Max Perry Mueller is assistant professor of religious studies in the Department of Classics & Religious Studies of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and the author of the recently-released Race and the Making of the Mormon People (University of North Carolina Press, 2017). Be sure and read Ben Park’s review of that book, posted at The Junto yesterday.
Modern Mormonism is known for being a predominantly white religion—at least in America. But a new book by religious studies scholar Max Mueller argues that the LDS faith has a complex and evolving story of racial imagination during the antebellum period. This is a declension narrative that is at once riveting and wrenching, and one that deserves a close reading.
Max Perry Mueller, Race and the Making of the Mormon People (University of North Carolina Press, 2017). 352 pp., 17 halftones, notes, bibliography, index. [Also, make sure to see Mueller’s interview with The Atlantic.]
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, commonly known as the Mormons, had audacious beginnings. They claimed a new book of scripture, a modern-day prophet, and a restored ecclesiastical structure. It was a reenactment of Christianity’s origins. And according to Max Mueller, those origins included a reformulation of America’s racial imagination. Contemporaries during the mid-nineteenth century were, to use a complex and problematic term, “secularizing” racial differences. They sought to justify slavery and segregation through a strict delineation of racial compartmentalization. Race, in other words, was becoming a fixed identity. But among Joseph Smith’s radical protests was an attack on that very assumption: Smith, the book Smith translated, and the movement Smith led, posited that race was a malleable component dependent more on righteousness than descent. They believed in a moderate “racial universalism” that, though it required the subjugation of non-white races, could unite the entire human family. Or, at least, they believed this during their first two decades, before eventually succumbing to a much more mainstream structure of racial difference. Continue reading
Coll Thrush, Indigenous London: Native Travelers at the Heart of Empire (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2016).
Wander through the Museum of London’s rich galleries, glowing with relics and rites of Roman Londinium, and you’ll spot scraps of the city’s wall half-strewn along the route. Burned in bits or eaten by age, the red-and-white brick arches splay out like the broken teeth of empire, grinding a crooked grin in today’s cityscape. Amid the tidy exhibits and visitors’ whirl, it’s a graphic reminder of what London was and how it has weathered so many centuries’ toll. But, as Coll Thrush’s Indigenous London asks us, “The audience of a museum is always / another sort of collection…Indigenous objects, Indigenous eyes—/ Who sees and what is being seen?” (p. 135). For the scholar rescuing clues from the built environment, the wall raises a complex set of research queries: Who passed through the city limits, and why? How did diverse travelers experience urban life at a sensory level? What did it mean for indigenous visitors to sample London? And how can we expand the historical canon of voices who tell that story in the early modern era? Continue reading
Today Coll Thrush speaks with The Junto about his most recent book, Indigenous London: Native Travelers at the Heart of Empire, which examines that city’s history through the experiences of Indigenous travelers—willing or otherwise—from territories that became the US, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. A graduate of Fairhaven College at Western Washington University and the University of Washington, Coll Thrush is Professor of History at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver in unceded Coast Salish territories, and affiliate faculty at UBC’s Institute for Critical Indigenous Studies. He is the author of Native Seattle: Histories from the Crossing-Over Place, which won the 2007 Washington State Book Award for History/Biography, and was re-released as a tenth-anniversary second edition in early 2017. He is also co-editor with Colleen Boyd of Phantom Past, Indigenous Presence: Native Ghosts in North American History & Culture. His article “City of the Changers: Indigenous People and the Transformation of Seattle’s Watersheds” was named Best Article of 2006 by the Urban History Association, and his article “Vancouver the Cannibal: Cuisine, Encounter, and the Dilemma of Difference on the Northwest Coast, 1774-1808” won the Robert F. Heizer prize for best article of 2011 from the American Society for Ethnohistory. During the 2013-2014 academic year, he was a visiting fellow at the Institute for Historical Research of the University of London and an Eccles Centre Fellow in North American Studies at the British Library. After the completion of Indigenous London, Coll will return to writing about the Northwest Coast of North America with a book project entitled SlaughterTown, a history-memoir examining trauma, memory, silence, and landscape in Coast Salish territories and his hometown of Auburn, Washington—formerly known as Slaughter. Continue reading
To accompany the review by Casey Schmitt that was published yesterday, we are pleased to have this Question & Answer with Carla Pestana today regarding her new book, The English Conquest of Jamaica: Oliver Cromwell’s Bid for Empire (Harvard University Press, 2017). We thank Dr. Pestana for her time. Continue reading
Carla Gardina Pestana, The English Conquest of Jamaica: Oliver Cromwell’s Bid for Empire (Cambridge: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2017).
It is an exciting time to be a scholar of Caribbean history. From conferences to publications, the past decade has seen historians of early America, Latin America, and the Atlantic world turn to the Caribbean for insights into the development of empire, slavery, race, and commerce. In this resurgence of Caribbean historiography, the seventeenth century has emerged as a pivotal period. That said, by taking a relatively well-known event like the Western Design, UCLA Professor and Joyce Appleby Endowed Chair of America and the World, Carla Gardina Pestana, demonstrates the value of exploring the early Caribbean in her new book The English Conquest of Jamaica: Oliver Cromwell’s Bid for Empire. Pestana’s work aptly shows the profound intellectual pay-off for historians willing to explore the seventeenth-century Caribbean with bigger questions about imperialism, race, religion, and gender. Continue reading
Today we’re featuring an interview with Adrian Miller, author of The President’s Kitchen Cabinet: The Story of the African Americans Who Have Fed Our First Families, from the Washingtons to the Obamas. Miller is a food writer, attorney and certified barbecue judge who lives in Denver, CO. He is currently the executive director of the Colorado Council of Churches and, as such, is the first African American and the first layperson to hold that position. Miller previously served as a special assistant to President Bill Clinton and a senior policy analyst for Colorado governor Bill Ritter Jr. He has also been a board member of the Southern Foodways Alliance. Miller’s first book, Soul Food: The Surprising Story of an American Cuisine, One Plate at a Time won the James Beard Foundation Award for Scholarship and Reference in 2014. Continue reading