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Colloquium announcement and call for papers: Religion & Theology Colloquium

“Towards a Different Reformation”
Date: Wednesday 29 – Friday 31 August 2018
Venue: Council Chambers, University of Johannesburg

The Reformation in Europe that started with Martin Luther nailing his “95 theses” to the door of the All Saints’ Church in Wittenberg on 31 October 1517, unleashed (arguably) the second big split in Christendom, and fractured the loose confederation of polities that constituted Western Europe and Western Christendom. The celebration of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation in 2017 coincided with the 150th anniversary of the publication of Karl Marx’s Das Kapital, as well as the centenary of the Russian Revolution of 1917. Within political theory and history, Protestantism has often been seen as crucial to the development of capitalism as the dominant economic and political form in the 18th century.

Consequently, the 150th anniversary of Das Kapital and the centenary of the Russian Revolution afford a unique opportunity for scholars of religion and theology to recalibrate the way in which the Reformation and the origins of Protestantism are conceived, understood, and theorized. Whereas the history of Christian theological thinking casts the Reformation often primarily as a religious and theological event, we propose, rather to consider the Reformation as an iconic event, as discourse, as a series of contested social and ideological formations. As embedded in and as an epiphenomenon of shifts in Europe from the High Middle Ages to the Early Modern period, the Reformation is not to be understood as a singular event.

From the vantage point of a materialist framework we consider the reception history of the Reformation as an idea and concept through the long duration of performances of the Reformation, such that the colloquium not only considers it as an event in the past, but also considers the Reformation as a continually imagined cypher in service of various kinds of interests.

To get the question of the social, political, and theological force of contested inheritances of iconic events into greater focus, the colloquium is specifically not taking place in the year of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation but in the year following, so as to emphasize that reflection on the celebrations of the anniversary is itself part of our rethinking the Reformation.

In doing so, we draw on theories of religion and the social that are significantly informed by concepts of discourse. Discourse is understood here as the production of (religious) expressions and artefacts as well as the scholarship on such (religious) expressions as operations embedded in the field of discourse, that is, products of and producers of sets of representations (which range from the spoken word, text, gesture, ritual, religious spaces, and the rhythms of life as hidden persuasions), including the social locations that form the originary matrices for the particular inventions of these sets of representations. Thus, discourse includes, as well, the social interests encompassed/encapsulated in and giving rise to these sets of representations, in addition to the logic governing the interrelations between these factors or aspects. Discourse also encompasses the institutionalizations of such “domained” representations in canons of tradition, schools of thought, habitus as habituated action, social formations, cultural and socio-political-economic conventions, that is, as discursive formations.

Papers are invited that investigate the Reformation as historical event (especially addressing the question: what is an event?); and theorizing the Reformation as a discursive event; re-embedding the Reformation (and its reception or effective history) into trajectories of social redefinitions, economic interests, and politico-cultural formations. Papers should particularly consider the imagined Reformation as it continues to inflect contemporary constructions of Christian discourses and identity formations (including reflections on the 500th anniversary celebrations themselves). The emphasis will fall on the human agencies and the various power plays and power effects that underlie the construction of the historical process named the Reformation. In addition, papers should investigate the technologies of discourse production underlying these social redefinitions.

Selected papers from the colloquium will be published in Religion & Theology. A Journal of Contemporary Religious Discourse (Brill).

Conference fee: ZAR 800.00
Due date for proposals, abstracts: Friday 6 April 2018
Contact: Prof. Gerhard van den Heever or Prof. Maria Frahm-Arp
All inquiries and submission of proposals: reformation2018@gmail.com

Accepting Applications for NAASR Executive Secretary/Treasurer

The North American Association for the Study of religion is accepting applications for the position of Executive Secretary/Treasurer. Applicants should send a brief statement of interest along with a copy of their CV to naasr.religion (at) gmail.com. The committee will review applications on Saturday, February 10, 2018.

Job description: Executive Secretary/Treasurer (appointee of the NAASR Executive Council; 5 year term)

  • Keep and file all documents belonging to the Association that are committed to the Association’s custody, and shall, as required by the President, the Executive Council, or by any of the Standing Committees, submit to the membership by mail, such matters as require the approval of or action by the membership.
  • Under the direction and supervision of the Executive Council, the Executive Secretary/Treasurer shall be the custodian of all cash and securities of the Association and shall keep full and accurate account of the receipts and disbursements in books belonging to the Association.
  • Shall maintain an accurate and updated list of members and collect all dues and shall deposit all monies in the name and to the credit of the Association with such depositories as may be designated by the Executive Council, and shall disburse the funds of the Association as directed by the Executive Council, making a proper voucher for such disbursements and shall render to the Executive Council and to the membership periodically or upon request, an account of all transactions as Treasurer and of the financial condition of the Association.
  • Reserve rooms annually and organize the annual meeting, in collaboration with the program committee.
  • Keep full and complete minutes of all meetings of the members, Executive Council and Standing committees as well as complete records of all action taken by these bodies.
  • Periodically email NAASR members and members of the Executive Council with news and information.
  • Update NAASR’s website.
  • Post on NAASR’s social media (e.g., Facebook and Twitter).
  • Update NAASR’s databases.
  • Forward membership rosters to Brill and Equinox.
  • Prepare annual report for the Executive Council.

Authors of the Four Pre-distributed Papers for #naasr2018

We’re happy to announce the authors of the four pre-distributed papers for #naasr2018.

Megan Goodwin (Northeastern University): Gender and Sexuality
Michael McVicar (Florida State University): Citizenship and Politics
Richard Newton (Elizabethtown College): Race and Ethnicity
Suzanne Owen (Leeds Trinity College): Class and Economy

The call for respondents is available here. Please send your proposal as a file attachment by March 1, 2018, to NAASR VP Rebekka King at rebekka.king@mtsu.edu.

Main Papers for #NAASR2017

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.

Baldwin 2017Martin 2017Reed 2017

“…But What Do You Study?”: A NAASR Workshop on Theory & Method in the Job Market

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 (grazmike@gmail.com).


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:

I. Workshop

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.

Books of Interest: Fabricating Identities

Russell T. McCutcheon (editor). Fabricating Identities (Equinox, 2017)

fab ids

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.

Books of Interest: Religion Explained? The Cognitive Science of Religion after Twenty-five Years

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.Religion Explained

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.