process of the English Reformation. In other words, if the English didn’t convert en masse to Protestantism, what did they do? Shagan’s argument is based on the following premises: 1) most English people did not embrace evangelical Protestantism yet 2) the Tudor regime doesn’t have the power to enforce religious change, so all changes require eliciting some degree of popular consent. Thus Shagan argues for a collaborative lens that allows us to ask questions about the negotiations that had to occur between the English people and the state in order for the English Reformation to happen as it did. Shagan’s collaborative model is neither a top-down process of the state imposing Protestantism on the people, as per the confessionalization thesis, nor a revolution of the people, as Peter Blickle argues, but something in between....more
Read Chapter 5, "'Have You Ever Prayed to Saint Jude?' Reflections on Fieldwork in Catholic Chicago" for Theories & Methods. I really want to readRead Chapter 5, "'Have You Ever Prayed to Saint Jude?' Reflections on Fieldwork in Catholic Chicago" for Theories & Methods. I really want to read the rest of the book sometime in the future.
"The consequences of all this for our work is that unless we recognize first the elemental fascination and power of religious goings-on and then all the things we want to do with them--share them, control them, mute their power over us and over our memories--our writing about religion will become an exercise in boundary making. This is the emotional ground of the impulse toward functionalism in the field: to tame what is wild and threatening and dangerous specifically to us because of the details of our particular childhoods about different forms of religious experience and practice. This is what makes so much religious scholarship dull and beside the point. It is also the reason why scholars of religion spend so much time in making sterile taxonomies, gridding what we study into safe--and discrete--categories. These various complex anxieties, needs, and discomforts constitute the existential difficulties of fieldwork in one's own religious tradition" (161).
Braude offers to answer the following central question: Given the evidence of significant overlap between people who held Spiritualist beliefs and engBraude offers to answer the following central question: Given the evidence of significant overlap between people who held Spiritualist beliefs and engaged in Spiritualist practices with people who were active in the woman’s rights movement in the nineteenth-century United States, what can we discover about the relationship between the two movements? She also poses two sub-questions specific to the analytical categories of gender, politics, and religion, including: 1) Why did Spiritualism appeal to people troubled by mid-nineteenth century gender roles within the white middle class? and 2) What elements of Spiritualism facilitate the movement’s generally sympathetic orientation to woman’s rights and other radical political and social reforms?
The central claim of Radical Spirits is that Spiritualism’s radical individualism lends itself to social change work, and that its belief in the particular suitability of women as passive, sensitive, and pious individuals—all highly gendered qualities—to receive messages from the spirit world gives women unique access to authoritative, highly public roles as mediums and trance speakers that they were otherwise denied. Thus, Spiritualism and the woman’s rights movement engage in a “two-way exchange” in which Spiritualism helps normalize the idea of women speaking to public audiences and produces trance speakers who become notable leaders for woman’s rights, and in which members of the woman’s rights movement are attracted to Spiritualism’s political potential and religious non-conformity. Spiritualism’s appeal to the succeeding generation of the woman’s rights movement declines after 1875 once the initial barriers to women’s public speaking have been overcome and as Spiritualism shifts from emphasizing trance mediumship to sensational mediumship, a shift that undermines its initial gender subversiveness, and, in the loss of its general credibility, its political thrust. As Braude puts it, “Letters of appreciation and admiration did not follow the appearance of a woman in a sack nailed to the floor.”
Braude’s argument is based on the premise that Spiritualism is a widespread and politically influential nineteenth-century movement worthy of serious attention despite its lack of institutions, hierarchy, doctrine, official leadership, or membership. She draws on primary sources about Spiritualism and the woman’s rights movement, including books and periodicals, press accounts, meeting minutes, and diaries and correspondence in order to argue that nineteenth-century “identification of piety with femininity” could actually help expand the opportunities available to women and support activism for political and social reform. In arguing this, Braude is countering Ann Douglas and others who have argued that Spiritualism’s “feminization” of culture reinforced highly restricted roles for women and encouraged passive sentimentality.
Braude identifies two significant contributions of her work. Because Braude is writing at the apex of the New Age movement, she suggests that her study of a “comparable” religious expression might help us better understand spiritual experiences outside of religious institutions and how people explain and contextualize them. She also suggests that this study might help us better understand how spirituality motivates people to take social and political action. I would agree that these are significant contributions, and I would add that Radical Spirits is also significant in how it highlights the extent to which a focus on institutions and denominational identities has impacted the study of religion in the United States. Braude persuasively demonstrates that Spiritualism had widespread popular participation and contributed to major social and political reform movements, yet it has generally been treated as a curious side-note in the history of American religion....more
O’Malley’s Trent and All That (2000) is an intellectual history that examines the terms historians have used to describe the “Catholic side” of the eaO’Malley’s Trent and All That (2000) is an intellectual history that examines the terms historians have used to describe the “Catholic side” of the early modern period enduringly dubbed “the Reformation” by Lutheran historians in the late seventeenth century. O’Malley identifies a problem in how historians have unreflectively used loaded terms like “reform” and “reformation” to describe the Catholic side in this period, and he wants to propose his own solution—the term “Early Modern Catholicism.” In order to demonstrate the advantages of his solution, O’Malley provides an overview of how the many terms for this period developed. He starts by reviewing the earliest historical work and the “classic position” of Catholic historian Hubert Jedin (1900-1980), who emphasized the role of the Council of Trent and proposed the complex term “Catholic-Reformation-and-Counter-Reformation.” Importantly, Jedin puts a new spin on the idea of “Counter Reformation” by depicting it as a “defense” against Protestant aggressions. O’Malley then reviews how twentieth-century historians have adapted Jedin’s terms for their own purposes and/or proposed entirely new ones, examining the advantages and limitations of the following: “Counter-Reformation,” “Catholic Reform” or “Catholic Reformation,” “Tridentine Era,” and “Confessional Catholicism” or “Social Disciplining.” In summary, the advantage in using each of these terms is that they accurately capture different political, religious, or social aspects of the historical reality, but also minimize or obscure other aspects, with the attendant disadvantages of doing so. O’Malley closes by arguing that the comprehensive “Early Modern Catholicism” should be added to the existing list of historical terms, but that historians should use it in combination with other terms in order to most effectively describe the complexities of the early modern period.
O’Malley suggests that the main contribution of his book is to help his audience “view ‘the Catholic side’ with new eyes, so that we become more aware of a breadth, depth, and complexity that earlier historians frequently either missed, or more often, forced into an inappropriate or inadequate interpretative framework—by inadequate naming.”...more