views updated

Conser, Walter H., Jr. 1949-

PERSONAL:

Born April 4, 1949. Education: University of California, Irvine, B.A.; Brown University, A.M., Ph.D.

ADDRESSES:

Office—University of North Carolina, 601 S. College Rd., Wilmington, NC 28403-3297. E-mail—[email protected]ncw.edu.

CAREER:

Writer and educator. University of North Carolina, Wilmington, professor of history and of philosophy and religion.

WRITINGS:

AS EDITOR

(With William G. McLoughlin and Virginia Duffy McLoughlin) The Cherokee Ghost Dance: Essays on the Southeastern Indians, 1789-1861, Mercer University Press (Macon, GA), 1984.

(With Walter H. Conser, Jr., Ronald M. McCarthy, David J. Toscano, and Gene Sharp) Resistance, Politics, and the American Struggle for Independence, 1765-1775, L. Rienner Publishers (Boulder, CO), 1986.

(With Summer B. Twiss) Experience of the Sacred: Readings in the Phenomenology of Religion, University Press of New England (Hanover, NH), 1992.

The Cherokees and Christianity, 1794-1870: Essays on Acculturation and Cultural Persistence, University of Georgia Press (Athens, GA), 1994.

(With Sumner B. Twiss) Religious Diversity and American Religious History: Studies in Traditions and Cultures, University of Georgia Press (Athens, GA), 1997.

(With Rodger M. Payne) Southern Crossroads: Perspectives on Religion and Culture, University Press of Kentucky (Lexington, KY), 2008.

OTHER

Church and Confession: Conservative Theologians in Germany, England, and America, 1815-1866, Mercer University Press (Macon, GA), 1984.

God and the Natural World: Religion and Science in Antebellum America, University of South Carolina Press (Columbia, SC), 1993.

Sacred Spaces: Architecture and Religion in Historic Wilmington, Bellamy Mansion Museum of History and Design Arts (Wilmington, NC), 1999.

A Coat of Many Colors: Religion and Society along the Cape Fear River of North Carolina, University Press of Kentucky (Lexington, KY), 2006.

SIDELIGHTS:

Walter H. Conser, Jr., received his bachelor of arts degree from the University of California, Irvine, and both his A.M. and Ph.D. from Brown University. Conser serves as professor of philosophy and religion as well as professor of history for the University of North Carolina, Wilmington, where he specializes in religion in America. Conser has edited and authored several texts with content ranging from ethnographical religious studies to historical examinations of church and state. His published works include Church and Confession: Conservative Theologians in Germany, England, and America, 1815-1866, The Cherokee Ghost Dance: Essays on the Southeastern Indians, 1789-1861, Resistance, Politics, and the American Struggle for Independence, 1765-1775, Experience of the Sacred: Readings in the Phenomenology of Religion, God and the Natural World: Religion and Science in Antebellum America, The Cherokees and Christianity, 1794-1870: Essays on Acculturation and Cultural Persistence, Religious Diversity and American Religious History: Studies in Traditions and Cultures, Sacred Spaces: Architecture and Religion in Historic Wilmington, A Coat of Many Colors: Religion and Society along the Cape Fear River of North Carolina, and Southern Crossroads: Perspectives on Religion and Culture.

Conser illustrates his particular interest in Native American studies and the relationship of some Native Americans with religion in The Cherokee Ghost Dance, released by Mercer University Press in 1984. The text contains "eighteen essays by [William G.] McLoughlin that appeared originally between 1973 and 1983 in a wide variety of journals," according to a review by Bruce David Forbes for the Western Historical Quarterly. The book explores topics such as the Cherokees' nationalistic evolution, including their use of a particular religious exercise, the ghost dance, as a means of reviving their religiosity, and the Indians' relationship with Anglo missionaries and settlers. Conser edited this volume with William G. McLoughlin and Virginia Duffy McLoughlin, and Charles Hudson's review for American Anthropologist, New Series, claimed that it is "a rich book" that deals "with the Cherokees' political struggle and with the way in which the missionaries who worked among them came to terms with Black slavery and Indian Removal. McLoughlin's main interest is in the missionaries who labored among the Cherokees in the late 18th and early 19th centuries." Conser also edited The Cherokees and Christianity, 1794-1870, a 2004 publication, which builds upon McLoughlin's writings regarding the Native Americans' incorporation of and reactions to Christianity. Conser organized essays in the text that discuss "the debate over Indian origins, the emergence of a syncretic mythology combining both Christian and indigenous narratives, the emergence of an authentic Cherokee Christianity, and the 1867 Cherokee ghost dance," according to a review in the Journal of Southern History by Lee Irwin.

In 1997, with Sumner B. Twiss, Cosner edited a treatise on the role of religion in America's history and culture, Religious Diversity and American Religious History. The text "deals with current issues in the study of the author's area of expertise" and "the result is a highly provocative paradigm for regional studies," noted reviewer Peter W. Williams in his contribution to the American Historical Review. Taking a larger approach to religious studies in American history, Robert Hartje observed in an essay for the Historian, Conser provides "for new scholarship about the antebellum United States" in God and the Natural World. Specifically, Conser explores events taking place in the United States that occur within the same era as the scientific discoveries of Charles Darwin. Hartje wrote: "Darwin seemed to close the door on providential will as a determinable factor in national behavior. Instead, he suggested a new world view built on a positivism that called for natural rather than divine causes." Conser examines American religious history in this context of Darwinian enlightenment and its marginalization of conventional religiosity. Michael O'Donovan-Anderson remarked: "Without in any way underestimating the challenge which scientific theory posed to a religious account of the cosmos, Conser reveals the relation between science and religion to be much more complicated and interesting than the simple antagonisms of popular imaginings," in his article for the Journal of the History of Medicine.

