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Key Categories in the Study of Religion

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Key Categories in the Study of Religion builds upon the groundwork laid by previous NAASR Working Papers titles in order to bring us full circle to the symbiotic relationship between context and critique. This volume assembles diverse sets of data to consider pertinent categories in which critique occurs. By looking at intentionally disparate case studies, the volume centers on four key contextual categories which stand at the heart of the academic study of religion: Citizenship and Politics, Class and Economy, Gender and Sexuality, and Race and Ethnicity. The contributors to this volume explore questions concerning how scholars construct such categories and/or critique scholars who do? Who decides how to approach the critical study of these topics? What impact does the context of a scholar’s research have on the means and method of a given critique? Using these enquiries as a starting point, Key Categories in the Study of Religion investigates the ways that method, theory, and data are mobilized via context as the primary impetus for critical analysis.

Under the purview of the aforementioned specific categories, this volume brings together diverse data domains to explore the similarities and differences that emerge when one theoretical framework moves from domain to domain. In the same way that scholars have argued against an essentialist understanding of “religion,” so too should the key categories of analysis upon which this volume focuses be employed within the matrix of their social, cultural, and ideological contexts.

Each section begins with an orienting essay that explores its category. These introductory chapters include: i) an analysis of the construction of categories in academic literature; ii) an argument either advocating or critiquing scholarship carried out in that vein; and iii) an exploration of its implications for the study of religion. Each chapter is followed by four responses authored by scholars intentionally selected to highlight diverse contexts: subjects, fields, and methods. They extend the orienting essay’s conclusions by offering novel analysis vis-à-vis their own scholarly expertise and subject matter. These chapters underscore instances of both congruence and difference to further refine our understanding of possible forms of critique relevant to each category.

Published: Oct 1, 2021

Book Contributors


Section Chapter Authors
Gender and Sexuality
1. The Field is Not One/The Body is Smart: Rethinking Theory in the Study of Religion Megan Goodwin
2. Addressing Gender Parity in Critical Pedagogy Tara Baldrick-Morrone
3. A Happy Headache: Thinking Bodies, Identity, and Method in Religious Studies Emily Crews
4. Encouraging Secular Bodies: How a “Secular-Sexual” Constellation Shapes Civil Marriage Directives in Contemporary France Jennifer Selby
5. The ‘Muscle Jew’ and Maccabean Heroism of the Jewish Legion during WWI Tim Langille
Citizenship and Politics
6. Terrorism: Religion, Paperwork, and the Contestation of State Power in the “Sovereign Citizen” Movement Michael McVicar
7. The Rohingya, Buddhism, and the Category 'Religion' Tenzan Eaghll
8. TBC Jessica Radin
9. Digital Materiality and the Production of Citizenship Lauren Griffin
10. God and Country: Citizenship, Religion, and the Limits of Secular Sovereignty Daniel Miller
Race and Ethnicity
11. Signifying “Der Rassist” in Religious Studies and the Axes of Social Difference Richard Newton
12. Reworking Our Schemes: Some Thoughts on Richard Newton's 'Signifying Der Rassist in Religious Studies and the Axes of Social Difference' Craig Prentiss
13. Of Dualisms and Doppelgängers: Mapping Ancient Minds and Bodies in Religious Studies Robyn Walsh
14. Dark S(k)in: Two Versions of Newton’s crimen oscuro Rudy Busto
15. That's a Racist Question: Interrogating Racism in the Study of American Religions Martha Smith Roberts
Class and Economy
16. Regulating Religion to Maintain the Status Quo Suzanne Owen
17. Definition, Comparison, Critique: A response to Suzanne Owen on Economy, Class and Religion Johan Strijdom
18. Who’s afraid of Class Analysis? Rethinking Identity and Class in the Study of Religion James Dennis LoRusso
19. Points of Departure: Continuity, Resistance, and Religion Thomas Carrico
20. In Search of a Higher Capital; or, Claiming “Religion” on Tax Returns Neil George