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Yearly Archives: 2017
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Philip L. Tite
Matthew R. Hotham
Tyler M. Tully
Joseph P. Laycock
Call for Proposals
The last several years, NAASR’s annual programs have addressed theory (2015), method (2016), and data (2017). Building off these important discussions, the program for 2018 will apply these topics to the study of religion internationally as we specifically focus on four topics: Citizenship and Politics, Class and Economy, Gender and Sexuality, and Race and Ethnicity. How, for example, do method and theory apply to the study of religion and these themes? How do scholars construct their categories or critique scholars who do? Who decides how to approach the study of these topics? And what scholarship provides the most important examples of insightful academic analyses of these terms and topics? Using these questions as a starting point, this year’s meeting will explore historiographic and/or contemporary analyses of the aforementioned topics, paying particular attention to applied method and theory in diverse data domains.
Following the model used for the past three annual meetings, four main, substantive papers will be invited and 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 three years, the aim once again is to see these sessions published as a book (with responses from the main paper presenters) under the NAASR Working Papers series with Equinox Publishing (edited by Rebekka King).
This is therefore a call for respondents.
The four main papers will be invited, each to examine the implications of framing our research as focusing on one of the following topics: Citizenship and Politics, Class and Economy, Gender and Sexuality, and Race and Ethnicity. The main presenters will be asked to analyze the construction of categories in academic literature that addresses each of these themes, to advocate/critique scholarship carried out in that vein, and to explore its implications for the field. Submissions for possible respondents (16 in total are needed) must each:
- identify the key theme (one of the four immediately above) on which they wish to focus in their reply
- provide a brief (max. 500 words) statement on the most pressing issue(s) in need of consideration when addressing scholarship on religion and one of these themes
- as part of (2), discuss how your scholarship and/or field of study explores the theme you intend to address
We would like to pair scholars from diverse data domains.
NAASR especially invites submissions from early career scholars who have an interest in the topics explored in our sessions.
Please send your proposal as a file attachment by March 1, 2018, to NAASR VP Rebekka King at email@example.com
#naasr2018 • Nov. 17-20 • Denver, CO
Our culture is full of popular stereotypes about religion, both positive and negative. Many people uncritically assume that religion is intrinsically violent, or that religion makes people moral, or that it is simply “bullshit”. This concise volume tackles 10 of these stereotypes, addresses why scholars of religion find them to be cliched, describes their origins, and explains the social or political work they rhetorically accomplish in the present.
Cliches addressed include the following:
– Religions are belief systems
– I’m spiritual but not religious
– Religion concerns the transcendent
– Learning about religions leads to tolerance and understanding
– Religion is a private matter.
Written in an easy and accessible style, Stereotyping Religion: Critiquing Cliches will be of interest to all readers looking to clear away unsophisticated assumptions in preparation for more critical studies.Table of contents
1. Religions are Belief Systems, Sean McCloud (University of North Carolina, USA)
2. Religions are Intrinsically Violent, Matt Sheedy (University of Manitoba, Canada)
3. Religion Makes People Moral, Jennifer Eyl (Tufts University, USA)
4. Religion Concerns the Transcendent, Leslie Dorrough Smith(Avila University, USA)
5. Religion is a Private Matter, Robyn Faith Walsh(University of Miami, USA)
6. Religions are Mutually Exclusive, Steven W. Ramey(The University of Alabama, USA)
7. I’m Spiritual but Not Religious, Andie Alexander (Emory University, USA) and Russell T. McCutcheon (University of Alabama, USA)
8. Learning about Religion Leads to Tolerance, Tenzan Eaghll (University of Toronto, Canada)
9. Everyone has a Faith, James Dennis LoRusso (Princeton University, USA)
10. Religion is Bullshit, Rebekka King (Middle Tennessee State University, USA)
IndexAvailable on Amazon.
See below for the main papers we’ll discuss at our annual 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. An open discussion of roughly one hour will follow.
