“The Field”: Assessing and Critiquing the Academic Study of Religion
At our 2018 meeting, NAASR sponsored a panel commemorating the work, legacy, and influence of former NAASR President, Jonathan Z. Smith. Much of the discussion addressed his important work Imagining Religion, where Smith famously called scholars to be mindful of the ways they “imagine” religion and so-called religious data. Building off this crucial insight, NAASR 2019 will highlight the field of the academic study of religion and its impact on the ways that scholars and others imagine religion. NAASR 2019 will explore various factors that influence the production of academic discourses on religion and their dissemination in the classroom, in academic literature, in public debates, and in other forms of information dissemination. Specifically, the program for 2019 will focus on four topics: History of the Field, The Role and Influence of Private Funding of the Field, Teaching the Field, and International Perspectives on the Field.
A few of the issues that we intend to address are: How is religion constructed and depicted in the academic study of religion? How do private donors selectively privilege certain descriptions of religion, and to what ends? How do instructors communicate and/or critique these descriptions to students and to broader audiences? Scholars are increasingly called to engage in public scholarship. What is public scholarship, who answers these calls, and how do scholars imagine religion in this scholarship?
Following the model used for the past several annual meetings, four main, substantive papers will be invited and distributed both to respondents and to NAASR members approximately one month prior to the meeting. The authors of the main papers will summarize their papers at the meeting. Each paper will then have four respondents, who will have fifteen minutes each to reply to the main paper. An open discussion will follow for the remainder of the session.
Following the precedent set over the past four years, the aim once again is to publish these sessions as a book (with responses from the main paper presenters) under the NAASR Working Papers series with Equinox Publishing (edited by Martie Smith Roberts).
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:
- History of the Field
- The Role and Influence of Private Funding of the Field
- Teaching the Field
- International Perspectives on the Field
The main presenters will be asked to analyze the construction of religion in academic literature in light of their assigned theme (or articulated theme, given theme, specific theme), to advocate/critique scholarship carried out in that vein, and to explore its implications both for the field and for the broader imagining of religion. 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 their scholarship and/or field of study explores the theme
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, 2019, to NAASR VP Rebekka King at firstname.lastname@example.org
#naasr2019 • Nov. 22-24 • San Diego, CA
We are pleased to post the four main papers for our conference panels this November in Denver. As a reminder, each panel has a theme taken up by a main paper writer and posted below. At the conference, these papers will be summarized by their authors, responses from four other panelists will follow, and then there will be an open discussion. You can see the entire schedule HERE.
The four topics and main presenters are:
Gender and Sexuality, Megan Goodwin (10:00-11:50am Friday)
This Field Which Is Not One / The Body Is Smart: Rethinking Theory in the Study of Religion
Class and Economy, Suzanne Owen (1:00-2:50pm Friday)
Regulating Religion to Maintain the Status Quo
Citizenship and Politics, Michael McVicar (3:00-4:45pm Friday)
Paper Terrorism: Religion, Paperwork, and the Contestation of State Power in the “Sovereign Citizen” Movement
Race and Ethnicity, Richard Newton (9:00-10:50am Saturday)
Signifying “Der Rassist” in Religious Studies and the Axes of Social Difference
Full papers available here for review prior to the conference (these are not for publication or redistribution):
New in the series: Supplements to Method & Theory in the Study of Religion, edited Aaron W. Hughes, Russell McCutcheon and Kocku von Stuckrad.
Jason N. Blum (editor). The Question of Methodological Naturalism (Brill, 2018).
The traditions and institutions that we call religions abound with references to the supernatural: ancestral spirits, karma, the afterlife, miracles, revelation, deities, etc. How are students of religion to approach the behaviors, doctrines, and beliefs that refer to such phenomena, which by their very nature are supposed to defy the methods of empirical research and the theories of historical scholarship? That is the question of methodological naturalism. The Question of Methodological Naturalism offers ten thoughtful engagements with that perennial question for the academic study of religion. Contributors include established senior scholars and newer voices propounding a range of perspectives, resulting in both surprising points of convergence and irreconcilable differences in how our shared discipline should be conceptualized and practiced.
NAASR, in collaboration with the Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim, Norway, is pleased to announce the call for papers for the upcoming conference in June 2019.
See the full CFP HERE.
“When the Chips are Down,” It’s Time to Pick Them Up:
Thinking with Jonathan Z. Smith
Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies Norwegian University of Science and Technology Trondheim, Norway
June 4-5, 2019
Confirmed keynote speaker:
Aaron W. Hughes, Philip S. Bernstein Professor of Jewish Studies
in the Department of Religion and Classics at the University of Rochester
In his bio-bibliographical essay, J. Z. Smith wrote that he was fond of the expression “when the chips are down” in the sense of all being said and done. With his passing away in December 2017, the phrase has gained an additional layer of sad finality. Now, the chips are really down. And that means, it is time for us to pick them up. With this in mind, we would like to invite interested scholars to submit abstracts considering theoretical and methodological issues central to J. Z. Smith’s oeuvre in the context of their own research.
