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.

NAASR Note: Religious Studies, Liberal Arts, and the Public University

***Deadline extended to 31 January 2015***

The following CFP might be of interest to NAASR members:

Religious Studies, Liberal Arts, and the Public University

The conference will examine religious studies methods, curriculum, pedagogy, and ethos in terms of the field’s relationship to two key social locations, the liberal arts and the public university. Proposals are invited for papers and presentations on this theme. The organizers are particularly interested in the following topics: the intersection or disjunction of religious studies methods with the fields of humanities and social sciences; what religious studies contributes to liberal education; disciplinary ethos in the context of public universities bound by the First Amendment; the public university as fertile context for religious studies as an analytical discipline; history of religious studies at public universities; curricular and pedagogical challenges of religious studies in both liberal arts and public university contexts; the departmental model and its alternatives, especially the presence of religious studies as part of multidisciplinary departments; the articulation of the value of religious studies in an age of austerity; and particular challenges for religious studies in online or hybrid pedagogy. Proposals falling under the conference title but not specifically listed here will also be considered. Please send proposals (250 word maximum) by email attachment to Professor Rebecca Raphael at rr23 at txstate dot edu by January 31, 2015. The conference will be held April 10-11 at Texas State University, San Marcos, TX. Sponsored by the College of Liberal Arts, the Department of Philosophy, and the NEH Distinguished Teaching Professor in Humanities.

Books of Interest: Religious Discourse in Modern Japan

Isomae Jun’ichi, Religious Discourse in Modern Japan (Brill 2014).

Religious Discourse in Modern Japan explores the introduction of the Western concept of “religion” to Japan in the modern era, and the emergence of discourse on Shinto, philosophy, and Buddhism. Taking Anesaki’s founding of religious studies (shukyogaku) at Tokyo Imperial University as a pivot, Isomae examines the evolution of this academic discipline in the changing context of social conditions from the Meiji era through the present. Special attention is given to the development of Shinto studies/history of Shinto, and the problems of State Shinto and the emperor system are described in relation to the nature of the concept of religion. Isomae also explains how the discourse of religious studies developed in connection with secular discourses on literature and history, including Marxism.

NAASR Note: When Is the Big Tent Too Big?

NAASR and the “Metacriticism of Biblical Studies” Program Unit of the Society of Biblical Literature are calling for proposals for a joint session at the 2015 annual meeting in Atlanta, Georgia; the call focuses on the generally inclusive nature of religious studies as a whole:

When Is the Big Tent Too Big? We seek papers that critically assess the strengths and weaknesses of the “big tent” philosophy that governs professional organizations, publishing, and departments in religious studies and biblical studies. This “big tent” mixes etic and methodological naturalist perspectives with emic, confessional, and theological approaches to religion along with opportunities for interfaith dialogue. Contributors to this session identify the impact the Big Tent has on the secular study of religion and sacred texts and its status within the large world of secular disciplines of the humanities and social sciences.

For more information or to submit a proposal, please see the SBL webiste.

Books of Interest: Chasing Down Religion

chasing down religionPanayotis Pachis and Donald Wiebe (eds.), Chasing Down Religion: In the Sights of History and the Cognitive Sciences (Equinox 2014)

Whether as a historian finding solutions to unresolved problems or as a scientist finding the causes for events and actions, Luther Martin’s primary focus has been to get to the roots of the religious impulse in human existence. This collection of essays from scholars of his own generation and from his best students cover the three major strands of his work: the Greco-Roman world, cognitive science approaches to explaining religious phenomena and methodological issues in the academic study of religions. The contributions build on the work of Luther Martin and further the ongoing discussion and debate within these areas of religious studies.

2015 Call for Proposals: Theory in a Time of Excess

Although the terms “method and theory” can now be found in course titles, curricula/degree requirements, area/comprehensive exams, and listed as competencies on the CVs of scholars from across a wide array of subfields, and while a variety of groups at annual scholarly conferences itemize theorizing among the topics that they routinely examine, it seems that few of the many examples of doing theory today involve either met-reflection on the practical conditions of the field or rigorously explanatory studies of religion’s cause(s) or function(s). So, despite the appearances of tremendous advances in the field since NAASR’s founding as the lone place for carrying out theory in the study of religion—when “theory” was indeed a rare word and was often replaced with the more neutral “approach”—it can be argued that little has changed.

