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Book: On the Subject of Religion

Chapter: Response: Underground Religious Studies: Intercepted Dispatches

DOI: 10.1558/equinox.41079


Set 37 years in the future, this paper is a work of speculative, epistolary fiction. It imagines a world in which the impulse to transform the study of religion into a professional and bureaucratic discipline vis-à-vis religious literacy and its impact on civic health and workplace proficiency has become the animating purpose of religious studies. As a result, the need for professional experts in religious studies has sky-rocketed with a multitude of positions in the private sector, government, and census work. The unnamed author of the letter writes to a young protégé to explain that the study of religion used to be an academic venture and describes key events in the early decades of the twenty-first century that led to its shift to a pragmatic field tasked with promoting governmental surveillance. The piece implies that scholars aligned with the NAASR approach to religion studies have been forced underground and a network of rogue scholars continue the “work of historical, critical, and social scientific approaches to the study of religion, as well as a relentlessly reflexive critique of the theories, methods, and categories used in such study.

Chapter Contributors

  • Rebekka King ( - rking) 'Middle Tennessee State University'