On the weekend a Facebook friend posted a link to an interesting blog post on contests over modern Jewish identity. It opened as follows:
Michel-Rolph Trouillot, Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History (Beacon Press, 1995).
A practical series of case studies (e.g., the Hatian Revolution) by the late (d. 2012) University of Chicago Professor of Anthropology/Social Sciences on how discourses on the past are not about recovering or remembering enduring items from history so much as deploying techniques in the present continually to limit what in the archives will count as the past. As such, how does one write a history of the forgotten, “a history of the impossible”–a genealogy of the choices that led to this or that narrative of “the past.”
Russell McCutcheon, along with his co-author William Arnal, just published a collection of essays entitled The Sacred is the Profane: The Political Nature of “Religion” with Oxford University Press. The book presses forward the thesis that the category “religion” is one of our own group’s ways of classifying, sorting, and thereby understanding the world around us rather than, as is most often thought, being a natural and thus permanent feature of that world.
During its working session in Chicago, in November 2012, the members of Culture on the Edge (pictured below) took some time to record a conversation on identity creation and its study, for The Religious Studies Project (RSP)–a series of podcasts created and maintained by UK grad students that is devoted to the work of scholars of religion from around the world.
Click here to listen to our conversation.
Apart from thanking RSP’s Christopher Cotter and David Robertson for their interest in our work, we would like to thank Andie Alexander, then a student in the Department of Religious Studies at the University of Alabama, for assisting with the technology, and also thank the Department for supporting the group.)
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.