The upcoming 2015 meeting in Atlanta marks the organization’s 30th anniversary and so the NAASR program will be divided into two related parts: (i) an invited Presidential Panel on the history of NAASR and the changing (or not) circumstances of its present and possible future and (ii) four separate panels (all leading up to the Presidential Panel), two hours in length each, all exploring a variety of views on how one carries out theorizing in the academic study of religion today—when almost everyone claims to be a theorist but few seem to do theory.

Each of the four panels will focus on one substantive statement on what theory is (or is not) and what can (or cannot) be accomplished by adopting a particular understanding of the requirements of theorizing in the human sciences. This call for proposals is therefore devoted to having NAASR members submit approx. 250 word abstracts from which the Program Committee will select four papers, each of which presses members to consider different issues involved with defining and doing theory in the academic study of religion. The abstract must make clear the submitters understanding of what constitutes theory while also summarizing the direction of his/her argument and any examples/data domains with which the presenter will work.

Note: Proposals selected will need to result in substantive and original essays, of approx. 4,000-5,000 words in length, that will be submitted to NAASR in PDF form by no later than October 1, 2015, for pre-distribution to all members. Also, these papers will not be read in Atlanta but, due to the pre-distribution, presenters will have 15 minutes to orally summarize their arguments. Respondents will then be invited by the Program Committee to work with each paper, applying and testing its argument.

Our goal is to publish the collection in MTSR or another appropriate venue.

Submit all proposals, by no later than February 15, 2015, as PDF file attachments to:

Prof. Aaron Hughes

NAASR Vice President and Chair of the Program Committee

University of Rochester

aaron.hughes at rochester dot edu

(You can download a printable flyer here.)

Announcement: New Officers

At the annual NAASR business meeting in San Diego last weekend we voted in new officers. Naomi Goldenberg and K. Merinda Simmons were elected to serve as councilors on the executive council; Russell T. McCutcheon was elected as president, and Aaron Hughes as vice president.

Many thanks to those who are rolling off of the executive council—Chris Lehrich, Tim Lubin, and Matt Sheedy—for all your service to the institution these last few years.

 

Books of Interest: Capitalizing Religion

Craig Martin, Capitalizing Religion: Ideology and the Opiate of the Bourgeoisie (Bloomsbury 2014).

Talk of ‘spirituality’ and ‘individual religion’ is proliferating both in popular discourse and scholarly works. Increasingly people claim to be ‘spiritual but not religious,’ or to prefer ‘individual religion’ to ‘organized religion.’ Scholars have for decades noted the phenomenon – primarily within the middle class – of individuals picking and choosing elements from among various religious traditions, forming their own religion or spirituality for themselves.

While the topics of ‘spirituality’ and ‘individual religion’ are regularly treated as self-evident by the media and even some scholars of religion, Capitalizing Religion provides one of the first critical analyses of the phenomenon, arguing that these recent forms of spirituality are in many cases linked to capitalist ideology and consumer practices. Examining cases such as Eckhart Tolle’s The Power of Now, and Karen Berg’s God Wears Lipstick, Craig Martin ultimately argues that so-called ‘individual religion’ is a religion of the status quo or, more critically, ‘an opiate of the bourgeoisie.’

Table of Contents

Introduction
Part 1: Religion, Capitalism,and Social Theory
1. ‘Individuality is zero’
2. Theorizing ‘Individual Religion’
3. Our ‘Religion’ of the Status Quo
Part 2: The Opiate of the Bourgeoisie
4. Quietism: The Empire’s Gospel
5. Consumerism: The Fashionable Hijab
6. Productivity: The New Protestant Work Ethic
7. Individualism: A Capital Theodicy
Afterword: Things at the Disposal of Society
Bibliography
Index

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