Books of Interest: Religion in Five Minutes

Aaron W. Hughes and Russell T. McCutcheon (editors), Religion in Five Minutes (Equinox, 2017).

Religion in Five Minutes provides an accessible and lively introduction to the 5questions about religion and religious behaviour that interest most of us, whether or not we personally identify with — or practice — a religion. Suitable for beginning students and the general reader, the book offers more than 60 brief essays on a wide range of fascinating questions about religion and its study, such as: How did religion start? What religion is the oldest? Who are the Nones? Why do women seem to play lesser roles in many religions? What’s the difference between a religion and a cult? Is Europe less religious than North America? Is Buddhism a philosophy? How do we study religions of groups who no longer exist?

Each essay is written by a leading authority and offers succinct, insightful answers along with suggestions for further reading, making the book an ideal starting point for classroom use or personal browsing.

Announcement: #naasr2017 Program

The full schedule for our annual meeting is posted here.

Books of Interest: Fabricating Difference

Steven W. Ramey (ed.), Fabricating Difference (Equinox, 2017). Part of the Working with Culture on the Edge series, edited by Vaia Touna.

The fabrication of groups as different, as other, often has significant consequences, including violence and discrimination. This volume focuses on the

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 discourses that construct Islam in the aftermath of traumatic events and thus illustrates how academic analysis of the fabrication of difference can contribute significantly to public discourse.

It centers on two critical analyses by accomplished scholars who have written publicly on the constructions of Islam and Muslims as others. Mayanthi Fernando analyzes the rhetoric surrounding French laïcité (often translated as secularism) in the aftermath of the attack on Charlie Hebdo in Paris in 2015, highlighting the ways the majority uses the language of laïcité to diminish the presence of minorities. Aaron Hughes analyzes how scholars and others construct Islam in response to acts of violence attributed to people who identify with Islam, thus illustrating how critical academic analysis can contribute to the understanding of both the contestation and ideology behind groups such as ISIS.

Ten early career scholars apply and extend the questions and approaches of these central essays in short reflections that apply these issues in new ways to other contexts (e.g., India, the United States, early Christianity) and topics (e.g., social issues in politics, religion vs. non-religion, nationalism, scholars in public discourse). The volume concludes with a substantive Afterword that broadens from these specific current events to present an extended analysis of the fabrication of difference and the ways recognizing these processes should influence our scholarship and our engagement with public discourse.

In addressing the ways people construct difference and the Other, this volume, therefore, provides one answer to the question of the relevance of these fields in a period of both political challenge and internal critique of the assumption of the universality of academic research.

NAASR Annual Reception, co-sponsored by Equinox Publishing

Lir

NAASR and Equinox Publishing are pleased to announce the details for our reception at the upcoming annual conference in Boston:

Date: Friday, November 17
Time: 7pm-9pm
Location: Lir, 903 Boylston Street (click here for a map)

We look forward to seeing you there for food, drinks, and conversation!

NAASR Executive Council Statement Regarding the European Academy of Religion

Concerning the founding and upcoming meeting of the European Academy of Religion, the Executive Council of the North American Association for the Study of Religion (NAASR) stands by the joint statement issued by the European Association for the Study of Religions (EASR) and International Association for the History of Religions (IAHR) (posted here). As an IAHR member society, we are in strong agreement that the academic study of religion constitutes a specific approach to the study of religion that is not only worth identifying in distinction from others but also supporting.

Announcement: 2017 NAASR Program

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The Things We Study when We Study Religion

Following NAASR’s annual programs in 2015, devoted to theory, and 2016, on method, the program for 2017 will focus on the things that we, as scholars of religion, study. What, for instance, counts as data? How is it imagined, handled, or constructed? Who decides what is a valid or invalid research topic—and which approach suits it?

There exist longstanding and still active debates in the field regarding whether the items that we study pre-exist our approaches or whether our approaches actually create the conditions in which the former come into existence. It should come as no surprise, then, that the inter-relationship between theory, method, and data is complex and hardly settled. In fact, for some the term “data” itself is to be avoided because it is thought to remove us from the human subjects whom we study. Such subjects, it is assumed, embody intentional centers of meaning-making and therefore they require methods of study that differ, both qualitatively and quantitatively, from those employed by scholars in other fields. Yet for others, people’s self-understanding as agents does not lessen the importance of the non-agential structures in which they live (from genetics to class). Such recognition requires scholars to study people’s claims and behavior in a way that is far less impacted by intentionality than some may assume. We could also add to this mix those who examine the conditions and shape of the field itself, thereby finding scholars themselves as the item of interest. It is clear, then, that to identify as a scholar of religion does not necessarily mean that we all study the same thing, let alone in the same manner. For the distance between those who now study what is called embodied or lived religion, on the one hand, and, on the other, the processes examined by cognitive scientists is great indeed. A pressing question, however, is whether this breadth strengthens or undermines the field.

