The Awkwardness of American Exceptionalism

In: Method & Theory in the Study of Religion
Constance M. Furey Professor, Department of Religious Studies, Indiana University Bloomington Bloomington, IN USA

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American exceptionalism poses particular methodological challenges for the historian of religion. This essay acknowledges the importance of privileging historical specificity, as modeled by Dana Logan’s study of America’s formative forms of governance in her recent book, Awkward Rituals, but then argues history should be put in service to theory. It does so by arguing that Logan’s own ritual theory undermines rather than reinforces American exceptionalism – an argument reinforced with comparative examples from other eras of Christian history.

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