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Thinking with J. Z. Smith

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In his bio-bibliographical essay, J. Z. Smith wrote that he was fond of the expression “when the chips are down” in the sense of all being said and done. With his passing in December 2017, the phrase has gained an additional layer of sad finality—the chips are really down. Scholarship is not poker, however, which means that these chips not only can but in fact should be picked up and circulated. Thinking with J. Z. Smith brings together the contributions of scholars who do exactly that by considering theoretical and methodological issues central to J. Z. Smith’s oeuvre in the context of their own research. Through analyses of Smith’s own work as well as applications of his concerns to new situations, historic periods, and regions, the contributors to this volume test the adequacy and applicability of Smith’s ideas and provide an indirect assessment of his influence and legacy in the field of religious studies.

Published: Jul 18, 2023

Book Contributors


Section Chapter Authors
Front Matter
Acknowledgements Barbara Krawcowicz
Preface Russell McCutcheon
Introduction Barbara Krawcowicz
Part I
1. J. Z. and Me Aaron Hughes
2. Imagining a Proper Academic Study of Religion Inspired by J. Z. Smith Sam Gill
3. Is J. Z. Smith a Nominalist… a Pragmatist… or a Constructionist? Does it Even Matter? Indrek Peedu
4. An Uneasy Silence: J. Z. Smith and the Divorce of Race from Power Craig Prentiss
5. When No "Magic" Dwells Andrew Durdin
6. The Semantics of Comparison in J. Z. Smith Mark Gardiner, Steven Engler
7. Blending Ontologies and Epistemologies: Mapping Deontic Grids - Methodological Considerations for the Comparative study of Religion Jeppe Sinding Jensen
Part II
8. Redescribing Two Old Tibetan Prayers with J. Z. Smith Lewis Doney
9. Multiple Magdalenas: Locative, Utopian, and Other Orientations in an Indigenous Community Divided by an International Border Seth Schermerhorn
10. Interpreting "Brahmanization" in the Indian Buddhist Monastery with J. Z. Smith Nicholas Witkowski
11. Smith, Comparison, and Jewish Theology Barbara Krawcowicz
12. Imagining the Past: A Case Study of Double Archaeology Vaia Touna
13. Orphism: The Whole Created of Fragments - The –ism and the Formation of Religious Categories Lech Trzcionkowski
Part III
14. Principles of Pedagogy: Thinking with Smith to Re-vision our Systems of Training Andie Alexander
15. Teaching J. Z. Smith in Scandinavia Gabriel Levy
16. Is There Room for "This Sort of Reflexivity"? The Meaning of J. Z. Smith in Religious Education Jack Laughlin, Kornel Zathureczky
Part IV
17. Mapping the Future of Smith’s Legacy: A Conversation Andie Alexander, Aaron Hughes
18. A Response to Andie Alexander and Aaron Hughes Willi Braun
End Matter
Index Barbara Krawcowicz