Tisa Wenger and Sylvester A. Johnson, "Religion and US Empire: Critical New Histories" (NYU Press, 2022)


The United States has been an empire since the time of its founding, and this empire is inextricably intertwined with American religion. Religion and US Empire: Critical New Histories (NYU Press, 2022) examines the relationship between these dynamic forces throughout the country’s history and into the present. The volume will serve as the most comprehensive and definitive text on the relationship between US empire and American religion.

Whereas other works describe religion as a force that aided or motivated American imperialism, this comprehensive new history reveals how imperialism shaped American religion—and how religion historically structured, enabled, challenged, and resisted US imperialism. Chapters move chronologically from the eighteenth century to the twenty-first, ranging geographically from the Caribbean, Michigan, and Liberia, to Oklahoma, Hawai’i, and the Philippines. Rather than situating these histories safely in the past, the final chapters ask readers to consider present day entanglements between capitalism, imperialism, and American religion. Religion and US Empire is an urgent work of history, offering the context behind a relationship that is, for better or worse, very much alive today.

Tisa Wenger is Associate Professor of American Religious History at Yale Divinity School. She is the author of We Have a Religion: The 1920s Pueblo Indian Dance Controversy and American Religious Freedom (2009) and Religious Freedom: The Contested History of an American Ideal (2017).

Sylvester A. Johnson is Professor in the Department of Religion and Culture at Virginia Tech, and Assistant Vice Provost the Center for Humanities. He is the author of African American Religions, 1500–2000: Colonialism, Democracy, and Freedom and co-editor of FBI and Religion: Faith and National Security Before and After 9/11.

This episode’s host, Jacob Barrett, is currently a PhD student in the Department of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in the Religion and Culture track. For more information, visit his website thereluctantamericanist.com

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Jacob Barrett

Studying religion, theorizing about governance, and making use of computational analysis. @jakebarrett25 and https://thereluctantamericanis...

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