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Religion in Theory and Practice

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“Religion” in Theory and Practice follows on from Russell T. McCutcheon’s book Entanglements: Marking Place in the Field of Religion (Equinox Publishing, 2014) by offering an overview of the current state of theory in the academic study of religion, and examining a variety of practical sites where critical scholarship is implemented but also challenged. Although addressed to early career scholars, this volume will also be of interest to anyone curious about why so many in the study of religion continue to assume that their object of study needs special attention.

The first section outlines McCutcheon’s broader and more recent thoughts on the current state of the field (such as the claim, by some, that it is now “post-theory”) while the second section applies the first at a variety of discrete sites within the profession, from how we approach teaching the introductory course and the ongoing problem of contingent labor to the varied readers that we can now reach with our work. The volume concludes with a third section in which twenty-one different scholars, each at an early point in their career, take the stage, offering their own views on the challenges of professionalization, job market, gaining teaching experience, and work–life balance. The volume therefore invites readers to step back from their own individual, specialized work and to consider some of the structures in which the wider field exists—and some of the things that we all might do, regardless our career stage, in response to them.

Published: Sep 4, 2018

Book Contributors


Section Chapter Authors
Introduction Russell McCutcheon
Acknowledgements Russell McCutcheon
In Theory
1. Feast and Famine in the Study of Religion Russell McCutcheon
2. Utility and Limits: On the World Religions Paradigm Russell McCutcheon
3. The Sociology of Religion or Social Theory of Religion? Russell McCutcheon
4. Redescribing Spirituality: The Strategic Use of the Solitary Identifier Russell McCutcheon
In Practice
5. Making Experts Curious About Their Expertise in the Introductory Course Russell McCutcheon
6. A Baker’s Dozen of Tough Choices Russell McCutcheon
7. There Are Advantages to Knowing Your Limits: On Making a Difference for Non-Tenure Track Colleagues Russell McCutcheon
8. Perhaps (Not) Love… Russell McCutcheon
9. So You’re Not a Priest? Identifying the Scholar of Religion Russell McCutcheon
10. Why I Blog Russell McCutcheon
In Praxis: Responses to "Theses on Professionalization"
Preamble Russell McCutcheon
Introduction Matt Sheedy
Response to Thesis 1 Matthew Dougherty
Response to Thesis 2 Tenzan Eaghll
Response to Thesis 3 Shannon Schorey
Response to Thesis 4 Caleb Simmons
Response to Thesis 5 Matt Sheedy
Response to Thesis 6 Tara Baldrick-Morrone
Response to Thesis 7 Drew Durdin
Response to Thesis 8 Jeffrey Wheatley
Response to Thesis 9 Barbara Krawcowicz
Response to Thesis 10 Emily Crews
Response to Thesis 11 Jennifer Collins-Elliott
Response to Thesis 12 Nickolas Roubekas
Response to Thesis 13 Vincent Burgess
Response to Thesis 14 Adrian Hermann
Response to Thesis 15 Kelly Baker
Response to Thesis 16 Lauren Osborne
Response to Thesis 17 Aldea Mulhern
Response to Thesis 18 Thomas Whitley
Response to Thesis 19 Sarah Kleeb
Response to Thesis 20 Charles McCrary
Response to Thesis 21 Katelyn Dykstra
End Matter
Index Russell McCutcheon


Provides an overview of the current state of the academic study of religion by exploring both its theoretical and practical dimensions. One of the merits of the book lies in the intertwining of theoretical disputations with personal anecdotes and glimpses into McCutcheon's own professional experience and pedagogical practice. Such intersections not only facilitate the digestion of conceptually rich passages, but also serve the more practical aims of the book. Most notably, they encourage a revitalisation of the field by proposing innovative strategies to the study of religion tailored to the needs of the postmodern world.
BASR Bulletin

As the humanities job market becomes increasingly precarious, books like these are indispensable guides for pragmatic strategies in the changing workplace. Religious studies scholars across higher education would benefit from reading this book because McCutcheon not only offers practical advice for succeeding in a profession that receives less tax dollar support with each passing year, but also includes descriptions of his own theoretical framework and suggestions for “best practices” in the academic study of religion throughout.

Without sparing the harsh reality that an academic career is considerably less attainable, this book will equip readers with strategies for improving the quality of one’s scholarship, for sharing those skills with students in the classroom, and ultimately working with students and colleagues alike in such a way that ensures the integrity and continued existence of religious studies as a respectable academic discipline.
Reading Religion