Book: On the Subject of Religion
Chapter: Response: Underground Religious Studies: Intercepted Dispatches
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.