Book: On the Subject of Religion
Chapter: 1. Main Paper: On the Grammar of Teaching Religious Studies
This essay explores what is at stake if we start talking about the category of religion more frequently in active, verb form within the classroom setting. The underlying presumption is that students (not to mention the scholars who teach them) are so steeped in perennialist assumptions that a grammar disruption may be a useful tool in helping to generate critical thought. Talking about religion as if it is a "thing" may inadvertently reinforce essentialist ideas of a cohesive, sui generis entity, but shifting our language to describe religion as an active process places attention on the very real social and cultural acts that religious speech is used to achieve. The essay considers the implications of using this type of speech in light of the ideal critical goals of the religious studies classroom while also offering classroom-tested case studies of how this language shift might be realized.