Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Interview with Lynne Hume, Co-author of The Varieties of Magical Experience

Why is the publication of The Varieties of Magical Experience: Indigenous, Medieval and Modern Magic important at this moment in history?

The contemporary world is much more open to discussion about spiritual experiences as people question the previous rigid dogmatic approach taken by some religious bodies. As well, in these exciting times, there is more interest in the interface between science and spirituality. This book takes magical experiences seriously, using an anthropological and historical approach to the topic, pointing out that these experiences are indeed part of what it is to be human. 

What drew you to the topic of The Varieties of Magical Experience ? How does the topic relate to you personally?

Both of us have been interested in the topic for many years. For me personally, my interest began in my teenage years and it has never diminished. During the last 30 years I have passionately pursued what some might describe as "anomalous" experiences: listening to and reading about others’ experiential accounts, and comparing them with my own. In fact, it has become the focus of my personal and academic life.

What did you learn in the course of your research; what discovery surprised you the most?

My research only served to reinforce in me the position that there is so much more than the mundane physical world. What surprises me is that there are still people who think that our physical world is all that exists. 

What challenges did you face in your research or writing?

Structuring the book to fit in all the information in a coherent form was somewhat of a challenge.

What do you want readers to learn from your book?

I would like to see readers expand their interest in any or all of the topics we have discussed—to learn, discuss, critique, and to be open without being gullible. 

If your book inspired one change in the world, what would you want it to be? 

Tolerance and open discussion.

Where might others focus their energies in following on your work in this area?

I think it would be useful to follow connections between science and spirituality, particularly quantum physics.

What are you working on now?

I have just completed a book that looks at dress and religion, how people express their beliefs through the body and how they "dress" their bodies (including the nude body) to articulate those beliefs. It is in production now: The Religious Life of Dress, which should be available early 2014.

Lynne Hume is an Anthropologist and Associate Professor in Studies in Religion at The University of Queensland, Australia. She has researched and published on Australian indigenous culture, contemporary Paganism, new religious movements, altered states of consciousness, and anthropology. Her other book publications are: Portals: Opening Doorways to Other Realities through the Senses (2007); Ancestral Power: The Dreaming, Consciousness and Aboriginal Australians (2002); Witchcraft and Paganism in Australia (1997); Popular Spiritualities: The Politics of Contemporary Enchantment (with Kathleen McPhillips) (2006). She has also published work in numerous academic journals and encyclopedias.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Interview with Dr. Glenn Starks, Author of Sexual Misconduct and the Future of Mega-Churches

Why is the publication of Sexual Misconduct and the Future of Mega-Churches: How Large Religious Organizations Go Astray important at this moment in history—that is, how does it relate to today's news headlines or connect to contemporary questions or issues?

This book is timely given the social, cultural and religious shifts occurring in the United States. Spirituality and secularism are being combined in religion to attract younger generations who have different values and ethics than previous generations. This has led to churches integrating secular worship practices with traditional. Unfortunately, a negative impact is that ministers and other church leaders are increasingly engaging in questionable activities such as misuse of church funds and sexual misconduct. Over just the past few years, news reports of mega-church leaders engaging in sex with minors and other church members has garnered national and international attention. While this has happened for centuries in some established religious, its occurrence in mega-churches is more damaging given the church leader is often indistinguishable from the church. The leader founded the church, often serves as its sole face to the community, and in many cases has full control over the church’s operations. Acts of sexual misconduct by that single leader can do irreparable damage to the church’s image, including causing it to lose all of its members.

What drew you to the topic of Sexual Misconduct and the Future of Mega-Churches: How Large Religious Organizations Go Astray? How does the topic relate to you personally?

I was drawn to this topic due to the growing number of cases of sexual misconduct by mega-church leaders, and how these cases have captured national and international attention. Media coverage and public outrage focus on punishing the perpetrator. However, little is discussed on how to combat these incidents, what can be done to support the victims, or how these incidents are negatively impacting the societal view of religion. This book addresses all of these topics, and addresses sexual misconduct from all aspects – from why perpetrators commit these offenses, the role of mega-churches in addressing offenses, and how victims should be supported. The topic personally relates to me because I was raised with church being a prominent part of my personal and family life. While I have never personally been a victim of a minister’s sexual abuse, I know people who have. Some have taken years to deal with personal struggles as a result of an incident that happened during their youth.

What did you learn in the course of your research; what discovery surprised you the most?

