Dedicated to historical, critical, and social scientific approaches to the study of religion, as well as a relentlessly reflexive critique of the theories, methods, and categories used in such study.

CFP: Concepts in the Study of Religion

The following new book series—published in association with NAASR—might be of interest to members; see the publisher’s site for more information.

Books in the series Concepts in the Study of Religion: Critical Primers offer brief introductions to an array of concepts—modes of analysis, tools, as well as analytic terms themselves—within the discourse of religious studies. Useful for almost any course, the volumes in the series do not attempt to assert normative understandings but rather they introduce and survey the various modes and contexts for scholarly engagement with the concept at hand. How, for example, has the term ‘myth’ been used, and what can various definitions allow us to do as scholars? Who in the field is working on the category of race and how? What might be the future of scholarship on gender in religious studies? What are the possibilities and limitations of description or comparison as methodological approaches? Thus, these critical primers provide — but are not limited to — concise overviews of the history of an approach or term. They also present the authors’ own critical analyses of the dynamics and stakes present in discourses surrounding these concepts. Featuring lists of further readings to guide additional consideration of their topic, the books in this series are valuable resources for students and advanced scholars alike.

Series Editor

K. Merinda Simmons, University of Alabama

CFP: Critiquing Religion: Discourse, Culture, Power

logo blThe following new book series might be of interest to NAASR members; download this pdf for more information.

Critiquing Religion: Discourse, Culture, Power publishes works that historicize both religions and modern discourses on ‘religion’ that treat it as a unique object of study. Using diverse methodologies and social theories, volumes in this series view religions and discourses on religion as commonplace rhetorics, authenticity narratives, or legitimating myths which function in the creation, maintenance, and contestation of social formations. Works in the series are on the cutting edge of critical scholarship, regarding ‘religion’ as just another cultural tool used to gerrymander social space and distribute power relations in the modern world. Critiquing Religion: Discourse, Culture, Power provides a unique home for reflexive, critical work in the field of religious studies.

Senior Editor

Craig Martin, St. Thomas Aquinas College

Editorial Board

Richard King, University of Kent

Bruce Lincoln, University of Chicago

K. Merinda Simmons, University of Alabama

Leslie Dorrough Smith, Avila University

Hugh Urban, Ohio State University

Program Update: Method Today

NAASR 2016 ● San Antonio, TX ● November 18-19, 2016

With the success of the 2015 NAASR program—devoted to examining the current state of theory in the study of religion with four main papers plus responses—the 2016 program will retain the same format but turn its attention instead to the closely related topic of method. And because of the wide variety of methods used in the cross-disciplinary study of religion we’re proposing narrowing the focus to four key tools that all scholars of religion surely employ, regardless their approach to the study of religion: description, comparison, interpretation, and explanation. We’re happy to announce the speakers:

Description: Naomi Goldenberg, University of Ottawa

Comparison: Aaron W. Hughes, University of Rochester

Interpretation: Kevin Schilbrack, Appalachian State University

Explanation: Ann Taves and Egil Asprem, University of California, Santa Barbara

The program committee is inviting members to consider the place of each of these in the study of religion—recognizing that examining each opens conversations on far wider topics of relevance to NAASR’s mission, such as description being intimately linked to ethnography, viewpoint, first person authority (to name but a few). In much the same way, detailed consideration of the other three tools also leads into conversations on the basics of the field (E.g., Having survived critiques of comparison as ethnocentric, what is the future of comparative studies and how ought they to be carried out? Given the once dominant, but for some now discredited, place of hermeneutical approaches what is entailed in the interpretation of meaning today? And, despite their once prominent place several generations ago, what does one make of the continuing lack of interest in the academy in naturalistic, explanatory theories of religion?) This focus on method, by means of these four basic tools, therefore provides us with an opportunity to assess the current state of the field.

As with the 2015 program, three scholars who work in a variety of subfields will respond to each of the four main papers (thereby involving 16 participants in total). The four main, pre-circulated papers will only be summarized briefly at their sessions and a large portion of the sessions will again be reserved for open conversations; the goal is that all of the papers will then be published in a special issue of MTSR. Unlike last year, however, the Program Committee will commission the four main generative papers (based on hopes that they eventually contribute to a new NAASR book series, to be announced soon).

