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Yearly Archives: 2014

Books of Interest: Textbook Gods

Bengt-Ove Andreassen and James R. Lewis (editors), Textbook Gods: Genre, Text and Teaching Religious Studies (Equinox 2014).

In recent years there has been a renewed interest in textbooks, partly because they have maintained their position as an important genre. Not too many years ago – and perhaps currently as well – many considered textbooks outdated or archaic compared with technological advances such as the Internet and different kinds of educational software. Despite these changes, textbooks for school subjects and for academic studies continue to be in demand. Textbooks seem to constitute a genre in which established truths are conveyed, and may thus represent stable forces in a world of flux and rapid changes.

Textbook Gods offers perspectives on representations of religion and religions in textbooks. The contributions emerge from different contexts, ranging from European countries, to North America, Japan and Australia.

NAASR members can receive 25% off the retail price using the code Textbook when ordering from http://www.equinoxpub.com; valid until the end of October 2014.

2014 Program Update

San Diego Pic

The 2014 annual meeting program has been updated; of particular note is the addition of information about two philosophy of religion working groups that will be meeting on Sunday:

Working Group: Philosophy of Religion 1

9:00 AM-11:30 AM—Gaslamp Room 1, Omni Hotel

To what extent do we need to consider the truth of what religious people say in order to understand them? In this working group discussion we consider an influential approach to meaning—“truth conditional semantics”—that ties meaning directly to truth. According to this view, grasping the conditions under which an utterance is true is central to successful interpretation, whether in religion or elsewhere. However, interpreting religious language poses some interesting challenges to truth-conditional semantics. The discussion will be led by scholars who take very different positions with respect to the relevance of truth-conditionality to religious phenomena. To the extent that truth-conditionality has been influential in philosophical semantics, this working group facilitates a focused look at possible relations between philosophy and religious studies.

Working Group Leaders
Terry Godlove, Hofstra University
Mark Gardiner, Mount Royal University
Scott Davis, University of Richmond
[Due to a scheduling conflict, Gabriel Levy (Norwegian University for Science and Tech) and Lars Albinus (Aarhus University) will not be able to attend, but will share written contributions with the other working group leaders.]


Working Group: Philosophy of Religion 2

1:00 PM-3:30 PM—Gaslamp Room 1, Omni Hotel

In order to advance the general discussion of the future of the philosophy of religion in the academic study of religion, working group leaders will invite discussion of related issues raised by Kevin Schilbrack’s recent Philosophy and the Study of Religions: A Manifesto (Wiley Blackwell, 2014). Schilbrack’s volume argues that disciplinary philosophy can play a more active, contributory role in the study of religion and, to that end, undertakes philosophical consideration of the task(s) of philosophy, the role of belief, the definition of religion, religious metaphysics, and the nature of the study of religion.

Working Group Leaders
Jeppe Sinding Jensen, Aarhus University
Wesley Wildman, Boston University
Tim Knepper, Drake University
Bryan Rennie, Westminster College
Kevin Schilbrack, Western Carolina University


The organizers of the second working group asked that I share the following details about their discussion.

Jeppe Sinding Jensen will talk about the issue of the “metaphysics of religion”—are they ontological or epistemic? Or, to put it another way, what is it that we are trying to make sense of?

Tim Knepper will discuss Schilbrack’s neglect of comparison; his explication of the methodological steps of an improved philosophy of religion—description, explanation, and evaluation—fails to mention comparison. Knepper will suggest that any philosophy of religion that is religiously diverse and inclusive is necessarily comparative and should therefore make comparison a distinct, formal step of its practice.

Bryan Rennie suggests we go further then Schilbrack proposes—the methods of disciplinary philosophy could provide the centralizing paradigm around which the various contributory disciplines of the study of religion might be better organized. Rennie will suggest a “philosophical ethology” that studies religion primarily as behavior and will insist that, even in such a study, there must be greater philosophical focus on issues such as the natures of inferential reasoning, definition, truth, and “superempirical realities.”

The focus of Wildman’s discussion will be practical, thinking of Schilbrack’s work less as the splendid manifesto it is and more as a guidebook for practical change in philosophy of religion. It is not necessary to achieve consensus around Schilbrack’s functional-substantive definition of religion, the legitimacy of metaphysics, or the three goals of philosophy of religion in order to make progress. The necessary condition is to demonstrate the catastrophic weaknesses of traditional arguments in philosophy of religion. The quest for a higher quality of work necessarily leads to engagement with the academic study of religion from a host of directions. Philosophers so engaged may not agree with Schilbrack yet will make material contributions to philosophy of religion, renewed in something like the way that Schilbrack hopes, except more pluralistically and more haphazardly realized.