Likewise, Conser's A Coat of Many Colors examines religious life in the United States, but he limits his examination entirely to North Carolina. In a review for the Journal of Southern Religion, Luke E. Harlow reflected, "Conser's main contention is that southeastern North Carolina's history serves as a microcosm for that of the South, if not the nation." Through the historical study of the region's racial diversity, architecture, and institutions, Conser extrapolates the region's history into a national context and, according to Alan D. Watson in a Catholic Historical Review essay, "considers the dichotomous tension between the traditionalist and modernist approaches to religion," which results in a rejection of hierarchical authority in favor of an individualistic paradigm.

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

American Anthropologist, New Series, September 1, 1986, Charles Hudson, review of The Cherokee Ghost Dance: Essays on the Southeastern Indians, 1789-1861, p. 740.

American Historical Review, October 1, 1985, Michael D. Clark, review of Church and Confession: Conservative Theologians in Germany, England,and America, 1815-1866, p. 902; April 1, 1995, Steven M. Stowe, review of God and the Natural World: Religion and Science in Antebellum America, p. 584; June 1, 1999, Peter W. Williams, review of Religious Diversity and American Religious History: Studies in Traditions and Cultures, p. 890; October 1, 2007, Mark G. Toulouse, review of A Coat of Many Colors: Religion and Society along the Cape Fear River of North Carolina, p. 1189.

Catholic Historical Review, July 1, 2007, Alan D. Watson, review of A Coat of Many Colors, p. 712.

Choice: Current Reviews for Academic Libraries, September 1, 1993, M. Swartz, review of Experience of the Sacred: Readings in the Phenomenology of Religion, p. 146; May 1, 1994, S.C. Pearson, review of God and the Natural World, p. 1453; May 1, 1994, review of God and the Natural World, p. 1453; September 1, 1995, G. Siegler, review of The Cherokees and Christianity, 1794-1870: Essays on Acculturation and Cultural Persistence, p. 174; February 1, 2007, C.H. Lippy, review of A Coat of Many Colors, p. 1040.

Christian Century, April 2, 1986, John E. Groh, review of Church and Confession, p. 334.

Church History, December 1, 1994, Carey J. Gifford, review of God and the Natural World, p. 641; March 1, 1996, Robert H. Keller, review of The Cherokees and Christianity, 1794-1870, p. 130; December 1, 1998, Charles H. Lippy, review of Religious Diversity and American Religious History, p. 805; June 1, 2007, Suzanne Geissler, review of A Coat of Many Colors, p. 452.

English Historical Review, October 1, 1987, W.R. Ward, review of Church and Confession, p. 1060.

Historian, January 1, 1994, Robert Hartje, review of God and the Natural World, p. 378; December 22, 1995, review of God and the Natural World, p. 378.

Isis, June 1, 1995, Rodney L. Stiling, review of God and the Natural World, p. 340.

Journal of American History, September 1, 1985, Richard Carwardine, review of Church and Confession, p. 407; June 1, 1988, O.S. Ireland, review of Resistance, Politics, and the American Struggle for Independence, 1765-1775, p. 242; March 1, 1995, Theodore Dwight Bozeman, review of God and the Natural World, p. 1710; June 1, 1999, Alexis McCrossen, review of Religious Diversity and American Religious History, p. 206; March 1, 2007, Paul Harvey, review of A Coat of Many Colors, p. 1200.

Journal of Religion, April 1, 1995, Briane K. Turley, review of God and the Natural World, p. 285.

Journal of Southern History, May 1, 1988, Frederick V. Mills, review of Resistance, Politics, and the American Struggle for Independence, 1765-1775, p. 313; August 1, 1995, John Daly, review of God and the Natural World, p. 592; May 1, 1996, Lee Irwin, review of The Cherokees and Christianity, 1794-1870, p. 363.

Journal of the American Academy of Religion, September 22, 1996, Mac Linscott Ricketts, review of Experience of the Sacred, p. 654; September 1, 2000, Anne C. Rose, review of Religious Diversity and American Religious History, p. 625.

Journal of the Early Republic, June 22, 1994, Paul Goodman, review of God and the Natural World, p. 261; September 22, 1998, Beth Barton Schweiger, review of Religious Diversity and American Religious History, p. 537.

Journal of the History of Ideas, April 1, 1994, review of God and the Natural World, p. 351.

Law and History Review, March 22, 1991, A.G. Roeber, review of Resistance, Politics, and the American Struggle for Independence: 1765-1775, p. 164.

Nineteenth-Century Literature, June 1, 1994, review of God and the Natural World, p. 137.

Publishers Weekly, September 13, 1993, review of God and the Natural World, p. 38.

Theology Today, April 1, 1995, John W. Stewart, review of God and the Natural World, p. 162.

Western Historical Quarterly, October 1, 1986, Bruce David Forbes, review of The Cherokee Ghost Dance, p. 472.

ONLINE

Journal of the History of Medicine Online,http://www.cs.umd.edu/ (July 31, 2008), Michael O'Donovan-Anderson, review of God and the Natural World.

Journal of Southern Religion Online,http://jsr.fsu.edu/ (July 31, 2008), review of A Coat of Many Colors.

University of Georgia Press Web site,http://www.ugapress.org/ (July 31, 2008), review of The Cherokees and Christianity, 1794-1870.

University of North Carolina Wilmington Web site,http://www.uncwil.edu/ (July 31, 2008), author profile.

About this article

Conser, Walter H., Jr. 1949-

Updated About encyclopedia.com content Print Article Share Article