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Book: Constructing Data in Religious Studies

Chapter: 1. Partitioning "Religion" and its Prehistories: Reflections on Categories, Narratives and the Practice of Religious Studies

DOI: 10.1558/equinox.34166


Research in Religious Studies has repeatedly emphasized the modern, contingent, and constructed character of the category of “religion(s).” This experimental essay seeks to move beyond the fixation on this category to consider how practices of categorization (including but not limited to genealogies and critiques of categories) function within the discipline of Religious Studies. Although much has been gained through genealogies that contextualize the modern theorization of difference through the taxonomic rubric of “religion(s),” it may be useful also to consider the power and limits of categories, not least by looking also to other modern and premodern practices of ordering knowledge, such as anthologizing and narrativization. A broader purview opens up other points of connection between premodern and modern discourses about difference, while also exposing some of what is effaced in the recent fixation on pinpointing the moment of the so-called “invention” of “religion.”

Chapter Contributors

  • Annette Yoshiko Reed ( - ayoshikoreed) 'New York University '