The primary thing that I learned, and was the most shocked by, was first the stance some churches have taken with a lack of proactive and reactive strategies to deal with sexual misconduct by church leaders. In many cases, the power of the leader paralyzes the church’s ability to address the issue and continue functioning. Second, I was surprised to find that many churches still protect the leader even after there is overwhelming evidence of misconduct. The final issue I was surprised to learn was just how wealthy these church leaders are. While the churches are non-profit organizations, some leaders live extremely extravagant lifestyles.

What challenges did you face in your research or writing?

The greatest challenge I faced was struggling to maintain a neutral view of the issue while researching cases dealing with heinous acts committed against children and adult victims with psychological problems. The research entailed detailing chronological events of the acts both during and after the offenses. As a researcher and writer, I have been trained to maintain a neutral and factual stance on complex issues. However, I struggled with emotions and personal bias during my research and found myself having to ensure that struggle did not become apparent in the tone of the book.

What do you want readers to learn from your book?

This book is an in-depth analysis of a prominent social issue that has major impact on the religious framework of the nation. Mega-churches and their leaders have immense influence on millions of people. Readers should analyze each area of this issue from the standpoint of perpetrators, churches, and victims.  I also want the readers to analyze the ways sexual misconduct occurs not only because of the motives and means of the perpetrator. Too often it additionally results because individuals, organizations and even society provide perpetrators the opportunity, continual means and even support to commit acts. This occurs not only in churches, but also in schools and professional settings. How this occurs is revealed throughout the book.

If your book inspired one change in the world, what would you want it to be?

I truly hope this book exposes the necessity of religious organizations to take more responsibility in ensuring the safety of children, people with mental and physical challenges, and those dealing with personal issues. Religious organizations exist by virtue of an enormous amount of power and authority resting in one or a few individuals. Therein exists just as enormous a responsibility to ensure proper oversight of those individuals wielding this power. Religion is based on faith in a higher being or power, but this unwavering faith and trust is not meant to be bestowed on a human leader.

Where might others focus their energies in following on your work in this area?

Continual research is needed on the psychology of sexual offenders, particularly those in positions of power. Extensive research has been done to report incidents of sexual misconduct in the Roman Catholic Church, politics and schools. However, this research has focused mainly on just documenting the incidents and not on delving into the psychology of the perpetrators.

What are you working on now?

I am currently working on two projects. The first is completing a two-volume series on issues placing African Americans at risk socially, culturally, politically, economically, and mentally and physically. While African Americans have made great strides toward social equality, they are still adversely impacted in such areas as having a greater propensity for certain health issues, facing discrimination in the justice system, and being the victims of various types of violence. I am also working on a book that will provide strategies to youth in attaining educational success at the college level. 

Glenn L. Starks, PhD, holds a doctorate from Virginia Commonwealth University in public policy and administration. He has written several books and articles on government, leadership, and management, including ABC-CLIO's Historically Black Colleges and Universities: An Encyclopedia; How Your Government Really Works: A Topical Encyclopedia of the Federal Government; and Thurgood Marshall: A Biography. Starks has over 20 years of experience working in the federal government and has taught graduate courses in public administration.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Modern Genocide: Understanding Causes and Consequences

ABC-CLIO launched its newest online solution Modern Genocide: Understanding Causes and Consequences in March. This full, rich, comprehensive online resource provides definitive expertise on the sensitive and hard-to-teach topic of genocide. The reason it is such a necessary and accessible work is simple: the term genocide has become so widely used in recent times that it is now largely misunderstood, and even misapplied.

ABC-CLIO has assembled a collection of articles and teaching materials from a wide range of internationally-recognized scholars who are all known experts in their various fields. Ranging chronologically from the genocide of the Hereros in 1904 to that of Darfur in 2004 (and beyond), Modern Genocide is a comprehensive and fully integrated  resource for educators at all levels. There are few areas that are not explored. Most importantly, given the complexity with which both the theory and the reality of genocide is understood in today’s world, the many resources to be found in Modern Genocide provide a way for educators to chart a path through the labyrinth of often confused applications of the term. Modern Genocide is more than a useful tool; it is an indispensable guide to anyone who is charged with the responsibility of teaching this major social and political problem of our times.

