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Claiming Identity in the Study of Religion

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Focusing on the academic study of religion, Claiming Identity in the Study of Religion is the first in a series that grapples with the historicity of identity and the social and rhetorical techniques that make claims to identity possible. In this volume, six previously published essays by scholar of religion Russell T. McCutcheon are each coupled with a new substantive commentary by North American contributors. McCutcheon’s essays highlight different identifying claims within the work of a number of leading scholars of religion. The companion contributions analyze the strategies of identification employed by the scholars whom McCutcheon discusses. Monica R. Miller provides an introduction to the volume and Steven W. Ramey provides a concluding essay. The strategies of identification highlighted and exposed in this text are further explored in the second volume in the series, The Problem of Nostalgia in the Study of Identity through a set of detailed ethnographic and historical studies that press novel ways of studying identity as an always active and ongoing process of signification.

Published: Sep 25, 2015


Section Chapter Authors
Acknowledgements Monica R. Miller
Sources Monica R. Miller
Introduction: Culture, Religion, and the Fabrication of Identities Monica R. Miller
Topic I: Claiming Identity
1. Well, Isn’t That Special?’: What We Talk about When We Talk about Identity K. Merinda Simmons
2. Will Your Cognitive Anchor Hold in the Storms of Culture? Russell T. McCutcheon
Topic II: Behind the 'A-historical'
3. Everything is a Cemetery: On the History Behind the ‘Ahistorical' Leslie Dorrough Smith
4. The Melancholy Empire Builder: The Life and Works of Mircea Eliade Russell T. McCutcheon
Topic III: Theoretical and Methodological Cake
5. Who Is the Nigger?: Strategies of Using the ‘N’ Word and Having it Both Ways Monica R. Miller
6. A Gift with Diminished Returns: On Jeff Kripal's The Serpent's Gift Russell T. McCutcheon
Topic IV: Cost of Conceptual Colonialism
7. Conceptual Colonialism: How Descriptions Carry Explanations Craig Martin
8. It’s a Lie. There’s No Truth in It! It’s a Sin!”: The Cost of Saving Others from Themselves Russell T. McCutcheon
Topic V: Cost-Benefit Analysis
9. Authorizing Identifications, Disciplining Techniques: The Affinities of Public Advocacy Steven Ramey
10. Affinities, Benefits, and Costs: The ABCs of Good Scholars Gone Public Russell T. McCutcheon
Topic VI: Limiting Engagements
11. What’s New is Old Again: The Αναπαλαίωση of Tradition Vaia Touna
12. The Resiliency of Conceptual Anachronisms: On the Limits of ‘the West’ and ‘Religion' Russell T. McCutcheon
Accidental Favorites: The Implicit in the Study of Religion Steven Ramey
End Matter
Index Monica R. Miller

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Miller and her contributing authors remind us that concepts such as "identity," "culture," and "religion," are anything but self-evident. Rather than tangible material entities, they are ghosts given form by the writer's desires.
Sean McCloud, Associate Professor of Religious Studies, University of North Carolina, Charlotte

Claiming Identity in the Study of Religion tackles some of the most formidable questions relating to the discursive construction of identity that scholars and students struggle to negotiate. Whether you find yourself nodding in agreement with these essays, or eagerly searching for weaknesses in their arguments, the book provides an accessible and invaluable entryway into theoretical challenges religious studies scholars face when making identity claims and points toward fruitful methods of dealing with questions of classification. This is a "must read" for anyone interested in identity formation.
Craig Prentiss, Professor of Religious Studies, Rockhurst University, Missouri

When religion, culture, society, identity, and other such concepts are destabilized and revealed to be dynamic, manufactured constructs, what is the academic study of religion to do? One answer, as represented by the essays in this provocative volume, is to turn to the study of processes of classification. The studies of strategies of identification contained within exemplify recent attempts to rethink the study of religion as the reflexive examination of “battles for capital and positions".
Richard J. Callahan, Jr., Associate Professor of Religious Studies, University of Missouri

This book undoubtedly… has merit as a classroom text, whether at the graduate or undergraduate level.
Reading Religion