In 2017, NAASR will host its third Job Market Workshop alongside the AAR/SBL in Boston. Full information about the event (which is split over two sessions on Sunday, November 19) can be found below. To register, please contact Michael Graziano (firstname.lastname@example.org).
This session proposes to explore the employment challenges facing early career scholars who are interested in issues of theory & method in the study of religion, through both a discussion and workshop. This session addresses issues important to junior NAASR members (notably, but not exclusively, ABDs now entering/about to enter the job market) by demonstrating how a professional organization can provide a practical and strategic forum for job-market advice.
The following activities will take place during the session:
In the first half of the session, participants will break into small groups, each led by a more senior scholar. Within their groups, participants will discuss in focused ways how they might best represent themselves, their work, and their scholarly interests on the job market. The smaller setting will allow for more “hands on” advice, taking as examples the CV and cover letters the organizers will have pre-distributed among participants. Simply focusing on what one says in a cover letter’s opening paragraph, for example, or how one orders a C.V., will provide the way into larger questions of representation in these small group discussions. Participants should be ready to share and discuss their CV and sample cover letter with fellow group members (though hopefully all will have some familiarity with the materials in advance to facilitate a more focused workshop).
II. Open Discussion
With the issues and questions from the small-group workshop in mind, the second half of the session will be devoted to an open discussion. The group leaders will begin by providing brief introductory remarks on what they each see as constructive and strategic advice for early career scholars who are navigating the academic job market, aimed initially at how applicants can be strategic not only in trying to ascertain a Department’s needs but also in negotiating potential theoretical and political landmines in the field. A discussion will follow in which participants can talk about these issues in an informal atmosphere and share information. This guided discussion will focus on four central questions related to how might early career scholars interested in theory and method:
- represent themselves strategically on the job market?
- apply to calls for general positions, fitting themselves to broad departmental needs?
- shape their cover letters and CVs to appeal to a wide range of departments?
- respond to critiques that they have no “specialty,” “content,” or “area of study”?
The discussion is designed to reflect different opinions regarding the place of theory & method in the job market, as well as in the study of religion more generally.
Scholars of all concentrations within the field of Religious Studies are welcome to join the workshop—whether a NAASR member or not—though preference will be given to early career scholars, particularly those at the senior ABD stage (i.e., those already on or going onto the job market). Shortly before the workshop, but once the participants have been identified, each participant will be invited to share with the other members, via email or a closed social media group, their academic focus/dissertation topic, level of teaching experience, their level of experience with the job market as well as their own current position (e.g., PhD Student, Postdoc, Instructor, etc.) in order to ensure all participants come to the meeting somewhat familiar with the diversity of experience in the workshop. In addition, as stated above, each participant will be invited to provide a sample cover letter and CV for the organizers to pre-distribute. These materials will then be workshopped within their small groups. More details will follow after the participant list has been finalized.
Space is limited to 25 participants in this NAASR workshop, and participants can stay for as long or as little as they like. To register, please e-mail the organizer, Michael Graziano (grazmike [at] gmail [dot] com) by no later than October 15, 2017. In this request to register please include your current degree or professional career stage.
Russell T. McCutcheon (editor). Fabricating Identities (Equinox, 2017)
Fabricating Identities pairs early career scholars with members of Culture on the Edge, to explore how social actors identify themselves through their practices and associations. The book is arranged in a series of articles and commentaries that all press the model of seeing what we usually call identity as the result of a series of identifications—actions and circumstances that enable us to understand ourselves as related to others in specific ways. Changing relations result in changing senses of identity.
With an introduction and substantive theoretical afterword, the book’s brief main chapters make it an ideal conversation-starter in classes or primer for those wishing to rethink how we normally talk about identity.
Luther H. Martin and Donald Wiebe (editors). Religion Explained? The Cognitive Science of Religion after Twenty-five Years (Bloomsbury, 2017).
With contributions from founders of the field, including Justin Barrett, E. Thomas Lawson, Robert N. McCauley, Paschal Boyer, Armin Geertz and Harvey Whitehouse, as well as from younger scholars from successive stages in the field’s development, this is an important survey of the first twenty-five years of the cognitive science of religion.