Genocide was the 20th century’s greatest ongoing man-made catastrophe, arguably a greater disaster than environmental degradation or nuclear proliferation. It is a worse disaster than war, with which it is often linked but from which it can be separated. Genocide speaks of human dreams; it addresses questions of how people perceive one another, and influences their behavior when they interact. Above all, it conceives of humanity’s future in light of how people view themselves – superior, intelligent, vibrant, and perfectible. To attain that future, so-called “surplus humans” have had to be sacrificed, and as regimes around the world have tried to achieve their version of the dream innumerable murders have taken place.

Sadly, genocide does not just emerge out of nowhere. The violence required to achieve it might be sudden, but in all cases there are always a number of preliminary steps on the road to the ultimate “solution” of a regime’s “problem” target. Such steps invariably involve processes of identification, alienation, isolation and oppression, prior to the introduction of the decisive stage of the target group's removal. The 20th century saw the continued refinement of such processes, processes that were refined by the Nazis and developed throughout the rest of the century, right up to the 1990s in the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda.

All cases of genocide stem from a long-standing obsession on the part of the perpetrators with the physical, political, social, psychological, religious or cultural differences of the victim group – differences so great and irreconcilable that the perpetrators can see no solution to their situation than elimination of the “other” through mass annihilation. The objectives of those who shaped the post-1945 agenda increasingly became diluted as the 20th century wore on, until “Never Again!” became replaced by “Ever Again;” until the second half of the century began to appear as nothing other than a continual period of killing – in large wars, small wars, civil wars, and sometimes when there was no war at all.

As one of the Genocide Advisory Board, I can say that working on this project has been one of the biggest team efforts in the field of Genocide Studies I can recall. It is certain the biggest in which I have ever been involved. It involved a large number of internationally-recognized scholars, all experts in their respective fields. I commend Modern Genocide to one and all, knowing that it is as definitive as any work of this nature could ever be.

In recognition of Holocaust Awareness Month, ABC-CLIO will be providing unlimited access to this important resource to libraries across the country from March 18th through the month of April. Visit to gain access for your institution.

Paul R. Bartrop, PhD, one of the world’s leading scholars of the Holocaust and genocide, is professor of history and director of the Center for Judaic, Holocaust, and Human Rights Studies at Florida Gulf Coast University. He was the 2011-2012 Ida E. King Distinguished Visiting Professor of Holocaust and Genocide Studies at Richard Stockton College, New Jersey. Prior to this appointment, he was head of the Department of History at Bialik College, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia between 2003 and 2011, teaching a range of subjects in history, Jewish studies, international studies, and comparative genocide studies. He is a member of the International Association of Genocide Scholars and a past president of the Australian Association of Jewish Studies. His latest published work is A Biographical Encyclopedia of Contemporary Genocide: Portraits of Evil and Good (ABC-CLIO, 2012).

Thursday, March 14, 2013

ABC-CLIO Online Solutions Gets Us Thinking About Women's History Month

Did the protective legislation passed to aid women early in the 20th century help or hurt the cause of women's rights?

As we celebrate Women's History Month, ABC-CLIO has added a new Enduring Question to its American History online resource to present engaging arguments and stimulate critical thinking on a unique issue in women's history.

Late in the 20th century, a debate emerged in American higher education about what became known as consensual relationship policies. Colleges, universities, and their governing bodies began writing and passing—or imposing—rules on whether professors and students could date. Few would disagree that they should avoid that kind of personal relationship when functioning as teacher and pupil because that would create the possibility of the professor using power over students for the wrong purposes. But it prompted other questions: whether adults should be regulated in that manner, and whether the need to report such relationships violated their right to privacy.

But scholars noted an interesting oddity in the debate. The language used in the discussion almost always referred to the professor as him and the student as her, as opposed to the increasingly common he or she or s/he. Why?  Defenders of these policies argued that women students required protection from predatory male professors. One male professor asked his class about this, and a young woman in the class burst out laughing and said, "Who would think I need protection from you?"

A century before that conversation, the answer to that question would have been: progressives and those who believed in what seemed like enlightened public opinion. During the Progressive Era of the first two decades of the 20th century, legislators tried to enact protection for women workers based on a sincere desire to improve society, but also on a belief that because women differed physically from men, they required special treatment. However well-intentioned they may have been, did these laws help or hurt the cause of women's rights?

