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On the Subject of Religion

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How is religion depicted in the academic study of religion? How do private donors selectively privilege certain descriptions of religion, and to what ends? Do the practical needs of students align or conflict with the theoretical concerns of scholars? To what extent do answers to these questions reveal shared challenges or fault lines across the field of study?

Previous volumes in the NAASR Working Papers series have made critical reflections on key domains such as theory, method, data, and categories. On the Subject of Religion takes a step back to consider syncretically how religion is imagined or invented through several lenses.

On the Subject of Religion takes as its inspiration the work of the late Jonathan Z. Smith, who challenged scholars to be mindful of the ways in which they imagine religion and religious data. Building on this crucial insight, this book brings together a range of early-career and established scholars of religion to explore how various domains of society—the classroom, academic literature, public debates, and private fundraising—shape, and are shaped, by the contours of the academic study of religion.

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: Oct 4, 2022

Book Contributors


Section Chapter Authors
Patchwork or Mosaic? The Fabric of Religious Studies James Dennis LoRusso
Part I: Teaching the Field
1. On the Grammar of Teaching Religious Studies Leslie Dorrough Smith
2. Response: Can't Live with It, Can't Drop It from the Undergraduate Curriculum: World Religions Rita Lester, Jacob Barrett
3. Response: Practicing Theory Ian Alexander Cuthbertson
4. Response: The Gaze from Somewhere: Teaching Situated Writing about Religion Leonie Geiger
5. Response: Weaponizing Religious Literacy: "Religionizing" as Revitalizing the Field or Reinforcing Neoliberal Values? Martha Smith Roberts
Part II: The History of the Field
6. The Enduring Presence of Our Pre-Critical Past; or, Same As it Ever Was, Same As it Ever Was Russell McCutcheon
7. Response: The Vocation of a Scientist of Religion D. Jamil Grimes
8. Response: Historicizing Endurance Andrew Durdin
9. Response: Intercepted Dispatches: A Speculative History of the Future of Religious Studies Rebekka King
Part III: The Role and Influence of Private Funding in the Field
10. Private Money and the Study of Religions: Problems, Perils, and Possibilities Gregory Alles
11. Response: Drugs, Dog Chow, and Dharma Michael Altman
12. Response: Between Wittgenstein and Zuckerberg: Selling the Academic Study of Religion in a Buyer’s Market John McCormack
13. Response: Religious Studies: A Pawn in the Culture Wars Natalie Avalos
Part IV: International Perspectives on the Field
14. International Perspectives on/in the Field Rosalind Hackett
15. Response: Field of Dreams: What Do NAASR Scholars Really Want? Fount LeRon Shults, Wesley Wildman
16. Response: The Benefit of Comparison Vaia Touna
17. Response: "Developing" the Field Yasmina Burezah
End Matter
Index James Dennis LoRusso