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Becoming Muslim in Imperial Russia

Conversion, Apostasy, and Literacy

In the nineteenth century, the Russian Empire’s Middle Volga region (today’s Tatarstan) was the site of a prolonged struggle between Russian Orthodoxy and Islam, each of which sought to solidify its influence among the frontier’s mix of Turkic, Finno-Ugric, and Slavic peoples. The immediate catalyst of the events that Agnès Nilüfer Kefeli chronicles in Becoming Muslim in Imperial Russia was the collective turn to Islam by many of the region’s Kräshens, the Muslim and animist Tatars who converted to Russian Orthodoxy between the sixteenth and eighteenth centuries. The traditional view holds that the apostates had really been Muslim all along or that their conversions had been forced by the state or undertaken voluntarily as a matter of convenience. In Kefeli’s view, this argument vastly oversimplifies the complexity of a region where many participated in the religious cultures of both Islam and Orthodox Christianity and where a vibrant Kräshen community has survived to the present. By analyzing Russian, Eurasian, and Central Asian ethnographic, administrative, literary, and missionary sources, Kefeli shows how traditional education, with Sufi mystical components, helped to Islamize Finno-Ugric and Turkic peoples in the Kama-Volga countryside and set the stage for the development of modernist Islam in Russia. Of particular interest is Kefeli’s emphasis on the role that Tatar women (both Kräshen and Muslim) played as holders and transmitters of Sufi knowledge. Today, she notes, intellectuals and mullahs in Tatarstan seek to revive both Sufi and modernist traditions to counteract new expressions of Islam and promote a purely Tatar Islam aware of its specificity in a post-Christian and secular environment.

Other entrepreneurial tailors of Elyshevo opened their own shops in Kazan,
Chistopol', or in the Orenburg province, ... Once he became more capable, the
young boy sewed linings of garments in winter clothes and then cut the cloth
himself.

On Becoming Cuban

Identity, Nationality, and Culture

With this masterful work, Louis A. Perez Jr. transforms the way we view Cuba and its relationship with the United States. On Becoming Cuban is a sweeping cultural history of the sustained encounter between the peoples of the two countries and of the ways that this encounter helped shape Cubans' identity, nationality, and sense of modernity from the early 1850s until the revolution of 1959. Using an enormous range of Cuban and U.S. sources--from archival records and oral interviews to popular magazines, novels, and motion pictures--Perez reveals a powerful web of everyday, bilateral connections between the United States and Cuba and shows how U.S. cultural forms had a critical influence on the development of Cubans' sense of themselves as a people and as a nation. He also articulates the cultural context for the revolution that erupted in Cuba in 1959. In the middle of the twentieth century, Perez argues, when economic hard times and political crises combined to make Cubans painfully aware that their American-influenced expectations of prosperity and modernity would not be realized, the stage was set for revolution.

This break with the past gave rise to a new generation of merchants, managers,
and entrepreneurs. ''Even in the lower classes, among the humble citizens, a true
revolution has been in progress. At present a large number of young men are ...

Becoming America

We must congratulate Butler for [bringing] under control (a] profusion of scholarship and [making] sense of it in fewer than 250 pages. His book is a tour de force ... Compelling and readable. Table of Contents: Introduction 1. Peoples 2. Economy 3. Politics 4. Things Material 5. Things Spiritual 6. 1776 Notes Acknowledgments Index Reviews of this book: In a thoughtful, erudite survey of colonial history, Butler traces the formation of many of America's modern social characteristics in the crucible of pre-Revolutionary society...Americans today think of the colonial period, if at all, as a time remote from modern America, in which society was unimaginably different from ours. Butler argues persuasively that America during the late colonial period (1680-1776) rapidly developed a variegated culture that displayed distinctive traits of modern America, among them vigorous religious pluralism, bewildering ethnic diversity, tremendous inequalities of wealth, and a materialistic society with pervasively commercial values...A sweeping, well-researched analysis of the transformative changes wrought by immigration, war, and cultural change in colonial America. --Kirkus Reviews Reviews of this book: The decades in between the Puritan-dominated 17th century and the market-revolutionizing early 19th century were a formative period, [Butler] suggests, during which a distinctly 'American' society--and, as Butler would have it, the first 'modern' society--developed...Butler's original analysis is important reading on 18th-century America; he shows that the colonies were developing distinct ways of spending, building, praying, decorating and politicking even then--a cultural revolution that anticipated the political revolution that was to follow. --Publishers Weekly A terrific book, filled with human interest and the kind of detail that makes abstractions meaningful. A commendable weaving together of themes and materials from political history, social history, and cultural history. Butler offers us a firm foundation for further exploration. --Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, Harvard University An engrossing, important book. It promises to provoke and inspire. Jon Butler's Becoming America is an ambitious examination of Britain's mainland North American colonies between 1680 and 1770. The scope of the book is really quite broad; it covers nearly a century of development across thirteen widely varying colonies, and considers six formidably large aspects of early American life: migration and settlement, politics, economics, religion, the material world, and the origins of the Revolution. Butler's book revolves around, and advances, a coherent, critical thesis: that 'the vast social, economic, political, and cultural changes' of this period 'created a distinctively 'American' society.' The surprise of the book is that this society was modern; indeed, as Butler claims, it was the world's 'first modern society.' The world Butler portrays in his often vivid, and always highly readable prose is an America of fantastic diversity, an America of many languages, different customs, and dissenting practices of piety. Butler's Becoming America is a world of bustling politics and economic revolutions. --Jill Lepore, Boston University In yet another provocative challenge to the conventional wisdom, Jon Butler argues for the 'modernity' of eighteenth-century America. He provides a lively and readable account of how transatlantic commerce, participatory politics, religious pluralism, and ethnic and racial diversity put colonials on the path to 'becoming Americans' during the decades before the Revolution. --Christine Heyrman, author of Southern Cross: The Beginnings of the Bible Belt

... just as a late - seventeenth - century colonization boom was beginning in
America , and colonial entrepreneurs quickly ... Huguenot immigrants to America
also were overwhelmingly young , although many old people and children had
fled ...