Each chapter provides the author’s views on the contributions the cognitive science of religion has made to the academic study of religion, as well as any shortcomings in the field and challenges for the future. Religion Explained? The Cognitive Science of Religion after Twenty-five Years calls attention to the field whilst providing an accessible and diverse survey of approaches from key voices, as well as offering suggestions for further research within the field.
This book is essential reading for anyone in religious studies, anthropology, and the scientific study of religion.
Robert N. McCauley and E. Thomas Lawson. Philosophical Foundations of the Cognitive Science of Religion: A Head Start (Bloomsbury, 2017)
Robert N. McCauley and E. Thomas Lawson are considered the founders of the field of the cognitive science of religion. Since its inception over twenty years ago, the cognitive science of religion has raised questions about the philosophical foundations and implications of such a scientific approach. This vol
ume from McCauley, including chapters co-authored by Lawson, is the first book-length project to focus on such questions, resulting in a compelling volume that addresses fundamental questions that any scholar of religion should ask.
The essays collected in this volume are those that initially defined this scientific field for the study of religion. These essays deal with issues of methodology, reductionism, resistance to the scientific study of religion, and other criticisms that have been lodged against the cognitive science of religion. The new final chapter sees McCauley reflect on developments in this field since its founding.
Tackling these debates head on and in one place for the first time, this volume belongs on the shelf of every researcher interested in this now established approach to the study of religion within a range of disciplines, including religious studies, philosophy, anthropology and the psychology of religion.
Stephen K. Sanderson. Religious Evolution and the Axial Age: From Shamans to Priests to Prophets (Bloomsbury, 2017).
Religious Evolution and the Axial Age: From Shamans to Priests to Prop
hets is devoted to describing and explaining the evolution of religion over the past ten millennia. The volume shows that during this time an overall evolutionary sequence can be observed, running from the spirit- and shaman-dominated religions of small-scale societies to the archaic religions of the ancient civilizations and then to the salvation religions of the Axial Age.
Stephen K. Sanderson draws on ideas from the new cognitive and evolutionary psychological theories, as well as comparative religion, anthropolog
y, history, and sociology. He argues that religion is a biological adaptation that evolved in order to solve a number of human problems, especially those concerned with existential anxiety and ontological insecurity.
Much of the focus is on the Axial Age, the period in the second half of the fi
rst millennium BCE that marked the greatest religious transformation in world history. The book shows that as a result of massive increases in the scale and scope of war and large-scale urbanization, the problems of existential anxiety and ontological insecurity became particularly acute. Ultimately, Sanderson argues that new religions emphasizing salvation and release from suffering-Zoroastrianism, Judaism, Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism, and Daoism-arose to cope with the changing religious needs.
Olympia Panagiotidou and Roger Beck. The Roman Mithras Cult: A Cognitive Approach (Bloomsbury, 2017).
The Roman Mithras Cult: A Cognitive Approach is the first full cognitive history of an ancient religion. In this ground-breaking book on one of the most intriguing and mysterious ancient religions, Olympia Panagiotidou, with contributions from Roger Beck, shows how cognitive historiography can supplement our historical knowledge and deepen our understanding of past cultural phenomenon.
The cult of the sun god Mithras, which spread widely across the Graeco-Roman world at the same time as other ‘mystery cults’, and Christianity offered its devotees certain images and assumptions about reality. Initiation into the mysteries of Mithras and participation in the life of the cult significantly affected and transformed the ways in which the initiated perceived themselves, the world, and their position within it. The cult’s major ideas were conveyed mainly through its symbolic complexes. The ancient written testimonies and other records are not adequate to establish a definitive reconstruction of Mithraic theologies and the meaning of its complex symbolic structures.
The Roman Mithras Cult identifies the cognitive and psychological processes which would have taken place in the minds and bodies of the Mithraists during their initiation and participation in the mysteries, enabling the perception, apprehension, and integration of the essential images and assumptions of the cult in its worldview system.