Table of contents
Editorial- open access
Who Gets to Play in the Sandbox? Debating Identities, Methodologies, and Theoretical Frameworks
Philip L. Tite
For the Good or the Guild: An Open Letter to the Academy of Religion
Kate Daley Bailey
When Is a Religion Like a Weed?: Some Thoughts on Why and How We Define Things
A Search for the “Really” Real: Philosophically Approaching the Task of Defining Religion
J. Aaron Simmons
Worlds Apart: The Essentials of Critical Thinking
K. Merinda Simmons
A deep-seated schism: Fundamental discussions in the study of religions
Caroline Schaffalitzky de Muckadell
Who Believed There Was A Bomb and When Did They Believe It? What Ahmed Mohamed’s Clock Says About Belief and Moral Panic
Joseph P. Laycock
“Better get to know Practicum: Critical Theory, Religion, and Pedagogy” an interview with Craig Martin and Brad Stoddard of Practicum blog
Editor’s Corner: NAASR Membership and the Bulletin for the Study of Religion: An Important Announcement and a Personal Reflection<
Philip L. Tite
This opening in religious studies might be of interest to NAASR members:
The position is attached to the subject area Religious Studies within the Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies, Faculty of Humanities at Utrecht University. The subject area Religious Studies offers a dynamic, research-oriented context with a strong commitment to excellence in teaching and curriculum development. Research and teaching in Religious Studies at UU is carried out in collaboration with the subject area Islam and Arabic, as well as with other programs within the Faculty of Humanities and beyond.
Peter Jackson and Anna-Pya Sjödin (eds.), Philosophy and the End of Sacrifice: Disengaging Ritual in Ancient India, Greece, and Beyond (Equinox 2016).
This volume addresses the means and ends of sacrificial speculation by inviting a selected group of specialist in the fields of philosophy, history of religions, and indology to examine philosophical modes of sacrificial speculation — especially in Ancient India and Greece — and consider the commonalities of their historical raison d’être. Scholars have long observed, yet without presenting any transcultural grand theory on the matter, that sacrifice seems to end with (or even continue as) philosophy in both Ancient India and Greece. How are we to understand this important transformation that so profoundly changed the way we think of religion (and philosophy as opposed to religion) today? Some of the complex topics inviting closer examination in this regard are the interiorisation of ritual, ascetism and self-sacrifice, sacrifice and cosmogony, the figure of the philosopher-sage, transformations and technologies of the self, analogical reasoning, the philosophy of ritual, vegetarianism, and metempsychosis.
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.
K. Merinda Simmons, University of Alabama
The 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.
Craig Martin, St. Thomas Aquinas College
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
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 (firstname.lastname@example.org),
by no later than March 01, 2016
Luther 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.
Peter 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.