Book: Claiming Identity in the Study of Religion
Chapter: 1. Well, Isn’t That Special?’: What We Talk about When We Talk about Identity
The first section presents Russell T. McCutcheon’s discussion of Ann Taves’ Religious Experience Reconsidered (2011) by way of K. Merinda Simmons’ application of McCutcheon’s critical methodology to a discussion of Reza Aslan’s Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth (2013). In this chapter, Simmons questions and explores what’s at stake in the medias’ interest in Aslan’s “Muslim identity” and furthermore, why and how the conversation involving such an identity is problematic in its own right but, is also indicative of, a certain sort of “academic culture” where connections between one’s data and one’s own “identity” are seemingly taken for granted, expected, or troubled. Taken together, these writings suggest that new approaches to scholarship do not necessarily mean solutions to old issues of reliance and ordering based on assumptions about identity and data. Rather, Simmons calls attention away from assumptions of exceptionalism born from the plastic nature of the sui generis and instead, shifts our focus towards the context and interests of such manufacturing.