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.

Job Opening at Nebraska Wesleyan University

This opening might be of interest to NAASR members:

VISITING PROFESSOR OF RELIGION & BIBLEschool_logo_wesleyan.jpg

Nebraska Wesleyan University invites applications for a full-time, 2-year Visiting Assistant Professor with expertise in teaching Bible within a Liberal Arts Curriculum, beginning August 2017.

Department: Religion

ResponsibilitiesDuties include teaching biblical courses in a newly inaugurated liberal arts general education program focusing on themes of Identity, Globalization, Justice, Democracy, Gender, and designated skills in writing, speaking, and diversity within the US and globally. Familiarity with the discipline of Religious Studies and knowledge of the social, political, and historical study of Christianity is preferable. The successful candidate will participate in our liberal arts general education program, the Archway Curriculum.  The annual teaching load will be 9 – 12 credits per semester. Applicants with Methodist affiliations who can help prepare students for seminary are encouraged to apply.Nebraska Wesleyan University is an independent Methodist liberal arts university of approximately 2,000 undergraduate and graduate students in Lincoln, Nebraska. The University’s steadfast commitment to putting learning into action through internships, study abroad, service learning and collaborative research has yielded tremendous outcomes for students and alumni.

Qualifications
* PhD or be ABD from accredited program in Religion
* Expertise in Bible
* Familiarity with the discipline of Religious Studies
* Knowledge of the social, political, and historical study of Christianity
* Experience with teaching biblical courses in a liberal arts education program
* Demonstrated critical thinking and time management skills
* Demonstrated ability to communicate effectively with a variety of constituents
* Demonstrated written and oral communication skills

Commitment to DiversityNebraska Wesleyan University is an equal opportunity employer and is committed to recruiting, hiring and retaining members of racial/ethnic groups under-represented in higher education. Applicants with disabilities are invited to identify any necessary accommodations required in the application process. E-Verify, EOE.

How to Apply
To apply, please send cover letter, resume/CV, sample syllabus and three professional letters of reference.  A statement of teaching philosophy is optional.  Electronic submissions are strongly encouraged and should be sent to Maria Harder at mharder@nebrwesleyan.edu(link sends e-mail).   Review of applications will begin immediately and continue until the position is filled.

Preliminary NAASR 2017 Program Announcement

15966452_10104737753216645_1912600912_o

The Things we Study when we Study Religion

Call for respondents still active. Proposals due March 1, 2017. Email NAASR VP at aaron.hughes@rochester.edu.

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)
(Respondents tbd)

Objects: Matthew Baldwin (Mars Hill University)
(Respondents tbd)

Scholars: Craig Martin (St. Thomas Aquinas College)
(Respondents tbd)

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)

Call for respondents still active. Proposals due March 1, 2017. Email NAASR VP at aaron.hughes@rochester.edu.