The call this year, then, is for 12 respondents who are willing to each tackle the statements made by one of the four main papers. A successful proposal to be a respondent must address only one of the four tools—description, comparison, interpretation, or explanation—briefly demonstrating how you understand the term, challenges for its use today, and what, for you, is at stake in its deployment in a specific historical, textual, or behavioral situation. Successful proposals, then, should briefly demonstrate an awareness for how one of these tools intersects with the history of our field and our current practices, which simultaneously demonstrates your preparation to offer a challenging and thought-provoking response at this year’s upcoming meeting.

Send your 250 word (max.) abstract to

NAASR’s Vice President, Aaron Hughes (aaron.hughes@rochester.edu),

by no later than March 01, 2016

Books of Interest: Conversations and Controversies in the Scientific Study of Religion

91307Luther H. Martin and Donald Wiebe, Conversations and Controversies in the Scientific Study of Religion: Collaborative and Co-authored Essays by Luther H. Martin and Donald Wiebe (Brill, 2016)

Luther H. Martin and Donald Wiebe together have spent the better part of a century exploring possibilities for a scientific study of religion. The following essays are a record of their conversations together and of their conversations and controversies with a number of leading scholars in religious studies that address that possibility. As with any scientific endeavor, knowledge advances when research assumptions and experimental designs are collegially discussed and critically assessed. It is hoped that these essays might provide the occasion for scholars in the field to discuss the theoretical and methodological issues they have raised, to debate and expand upon them, or, in the spirit of forthright scientific inquiry, to refute the arguments they have made.

Books of Interest: Contemporary Views on Comparative Religion

cover_issue_2207_en_US-201508171131Peter Antes, Armin Geertz, and Mikael Rothsetein (eds.), Contemporary Views on Comparative Religion (Equinox, 2016)

Comparative Religion is deeply rooted in historical-philological studies, but since the inception of the discipline in the late 19th century, a continual development has taken place. At this point, the discipline has moved into many different areas of the social, humanistic, psychological and biological sciences, and debates on theory and method are as intense as ever. As scholars of religion get a grip on some aspects of the phenomenon in question, new problems arise, and new challenges must be met. At the same time, however, the virtues of the past should not be forgotten, and a double orientation, back and forth, becomes necessary. Rather than pursuing a systematic discussion of how to go about such problems, this volume celebrates the diversity and multi-methodological approaches in comparative religion by including empirical, as well as theoretical, chapters. The authors, among whom are many of the world’s leading scholars, have been asked to contribute essays on the current status of comparative religion, and thanks to their efforts the reader is offered a pathway into a row of exciting, but quite diverse, examples of the discipline, from the well-known to the most recent academic frontiers.

Conference Announcement: Mediation and Immediacy

The upcoming conference, Mediation and Immediacy: The Semiotic Turn in the Study of Religion, might be of interest to NAASR members; click here for program information.

MediationConferencemediation-booklet

Gary Lease Memorial Lecture

lease_gary.250This past summer the opening lecture at the IAHR world congress in Germany was named as the Gary Lease Memorial Lecture, in honor of the onetime IAHR treasurer and also longtime NAASR member and former NAASR Executive Secretary/Treasurer. Gary, who died of cancer on January 4, 2008, was also the chair of UC Santa Cruz’s noted History of Consciousness program; he was a loyal and generous friend, a gifted teacher, and a critical interlocutor who was deeply committed to the study of religion as being but one element of the historical, human sciences.

The IAHR has established this lecture in his honor, taking place at each quinquennial world congress, and we’re inviting NAASR members to help fund this lectureship’s future costs (such as the travel and lodging for the designated lecturer). If you are able to contribute, whatever amount, then we recommend that you forward your donation to our Executive Director, Craig Martin, designating it for this purpose, and he will then collect all donations and forward them to the IAHR, earmarked specifically for this purpose.

Should you also wish to donate toward NAASR’s own operating expenses, then we’d welcome that as well.

All donations will receive a receipt from NAASR so that they can be claimed as a tax exempt donation (at least here in the US).

For more information on Gary, please consult this link.

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