Book: Constructing Data in Religious Studies
Chapter: 19. Research: Religious Studies Research in an Era of Neoliberalization
“Neoliberalization” is a convenient term for a number of changes that have taken place in higher education especially since the 1980s. The changes are broadly associated with the application of market principles to the operation of colleges and university. This chapter first identifies the author’s professional location within the study of religions and then turns to a concentrated consideration of the impact of these changes. It sees some positive value in the neoliberal turn, for example, in its emphasis on globalization and even in the much maligned concern with a quantitative assessment of research output. Nevertheless, it also identifies areas where a neoliberal approach has been detrimental: conceiving of higher education as a private rather than a public good, judging the importance of fields of study in terms of the number of students they attract, relying increasingly on poorly compensated contingent or adjunct faculty as an economizing measure, and determining the value of reserach on the basis of its economic return either to the academic institution or to private business. Although all academic fields are subject to these pressures, the humanities, including religious studies, are at a particular disadvantage in comparison with the STEM fields.