Review (and my response) to a Review of “Race and the Making of the Mormon People”

A highly eventful visit to HDS and AAR (about which I plan on writing this weekend!) and the holidays have got me behind on all things, especially documenting the goings-on of Race and the Making of the Mormon People.

But during AAR, Quincy Newell’s review of the book was posted at Reading Religion. Under the leadership of Lisa Haygood (managing editor) and the wonderful Cynthia Eller (editor) Reading Religion is quickly becoming a vital space for book reviews in the fields of religious studies. I’m honored to have my book be one of the first reviewed and featured on the site.

Here is the beginning of the review:

In Race and the Making of the Mormon People, Max Mueller argues that in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the LDS, or Mormon, Church), race, religious identity, literacy, and the creation of the archive are all connected. In his most concise encapsulation of his project, Mueller writes: “This book traces how the early Mormons attempted to enact their vision of restorative racial universalism. This book also traces the external and internal forces that led to the failure of these efforts to create a (relatively) racially inclusive people and instead resulted in creating a Mormon people whose racial particularism… became a hallmark feature of their identity” (17). As such, this book joins W. Paul Reeve’s Religion of a Different Color: Race and the Mormon Struggle for Whiteness (Oxford University Press, 2015), Angela Pulley Hudson’s Real Native Genius: How an Ex-Slave and a White Mormon Became Famous Indians (University of North Carolina Press, 2015), and other recent works in directing our attention to how Mormons constructed race and participated in broader American and European race-making projects.… 

Read the rest here.

And here is the beginning of my response.

In reading Quincy Newell’s review of Race and the Making of the Mormon People, I was reminded of René Margritte’s Treachery of Images  (also known as “Ceci n’est pas une pipe”). Margritte, the great Belgian surrealist, famously quipped that he did not paint a literal pipe with his paintbrushes, paint, and canvas. He painted a “representation” of one. “If I had written on my picture, ‘This is a pipe,’ I’d have been lying.” Newell is right that Race and the Making of the Mormon People does not, fundamentally, describe nonwhite Mormons’ “lived experiences” in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. However, the book was never intended to be a lived religion project. (I understand that Newell is working on a book about Jane Manning James that attempts a “lived religion” approach. I look forward to reading this book). Race and the Making of the Mormon People is interested in how the Mormons—both white and non-white—did not create literal lives with their pens, paper, and printing presses. They created written representations of lives: in particular, racialized ones.

Read the rest here.

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