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On the Subject of Religion

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Previous volumes in the NAASR Working Papers series have critical reflections on key domains of field, such as theory, method, data, and categories. This latest addition to the series takes a step back to consider syncretically how religion is imagined or invented through several lenses. It takes as inspiration the work of the late Jonathan Z. Smith, who challenged scholars to be mindful of the ways they imagine religion and religious data. Building off this crucial insight, On the Subject of Religion brings together a range of early-career and established scholars of religion to explore how various domains of society—namely the classroom, academic literature, public debates, and private fundraising—shape and are shaped by the contours of the academic study of religion. For example, 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?

Published: Oct 1, 2022

Book Contributors


Section Chapter Authors
Introduction James LoRusso
Epilogue James LoRusso
Part I: Teaching the Field
1. Main Paper: On the Grammar of Teaching Religious Studies Leslie Dorrough Smith
Response: Can’t Live with it, Can’t Drop it from the Undergraduate Curriculum Rita Lester, Jacob Barrett
Response: Title TBD Ian Alexander Cuthbertson
Response: To Gaze and Its Perspectivity: Teaching Reflective Writing about Religion Leonie Geiger
Response: Weaponizing Religious Literacy: Religionizing as Revitalizing the Field or Reinforcing Neoliberal Values? Martha Smith Roberts
Rejoinder Leslie Dorrough Smith
Part II: The History of the Field
2. Main Paper: The Enduring Presence of Our Pre-Critical Past Or, the Same As it Ever Was, the Same As it Ever Was Russell McCutcheon
Response: (Re)enchanting Religion James Edmonds
Response: Title TBD D. Jamil Grimes
Response: The Beauty of the “Religion” Problem Andrew Durdin
Response: Underground Religious Studies: Intercepted Dispatches Rebekka King
Rejoinder Russell McCutcheon
Part III: The Role and Influence of Private Funding in the Field
3. Main Paper: Private Money and the Study of Religion: Problems, Perils, and Possiblities Gregory Alles
Response: Drugs, Dog Chow, and Dharma Michael Altman
Response: Between Wittgenstein and Zuckerberg: Selling the Academic Study of Religion in a Buyer’s Market John McCormack
Response: Religious Studies: A Pawn in the Culture Wars Natalie Avalos
Rejoinder Gregory Alles
Part IV: International Perspectives on the Field
4. Main Paper: International Perspectives on/in the Field Rosalind Hackett
Response: Field of Dreams: What Do American Scholars of Religion Really Want? Fount LeRon Shults, Wesley Wildman
Response: Title TBD Tenzan Eaghll
Response: The Benefit of Comparison Vaia Touna
Response: Tokenism in not Passe Yasmina Burezah
Rejoinder Rosalind Hackett