The Study of Religion as an Analytical Discipline Workshop 2014

San-Diego-skyline-from-Pt1The program for this year’s Study of Religion as an Analytical Discipline (SORAAAD) workshop—focusing on comparison—has now been announced:

In its fourth year, toward better design and deployment of comparative work in studies of religion, the SORAAAD workshop will focus on the act of comparison itself. How has comparison served as a method in the study of religion? How do we design research projects wherein data vary across space, time, or conceptual valence? How do we structure comparative studies in order to identify and mitigate hegemonic assumptions? How do we relate deep studies of small populations to larger populations and discourses? How transferable are the insights and mechanics developed within different settings? Addressing these and related questions, SORAAAD seeks not only to recover subfields from essentialism, but also to foster new inter- and intra-disciplinary development.

Speakers include John Kloppenborg, David Frankfurter, Paul C. Johnson, Kathryn Lofton, Jamel Velji, Margo Kitts, Jens Kreinath, and Michael Houseman.

You can find the full program here.

NAASR Note: Journal for the Cognitive Science of Religion

JCSRAlong with Pascal Boyer and Armin W. Geertz, NAASR co-founder Luther H. Martin is one of the editors of a new journal, the Journal for the Cognitive Science of Religion. 

Journal for the Cognitive Science of Religion is the official journal of the International Association for the Cognitive Science of Religion (IACSR). The Association was founded in 2006 and since then has sponsored a number of international collaborative projects and biennial conferences. A subscription to the journal is included in membership.

The cognitive science of religion is a burgeoning field that finds itself in the center of cross-disciplinary research. Cognition is understood in a variety of ways from bottom-up to top-down models and theories. New insights into cognition, culture and religion are being discovered, new ways of doing research are being established and new methodologies and technologies are being used in the cognitive science of religion. The number of scholars and scientists working in this exciting field are expanding exponentially, and the journal provides a cutting-edge publication channel for this field.

You can find more information at the publisher’s website here.

2015 IAHR CFP Deadlines Approaching

IAHR-2015**Update: the deadline for panel proposals have been extended to 15 December.**

The deadline for panel proposals for the 2015 IAHR World Congress—to be held in Erfurt, Germany—is 14 September 2014! (The deadline for individual paper proposals is a little further off: 15 December 2014). You can find out more about the IAHR Quinquennial meeting by checking out the IAHR website or the conference website.

Here’s are the details for the call for panels:

We invite contributions from all disciplines of religious studies and related fields of research to allow for broad, interdisciplinary discussion of the Congress topic to register their panels for the XXI World Congress of the IAHR. Panels should address one of the four thematic Congress areas: Religious Communities in Society: Adaption and Transformation – Practices and Discourses: Innovation and Tradition – The Individual: Religiosity, Spiritualities and individualization – Methodology: Representations and Interpretations.

Each panel lasts two hours. Panel papers should be limited to 20 to 30 minutes, depending on the number of panel participants. Panel conveners are asked to approach possible participants from different nations to reflect the scope and internationality of the IAHR Congress.

To propose a panel, please submit a general proposal of the panel as well as individual proposals of all papers included in the panel. Both panel and papers of a proposed panel will be evaluated by the Academic Program Committee to ensure a high academic standard of the Congress program. We therefore ask panel conveners to submit the proposals of all prospective panel participants of a proposed panel as indicated by the submission form. Proposals of panels and of papers should not exceed 150 words.

The deadline for submission of proposals is Sunday, September 14, 2014. All proposals must be submitted electronically via the IAHR 2015 website (www.iahr2015.org). As part of the submission process, you will be asked to indicate the area in which you would like your proposal considered. Your proposal will then be forwarded to the appropriate member of the Academic Program Committee.

You will receive notice concerning the status of your proposal as soon as possible and certainly before March 1, 2015. If your panel or paper has been accepted by the Academic Program Committee, please note that you will have to register as Congress participant before May 15, 2015 to be included in the Congress program.

Books of Interest: Harnessing Chaos

harnessing chaosJames G. Crossley, Harnessing Chaos: The Bible in English Political Discourse Since 1968 (Bloomsbury, 2014).