Three experts on women's history address this question on ABC-CLIO's American History.
If you are not already a subscriber, click here for a free 30-day trial and receive instant access to ABC-CLIO's entire collection of online resources.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

New Release! Cutting Costs: Successful Strategies for Improving Productivity

I put writing a book about cost cutting and productivity improvement on my business-related bucket list after attending a presentation where the speaker said, “Don’t die with a book in you.” 

The topic was an easy choice because I have been involved with cost-cutting and productivity-improvement projects my entire business career. The topic has been, is now, and I believe will continue to be relevant.

The book’s main message is that any organization can plan and implement a successful cost-cutting and productivity-improvement project with the proper focus. It is far better to initiate a program rather than have one imposed on you. What an organization does with cost savings is the key to make meaningful improvements and be more successful.

The highlight of my research for the book was discovering how differently consultants approach a similar project. Consultants readily shared the positive results of projects they performed, but they were not as forthcoming to discuss their methodology. Generally the different approaches consultants used to perform the same project included addressing it from the financial side, the operations side, and from the customer service side.

One important thing I learned is that I would have benefited certain clients if I had learned and employed Kaizen techniques, because the results achieved by an experienced Kaizen consultant were generally consistently good.

I have been gratified by the positive reaction to my book. Surprisingly, readers liked it for different reasons. Some liked the common sense axioms and philosophies; some liked the examples of successful projects described by consultants and managers, while others liked the table of contents, because it describes the topics included which makes it easy to select and read various sections.

If I am fortunate enough to write a second edition of the book, I already know ways that I will improve it.

My next writing effort will be an essay about the experiences I had on my first consulting assignment as a neophyte consultant. 

Fred H. Neu is a certified management consultant with over 35 years experience in consulting and executive management, having worked on numerous projects in the United States, Canada, Puerto Rico, and Europe helping clients be more successful. Neu was manager of the cost-reduction/productivity-improvement practice for a major international CPA and consulting firm, has been vice president of finance for a private university (as a consultant), and acted as vice president of distribution for an industry-leading manufacturing company. He holds a bachelor's degree from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Interview with Russell Lawson, Editor of Encyclopedia of American Indian Issues Today

We spoke with Russell Lawson recently about his new book published by Greenwood this month, Encyclopedia of American Indian Issues Today, and asked him about approaching this subject as a scholar:

People in America face issues unique to their particular time and place. American Indians, because of their unique historical circumstances, face issues that are unique to them. There has often been a great divide of understanding between white Americans and American Indians, which I hope this encyclopedia helps to clarify, and to bridge the gap in understanding between people of different ethnic and racial backgrounds.  
I wanted to write this book because I am a white professor who teaches at a college that has a historical mission to serve American Indians. I have learned, over my tenure of twelve years at Bacone College, of the many issues facing American Indians, and I wanted to more formally explore them by means of this encyclopedia. 

What was the highlight of your research? 

The highlight of researching this book has been to discover so much about the experiences and culture of American Indians. I have been engaged for over a decade in learning about American Indian culture as a professor at Bacone College in Oklahoma; researching this book has really expanded my understanding of the many the issues that I have heard American Indian faculty and students talk about at Bacone.

How did your research change your outlook on the issues facing American Indians?

Most importantly, I learned that the American people (and Canadians) as whole, and the U.S. federal government and individual state governments (and Canadian government), have implemented a host of programs to help American Indians to reverse the problems that were a consequence of the negative historical experience of colonization during previous centuries in North America. Yes, American Indians (and Canadian First Nations) were exploited in the past, but Americans and Canadians are in the twenty-first century working hard to embrace American Indians as equals.

How have people reacted to your book? 

Some people, especially American Indians, are not convinced that a white American can understand American Indian issues. But I have worked hard to empathize with American Indians to understand what has been their unique historical experience. 

What's next for you?

I have another book appearing at the end of this year, which examines the experiences of a French scientist who journeyed to Northern Mexico in the late 1820s, where he came to study and know the various tribes of Northern Mexico and Southern Texas. The book is Frontier Naturalist: Jean Louis Berlandier and the Exploration of Northern Mexico and Texas, published by University of New Mexico Press. 

Russell M. Lawson, Ph.D., is professor of history at Bacone College, Muskogee, OK. His published works include two previous encyclopedia published by ABC-Clio, Poverty in America: An Encyclopedia (co-written with Ben Lawson) and Science in the Ancient World: An Encyclopedia. Lawson was Visiting Fulbright Research Chair in Transnational Studies at Brock University in 2010. He holds a doctorate in history from the University of New Hampshire.