Attached Critique: Paranoid and Reparative Studies of Religion

In: Method & Theory in the Study of Religion
Tommy Woodward PhD Candidate, Department of Religion, Florida State University Tallahassee, FL USA

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In this article, I examine debates about the relationship between critique and normativity in the study of religion. One position in this debate bars the critic from any involvement in normative claims; the other finds that critique fails to achieve the detached status necessary for nonnormative argumentation. I turn to parallel discussions concerning the critical and postcritical found in literary scholarship, particularly Sedgwick (2003 [1997]; 2007) and Felski (2015), to suggest a path forward. Where Felski proposes a rejection of critique on account of its failed production of detachment, Sedgwick maintains the usefulness of critique for specific goals. I argue that critique is always already normative. Its effectiveness at communicating and promoting the normative claims that already motivate it requires an attached critic, who cannot imagine themself at a distance from the situations they analyze.

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