Following the model used for the past two annual meetings, three main, substantive papers were invited and will be distributed both to respondents and NAASR members approximately one month prior to the meeting. These main papers will only be summarized at the session. Each paper will then have four respondents, who will have ten minutes each to reply to the main paper. This will be followed by an open discussion of roughly one hour. As per the past two years, the aim once again is to see this this session published as a book (with responses from the main paper presenters).

Subjects: Annette Reed (University of Pennsylvania)
Chair: Drew Durdin (University of Chicago)
Respondents:
Adam Stewart (Crandall University)
M. Adryael Tong (Fordham University)
John Soboslai (Montclair State University)
Jennifer Shelby (Memorial University of Newfoundland)

Objects: Matthew Baldwin (Mars Hill University)
Chair: Kevin Schilbrack (Appalachian State University)
Respondents:
Petra Klug (University of Bremen)
Holly White (Syracuse University)
Peggy Schmeiser (University of Saskatchewan)
Lucas Wright (UC Santa Barbara)

Scholars: Craig Martin (St. Thomas Aquinas College)
Chair: Ian Cuthbertson (Queens University)
Respondents:
Vaia Touna (University of Alabama)
Martha Smith Roberts (Sewanee)
Jason Ellsworth (Dalhousie University)
Joel Harrison (Northwestern University)

A fourth, separate panel, features invited papers on important sites in the field today, as a way to open a discussion on the state of the study of religion, with regard the issues of relevance to scholarship, teaching, and the institutions in which we do our work. Like the other sessions, plenty of time will be reserved for discussion following.

Roundtable
Steven Engler, Chair (Mount Royal University)
Sarah Dees, Labor (Northwestern University)
Richard Newton, Teaching (Elizabethtown College)
Rebekka King, Departments (Middle Tennessee State University)
Greg Alles, Research (McDaniel College)

Bans, Boycotts, Institutional Statements: A NAASR Perspective
Chair: Adrian Herman (Univ of Bonn)
Edith Szanto (American University of Iraq-Sulaimani)
Nathan Loewen (University of Alabama)
Suzanne Owen (Leeds Trinity University)

Theorizing Ancient Theories of Religion (Co-Sponsored by the Greco-Roman Religions Section)
Respondent: Nickolas Roubekas (University of Vienna)
Jennifer Eyl (Tufts University)
William W. McCorkle, Jr. (Laboratory for the Experimental Research of Religion)
Additional panelists tbd

Books of Interest: An Ancient Theory of Religion: Euhemerism from Antiquity to the Present

Nickolas P. Roubekas, An Ancient Theory of Religion:Euhemerism from Antiquity to the Present. Routledge Monographs in Classical Studies. New York and London: Routledge, 2017.

An Ancient Theory of Religion examines a theory of religion put forward by Euhemerus of Messene (late 4th—early 3rd century BCE) in his lost work Sacred Inscription, and shows not only how and why euhemerism came about but also how it was— and still is—used.9781138848931

By studying the utilization of the theory in different periods—from the Graeco-Roman world to Late Antiquity, and from the Renaissance to the twenty-first century—this book explores the reception of the theory in diverse literary works. In so doing, it also unpacks the different adoptions and misrepresentations of Euhemerus’s work according to the diverse agendas of the authors and scholars who have employed his theory. In the process, certain questions are raised: What did Euhemerus actually claim? How has his theory of the origins of belief in gods been used? How can modern scholarship approach and interpret his take on religion? When referring to ‘euhemerism,’ whose version are we employing? An Ancient Theory of Religion assumes no prior knowledge of euhemerism and will be of interest to scholars working in classical reception, religious studies, and early Christian studies.

Contents

Acknowledgments
Introduction: Why Study Euhemerism?
1. Euhemerus’s Euhemerism
2. Before Euhemerus
3. Returning to the Sources
4. Euhemerism and Atheism
5. Euhemerus, Divine Kingship, and Irony
6. Citing the Citations: Anti–‘Pagan’ Euhemerism and Identity Formation
7. Turning the Tables: Anti–Christian Euhemerism in Celsus
8. Seeing ‘Euhemerism’ Everywhere
Afterword: On the Use and Abuse of a Theory
Index

About the author
Nickolas P. Roubekas is Assistant Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Vienna, Austria. He received his Ph.D. in Religious Studies from the Aristotle University, Greece, and held research and teaching positions at University of South Africa, North-West University, and the University of Aberdeen, U.K.