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Book: Thinking with J. Z. Smith

Chapter: 3. Is J. Z. Smith a Nominalist… a Pragmatist… or a Constructionist? Does it Even Matter?

DOI: 10.1558/equinox.39926


In his chapter, Indrek Peedu rightly observes that like other influential scholars of religion from the past, Jonathan Z. Smith is not only an important voice we can choose to hear or ignore but also that he has become our data, and as such, an object of classification. Smith’s work has been read and interpreted in a variety of different—and occasionally—contradictory ways. Was he a nominalist, as some claim? Or maybe, as suggested by others, a pragmatist? Or a constructionist? Rather than proposing yet another classificatory label, Peedu argues that the real relevance and central importance of J. Z. Smith reveals itself in the how rather than the what of his thinking about the problems we face in the study of religion.

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