Harnessing Chaos is an explanation of changes in dominant politicalized assumptions about what the Bible ‘really means’ in English culture since the 1960s. James G. Crossley looks at how the social upheavals of the 1960s, and the economic shift from the post-war dominance of Keynesianism to the post-1970s dominance of neoliberalism, brought about certain emphases and nuances in the ways in which the Bible is popularly understood, particularly in relation to dominant political ideas. This book examines the decline of politically radical biblical interpretation in parliamentary politics and the victory of (a modified form of) Margaret Thatcher’s re-reading of the liberal Bible tradition, following the normalisation of (a modified form of) Thatcherism more generally.

Part I looks at the potential options for politicized readings of the Bible at the end of the the1960s, focussing on the examples of Christopher Hill and Enoch Powell. Part II analyses the role of Thatcher’s specific contribution to political interpretation of the Bible and assumptions about ‘religion’. Part III highlights the importance of (often unintended) ideological changes towards forms of Thatcherite interpretation in popular culture and with particular reference to Monty Python’s Life of Brian and the Manchester music scene between 1976 and 1994. Part IV concerns the modification of Thatcher’s Bible, particularly with reference to the embrace of socially liberal values, by looking at the electoral decline of the Conservative Party through the work of Jeffrey Archer on Judas and the final victory of Thatcherism through Tony Blair’s exegesis. Some consideration is then given to the Bible in an Age of Coalition and how politically radical biblical interpretations retain a presence outside parliamentary politics. Harnessing Chaos concludes with reflections on why politicians in English politicians bother using the Bible at all.

NAASR Note: The Problem of the Mystic East

The Bulletin for the Study of Religion blog has a post on “The Problem of the Mystic Eastmystic-east” that might be of interest to NAASR members.

JAAR Editor Search

JAARThe Journal of the American Academy of Religion is looking for a new editor, as Amir Hussein will be stepping down at the end of 2015. You can find more information and learn how to apply at the AAR website here.

Resources of Interest: New Books in Religion

new books religionFor those of you who aren’t already familiar with this resource, be sure to check out New Books in Religion. According to their description,

New Books in Religion features discussions with scholars of religion about their work, and particularly their new books. We explore the world’s great traditions, local manifestations of religion, theory and method in the study of religion, and the role of religion in public life, among many other things.

The typically hour-long podcast Interviews are ably conducted by Kristian Petersen, and you’ll find a lot of interviews with NAASR members and officers, including Steven Engler, Brent Nongbri, Robert Yelle, Russell McCutcheon, William Arnal, Aaron Hughes, Monica Miller, and several more.

Books of Interest: Race and Displacement

race displacementMaha Marouan and Merinda Simmons (eds.), Race and Displacement: Nation, Migration, and Identity in the Twenty-First Century (University of Alabama Press, 2013).

Race and Displacement captures a timely set of discussions about the roles of race in displacement, forced migrations, nation and nationhood, and the way continuous movements of people challenge fixed racial definitions.
The multifaceted approach of the essays in Race and Displacement allows for nuanced discussions of race and displacement in expansive ways, exploring those issues in transnational and global terms. The contributors not only raise questions about race and displacement as signifying tropes and lived experiences; they also offer compelling approaches to conversations about race, displacement, and migration both inside and outside the academy. Taken together, these essays become a case study in dialogues across disciplines, providing insight from scholars in diaspora studies, postcolonial studies, literary theory, race theory, gender studies, and migration studies.
The contributors to this volume use a variety of analytical and disciplinary methodologies to track multiple articulations of how race is encountered and defined. The book is divided by editors Maha Marouan and Merinda Simmons into four sections: “Race and Nation” considers the relationships between race and corporality in transnational histories of migration using literary and oral narratives. Essays in “Race and Place” explore the ways spatial mobility in the twentieth century influences and transforms notions of racial and cultural identity.  Essays in “Race and Nationality” address race and its configuration in national policy, such as racial labeling, federal regulations, and immigration law. In the last section, “Race and the Imagination” contributors explore the role imaginative projections play in shaping understandings of race.
Together, these essays tackle the question of how we might productively engage race and place in new sociopolitical contexts.  Tracing the roles of “race” from the corporeal and material to the imaginative, the essays chart new ways that concepts of origin, region, migration, displacement, and diasporic memory create understandings of race in literature, social performance, and national policy.