For example, in “When the Chips are Down” (in Relating Religion, 2004) Smith described his “persistent preoccupations”: the questions of taxonomy, comparison, similarity and difference, translation, defamiliarization, redescription, and generalization. To what extent, if at all, can we implement, reinterpret, and develop these concerns in new directions and in new data domains? What advantages and limitations do the perspectives that J. Z. Smith illuminated present when applied to the various items that we each study? Is thinking with J. Z. Smith still a road worth pursuing and, if so, where can it take us— either in our own work or collectively, as a field? By answering these and similar questions, we want to test the adequacy and applicability of Smith’s concerns for new situations, historic periods, and regions, and thus to provide an indirect assessment of J. Z. Smith’s influence and legacy in the field of Religious Studies.
200-300 words paper proposals should be sent to email@example.com
and accompanied by one-paragraph biographical information.
Deadline for proposal submission: December 15, 2018.
Final decisions on conference participation will be sent out by January 21, 2019.
The conference has no registration fee. Meals and hotel accommodations in Trondheim will be covered.
Presenters will be invited to submit full-text articles for a planned publication in the NAASR Working Papers series.
If you have any further questions, please do not hesitate to contact conference organizers
Barbara Krawcowicz (firstname.lastname@example.org) or
Ann-Kathrin Bretfeld-Wolf (email@example.com).
Books of Interest: Identity, Politics and the Study of Islam: Current Dilemmas in the Study of Religions
New in the Equinox Series Culture on the Edge: Studies in Identity Formation edited by Steven Ramey, University of Alabama
Matt Sheedy (editor). Identity, Politics and the Study of Islam: Current Dilemmas in the Study of Religions (Equinox Publishing, 2018)
Based partly on a series of posts coming out of the Bulletin for the Study of Religion blog, this volume includes greatly expanded essays by Ruth Mas, Sarah Imhoff and James Crossley as well as new pieces by Devin Stewart, Carlos Segovia, Alexandre Caeiro and Emmanuelle Stefanidis, Russell McCutcheon and Salman Sayyid. This volume, thus, brings together a variety of scholars both inside and outside of Islamic Studies in order to grapple with such questions as: what, if anything, is unique about Islamic Studies? How should Islamic studies as religious studies engage with postcolonial critique? What is the role of identity politics in such endeavors? What are the lines between descriptive (hermeneutic) work and theoretical explanations of Islamic texts? What can scholars in related areas, such as the study of Judaism and early Christianity, offer to this conversation by way of analogy? Can ethical, political, or theological concerns function critically to help theorize Islam?
The volume is divided into four sections: Theory and Identity Politics in the Study of Islam, which looks at the role of identity, knowledge production, and political commitments among scholars of Islam; Critique and Identity in Qur’anic Studies, which deals with challenges in applying critical-historical methods to the study of the Qur’an and how these methods relate to some of the issues raised Omid Safi and Aaron Hughes; Comparative Views from Outside Islamic Studies, which provides a comparative view of how scholars have dealt with similar concerns in the study of Judaism and Christianity; and A Critical Appraisal, which offers a direct challenge to Safi and Hughes.
Find out more and purchase HERE
Quote the code RELIGION to receive 25% off any edition
Books of Interest: “Religion” in Theory and Practice Demystifying the Field for Burgeoning Academics
New in the NAASR Working Papers Series:
Russell T. McCutcheon (author). “Religion” in Theory and Practice: Demystifying the Field for Burgeoning Academics (Equinox Publishing, 2018).
“Religion” in Theory and Practice follows on from Russell T. McCutcheon’s book Entanglements: Marking Place in the Field of Religion (Equinox Publishing, 2014) by offering an overview of the current state of theory in the academic study of religion, and examining a variety of practical sites where critical scholarship is implemented but also challenged. Although addressed to early career scholars, this volume will also be of interest to anyone curious about why so many in the study of religion continue to assume that their object of study needs special attention.
The first section outlines McCutcheon’s broader and more recent thoughts on the current state of the field (such as the claim, by some, that it is now “post-theory”) while the second section applies the first at a variety of discrete sites within the profession, from how we approach teaching the introductory course and the ongoing problem of contingent labor to the varied readers that we can now reach with our work. The volume concludes with a third section in which twenty-one different scholars, each at an early point in their career, take the stage, offering their own views on the challenges of professionalization, job market, gaining teaching experience, and work–life balance. The volume therefore invites readers to step back from their own individual, specialized work and to consider some of the structures in which the wider field exists—and some of the things that we all might do, regardless our career stage, in response to them.
Find out more and purchase HERE.
New in the NAASR Working Papers Series:
Brad Stoddard (editor). Method Today: Redescribing Approaches to the Study of Religion (Equinox Publishing, 2018).
Thirty or forty years ago, the phrase “method and theory” in Religious Studies scholarship referred to more social scientific approaches to the study of religion, as opposed to the more traditional theological hermeneutics common to the field. Today, however, it seems that everyone claims to do “theory and method,” including those people who shun social scientific approaches the academic study of religion.
Method Today brings together the contributions of scholars from a recent North American Association for the Study of Religion conference to explore the question of what it means to do “theory and method” in an era where the phrase has no distinct meaning. Contributors specifically address the categories of description, interpretation, comparison, and explanation in Religious Studies scholarship.
Find out more and purchase HERE.