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Fabricating Origins

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Fabricating Origins builds on a series of posts that originally appeared, in earlier forms, at the blog for Culture on the Edge. In these posts each member of the group focused on the problem of origins, examining how we repeatedly conjure up an authorized past that suits the needs of the continually changing present. Fabricating Origins presses these short studies further by inviting ten early career scholars to each work with Culture on the Edge by applying, extending, even critiquing the group, to further illustrate for readers how talk of origins in the present is so much more interesting that being preoccupied with long past origins themselves. The volume, like all books in the Working with Culture on the Edge series, is introduced and concluded by original, theoretically challenging but engaging essays. It provides a selection of ten main articles which draw on a variety of examples to make the case, followed by original commentaries on each, all of which are pithy but substantive. Although not a textbook, and while challenging for any reader unaccustomed to making the switch from origins to the discourse on origins, Fabricating Origins is especially aimed at the early career reader. The volume therefore includes an annotated set of suggested readings on how to rethink origins as the product of contemporary and always tactically useful talk and action.

Published: May 15, 2015

Book Contributors


Section Chapter Authors
Preface Russell McCutcheon
Introduction Midnight in the Study of Origins Russell McCutcheon
1 Buying Origins
1. Our Sofas, Ourselves Leslie Dorrough Smith
2. Our Stuff, Our Stories Kat Bailey
2 Techniques of Then and Now
3. When the Stakes Are High Vaia Touna
4. High Stakes on the High Court Mike Graziano
3 Pick a Past, Any Past
5. The Politics of Choice Craig Martin
6. The Origins Games Karen de Vries
4 Selling Identities
7. One Coffee Bean at a Time Monica R. Miller
8. Marketing Christian Roots Steffen Fuehrding
5 We Are What We Choose to Recall
9. Remember the Ala-what-now? K. Merinda Simmons
10. We Are What Archive Elonda Clay
6 Constituting and Contesting the Nation
11. Patricide and the Nation Steven Ramey
12. Our Disparate Fathers Alexis Glenn
7 Knowing When Not to Laugh
13. Searching for Chimaeras Vaia Touna
14. “A Joke’s a Very Serious Thing” Tara Baldrick-Morrone
8 The Good Old Days
15. The Way We Were…? K. Merinda Simmons
16. The Way We Worked… James LoRusso
9 A Little Ambiguity Goes a Long Way
17. Coloring Columbus Leslie Dorrough Smith
18. Tracing the Visible and Invisible Martha Smith-Roberts
10 A Genealogy of the Past
19. Writing a History of Origins Russell McCutcheon
20. Competing Christs Brad Stoddard
Origins Today Russell McCutcheon
End Matter
References Russell McCutcheon
Suggested Films Russell McCutcheon
Suggested Readings Russell McCutcheon
Index Russell McCutcheon


On the surface, the book appears more cultural studies than religious studies, but this is in fact the book's greatest strength: the essays force us not only to recognise the persuasiveness of origins narratives, but also to consider how intertwined religion is with the other social institutions.
Religious Studies Review