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In: Numen

Abstract

Based on a lecture first presented at the 2017 annual meeting of the American Academy of Religion (AAR), this paper explores the possible reasons for the continued popularity of the work of the late Huston Smith – carried out in what could be characterized as the pre-history of the North American field’s rebirth in public universities throughout the late 1960s and early 1970s. For unlike other works dating from the 1950s, which are now read, if at all, only as primary sources and thus as evidence of an earlier time in the field, his book (originally entitled The Religions of Man [1958]) presents a dated example worth considering, inasmuch as it is, for many, still the preferred classroom resource for training newcomers to the field.

In: Religion and Theology
In: Religion and Theology
A Modest Proposal on Method further documents methodological and institutional failings in the academic study of religion. This collection of essays—which includes three previously unpublished chapters—identifies the manner in which old problems (like the presumption that our object of study is a special, deeply meaningful case) yet remain in the field. But amidst the critique there are a variety of practical suggestions for how the science of religion can become methodologically even-handed and self-reflexive—the markings of a historically rigorous exercise. Each chapter is introduced and contextualized by a newly written, substantive introduction.
In: Method & Theory in the Study of Religion
In: Method & Theory in the Study of Religion

A revised version of the introduction to my own Entanglements: Marking Place in the Field of Religion (Sheffield: Equinox Publishers, 2014), this essay identifies some of the rhetorical techniques and institutional conditions that make possible the establishment of an exclusive orthodoxy in the modern academic study of religion – an orthodoxy that polices the limits of the field by determining not only what counts as legitimate methods, data, and findings but also who counts as a legitimate practitioner.

In: Religion and Theology

Abstract

This article is an analysis and critique of the jargon of authenticity that operates in both theological and humanistic studies of religion. The article argues that a form of myth making is at work in claims to such things as the 'deep meaning' of a text or even the supposedly essential, human nature all people are said to share. The article deploys its critique in a variety of sites, arguing that the discourse on authenticity-whether found in ethnic, nationalist, or hermeneutic traditions-is an all too common, socio-rhetorical technique used to construct a facade of homogenous group identity in the face of unpredictable, competing, and inevitably changeable historical situations and social interests. Instead of uncritically reproducing such discourses on authenticity, meaning, and personal experience-discourses that happen to be aligned with the scholar's political sympathies-the article argues that scholars of religion can study the 'natural history' of such mechanisms and discourses, illuminating the means whereby contingent, competing systems of credibility and meaning are established, reproduced, and contested.

In: Religion and Theology