So writes Jonathan Z. Smith in his article, “Religion, Religions, Religious,” in Mark Taylor’s well-known edited book, Critical Terms for Religious Studies (1998). Because most scholars presume (mistakenly, I think) religion to exist prior to, and outside of, their studies of it, few understand their definitions to be stipulative–specifying the limits of the object in advance, e.g., “For the purposes of this study, religion is defined as…” Instead, definitions are most often assumed merely to describe, after careful observation, the limits of an already established item in the world that we, as scholars, have somehow just stumbled upon. Continue reading “The Yoga of Definition”
Steven Ramey was the 2012-13 President of the Southeast Region of the American Academy of Religion (AAR). Here he gives the Presidential Plenary Address for its annual (held in South Carolina in March of 2013) entitled, “Accidental Favorites: The Implicit in the Study of Religions.” Although not referencing Culture on the Edge explicitly, the themes Ramey discusses are directly related to many of the group’s–as Jonathan Z. Smith named them in his own career–persistent preoccupations.
(Thanks to Andie Alexander, a graduate of the University of Alabama’s Department of Religious Studies, for filming Steven.)
Originally posted on the Bulletin for the Study of Religion blog
New analysis suggests that almost 1 in 5 people in the United States have no religious affiliation! Media coverage has sensationalized the publication of this analysis from the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, and various church and institutional leaders have presented explanations for the increase of the “Nones,” as some call them, and suggestions of how to change the trend. Continue reading “Creatio Ex Nihilo: Pew Forum and the “Nones””
Claiming Identity in the Study of Religion (edited by Monica Miller) provides a collection of previously published essays by scholar of religion, Russell T. McCutcheon, that highlights different identifying claims within the work of a number of leading scholars of religion. New, substantive introductions to each essay, authored by other scholars interested in the historicity of identity, highlight the strategies of identification employed by the scholars whom McCutcheon analyzes.
The Problem of Nostalgia in the Study of Identity (edited by Vaia Touna) tackles the problem of how to examine the historicity of identity through four discrete case studies, with an Introduction by Craig Martin.