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Key Categories in the Study of Religion

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Key Categories in the Study of Religion builds upon the groundwork laid by previous NAASR Working Papers titles in order to bring us full circle to the symbiotic relationship between context and critique. This volume assembles diverse sets of data to consider pertinent categories in which critique occurs. By looking at intentionally disparate case studies, the volume centers on four key contextual categories which stand at the heart of the academic study of religion: Citizenship and Politics, Class and Economy, Gender and Sexuality, and Race and Ethnicity. The contributors to this volume explore questions concerning how scholars construct such categories and/or critique scholars who do? Who decides how to approach the critical study of these topics? What impact does the context of a scholar’s research have on the means and method of a given critique? Using these enquiries as a starting point, Key Categories in the Study of Religion investigates the ways that method, theory, and data are mobilized via context as the primary impetus for critical analysis.

Under the purview of the aforementioned specific categories, this volume brings together diverse data domains to explore the similarities and differences that emerge when one theoretical framework moves from domain to domain. In the same way that scholars have argued against an essentialist understanding of “religion,” so too should the key categories of analysis upon which this volume focuses be employed within the matrix of their social, cultural, and ideological contexts.

Each section begins with an orienting essay that explores its category. These introductory chapters include: i) an analysis of the construction of categories in academic literature; ii) an argument either advocating or critiquing scholarship carried out in that vein; and iii) an exploration of its implications for the study of religion. Each chapter is followed by four responses authored by scholars intentionally selected to highlight diverse contexts: subjects, fields, and methods. They extend the orienting essay’s conclusions by offering novel analysis vis-à-vis their own scholarly expertise and subject matter. These chapters underscore instances of both congruence and difference to further refine our understanding of possible forms of critique relevant to each category.

For those wishing to buy chapters only: Please note that due to the shorter extent of chapters individual Parts will be sold as a unit rather than individual chapters.

Published: Jul 26, 2022

Book Contributors


Section Chapter Authors
Introduction: Critique in Context Rebekka King
Part I: Citizenship and Politics
1. Paper Terrorism: Religion, Paperwork, and the Contestation of State Power in the “Sovereign Citizen” Movement Michael McVicar
2. The Rohingya, Buddhism, and the Category "Religion" Tenzan Eaghll
3. Citizenship, Religion, and the Frailty of Secular Sovereignty Daniel Miller
4. The Material Production of Otherworldly Citizenship: From Paper to Digital Files to Bodies Lauren Griffin
5. Paper Terrorism as Counter-Conduct Michael McVicar
Part II: Race and Ethnicity
6. Signifying “Der Rassist” in Religious Studies and the Axes of Social Difference Richard Newton
7. Of Dualisms and Doppelgängers: Mapping Ancient Minds and Bodies in Religious Studies Robyn Walsh
8. Dark S(k)in: Two Versions of Newton’s Crimen Oscuro Rudy Busto
9. Reworking Our Schemes Craig Prentiss
10. That's a Racist Question: Interrogating Racism in the Study of American Religions Martha Smith Roberts
11. The Trope Has Been Set: Race and Religion as Critical Entanglement Richard W. Newton, Jr.
Part III: Gender and Sexuality
12. The Field is Not One/The Body is Smart: Rethinking Theory in the Study of Religion Megan Goodwin
13. A Happy Headache Emily Crews
14. Addressing Gender Parity in Critical Pedagogy Tara Baldrick-Morrone
15. The "Muscle Jew" and Maccabean Heroism of the Jewish Legion during World War I Tim Langille
16. “There is No Place for the State in the Bedrooms of the Nation”: The Case of Québec’s Bill 21 Jennifer Selby
Part IV: Class and Economy
17. Regulating Religion to Maintain the Status Quo Suzanne Owen
18. A Gramscian Inversion: Hegemony in Theory and in Practice Thomas Carrico
19. The Druid Network as a Capitalist Success Story: or, Why The Druid Network’s Charity Status is Beside the Point Neil George
20. Who’s Afraid of Class Analysis? Rethinking Identity and Class in the Study of Religion James Dennis LoRusso
21. Definition, Comparison, Critique Johan Strijdom
22. The Public Good Requirement Suzanne Owen
End Matter
Index Rebekka King


This book will be useful to scholars who want to think about how their own work could fit into conversations within religious studies and to consider that whatever their example, and whatever the scholar’s identity, their work might also be considered theoretical. In so doing I think that we as readers could take up the call of the book—in discussions in classrooms and at conferences—to imagine other futures beyond interrogating and dismantling hierarchies.
Religion and Society