Theses on Professionalization: Vincent Burgess


In this series with the Bulletin, we have asked 21 early career scholars to weigh in on Russell McCutcheon’s Theses on Professionalization, first published in 2007. In his 21 theses, McCutcheon offers advice to young scholars entering (or soon to enter) the job market, addressing the all-to-important (but often overlooked) question of professionalization. Each of the contributors in this series has been asked to comment on a single thesis, addressing its contemporary relevance, and how it relates to their own experience moving forward in the academic world. For other posts in this series, see here

by Vincent Burgess

Thesis # 13. Because there is no direct relationship between seniority and the quality of one’s writing, one’s familiarity with the literature, or the novelty of one’s ideas, graduate students ought never to refrain from submitting their work to a scholarly journal for possible peer review publication simply because they understand themselves to be novices. Even if rejected, the comments that result from the blind review process will be of benefit to students who have so far only received feedback from professors already familiar with their work.

Overall, this seems like great advice—and advice which is unlikely to be drastically affected by changing hiring paradigms, or even the potential shifting landscape of academic publishing (as recently discussed here and here.) Unlike other authors in this series, I cannot draw upon any specific anecdotes or overt experiences when it comes to this topic. To be honest, aside from delivering a handful of conference papers, this is the first time I’ve come close to writing anything to be published. However, the imperative to publish, and to publish often, has been looming over my head for many years—even before I began graduate school.

In my first religious studies theory course at THE Ohio State University we spent some time going over the biography and bibliography of Mircea Eliade. Eliade, it is said, had published 100 articles by the time he turned 18.[1] That’s a relatively intimidating factoid to learn when one is just beginning to process what would be expected of them as a graduate student/scholar in academia. Now, I have since learned not to hold myself to Eliade’s standards (for numerous reasons), but my understanding of the necessity to publish has never gone away.

There is, however, the inherent inferiority complex which seems to come along with being a graduate student (and much has recently been written on the notion of the “imposter syndrome”). Some of this is a result of one’s own insecurities, but much of it has been institutionalized as a primary component of academia and the processes of educating and professionalizing graduate students—presumably as a means of preserving the various egos and hierarchies central to said processes. That is, once one’s academic authority has been established, one would be understandably hesitant to relinquish even an iota of it by either implying or flat out saying that a graduate student is capable of researching and writing with the same skill and expertise as a more experienced academic. Who knows what could happen? Hell, the whole system may come crashing down.

Relatedly, a graduate student’s ‘fear of fucking up’ is especially appropriate when it can mean the difference between a highly sought after job in academia or…well…nothing. For this reason, it’s important to highlight the centrality of confidence to this thesis—being confident enough in your academic preparation to date, your research expertise with regard to a particularly technical topic, the subsequent intervention that your research and writing can make to the field, and confident enough to withstand the inevitable criticisms which come along with the submission process (no matter how constructive they may be).

After all, in most cases a well-read graduate student who has spent a considerable amount of time researching a very specific topic, case study, or question will, in fact, be better versed on the subject than most other scholars in the discipline, whether they are a junior or senior scholar. They should therefore not be hesitant to share their findings with the broader scholastic community if and when they have something to contribute. As one never knows when a significant intervention into a field or sub-field might be made, nor by whom, I agree that McCutcheon is right here to encourage graduate students to challenge such hierarchical preconceptions vis-à-vis experience vs. a potentially valuable contribution to the field. However, there are also broader issues to consider—such as the matter of one’s time.

As has been pointed out repeatedly in this series (particularly in the posts by Matt Sheedy and Emily D. Crews), one’s time as a graduate student (and, of course, as an instructor, lecturer, and/or eventual professor) is invaluable, and any extra work must be approached with substantial consideration and cost-benefit analysis. Sending a paper off for consideration to a publisher can entail a considerable amount of time. There is the researching, writing, editing, sending it off to professors for notes and initial feedback, waiting, re-writing, sending it off to the publication, waiting, waiting, more waiting, more editing (if accepted), more editing (if not accepted), sending it off to a different publication, waiting, waiting, and repeat.

Since professionalization is the goal here, it is important to point out that this endeavor—in time management and beginning to traverse the world of publishing—is undoubtedly worthwhile, as it will begin to prepare one for a potential lifetime of such activities. Just as one would not wait to demonstrate an ability to serve one’s department, and one would not wait to take every opportunity to develop their teaching skills, it would also, therefore, stand to reason that an ambitious graduate student should also not wait to begin publishing their work.

This, however, raises a question which is often the subject of much debate, especially when it comes to the hiring process: Should a graduate student take every opportunity to publish? Even though these theses are not necessarily about “how to get a job,” but, rather, how to prepare oneself for an eventual position in academia, I cannot help but take such questions—and the broader issue of employability—into account while considering this particular thesis.

There seem to be two schools of thought on the subject: 1) All publications are good, and any is better than none, and 2) it’s better to publish less, more selectively, with higher quality work, in better journals—even if that means not publishing at all before one goes on the job market. There is not space here to delve too deeply into this debate, but I will say that there does not seem to be a single scenario that is best for anyone, as there are many variables to consider—not least of which is the fickle nature of many hiring committees (see this recent reprint of a 1997 piece written by McCutcheon and Tim Murphy, along with Jeffrey Wheatley’s post in this series).

Even if publishing is neither a necessary nor sufficient condition for being hired, it probably won’t hurt your chances. As long as it is quality work which has something of value to add to the conversation—that is, a significant intervention or contribution to the field. To return to McCutcheon’s thesis, regardless of whether or not one is successful in their endeavor to publish their research, they will nonetheless come away with valuable feedback. Feedback which will help them hone their work as they move forward, therefore raising the overall quality of their writing and increasing the chances that they are more successful next time. And, perhaps equally important, one will gain valuable experience from beginning to negotiate the publishing arena, which will surely help her/him in the future.

Vincent Burgess is a PhD candidate in the Asian Religions doctoral program of the Department of Asian Studies at Cornell University. His research is currently focused on discourses of renunciation and environmentalism amongst contemporary, North Indian religious traditions, particularly how such discourses have intersected with various conceptions and articulations of modernity.

[1] Daniel Pals, Seven Theories of Religion (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996), 159.

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CFP: Globalizing the Humanities – #EIRAAR

CFP: Globalizing the Humanities – #EIRAAR 


“Globalizing the Human(ities)”

Eastern International Region of the American Academy of Religion 2016 Annual Meeting

University of Pittsburgh May 6-7, 2016

Deadline for submission of proposals: February 15, 2016

The Eastern International Region of the AAR invites faculty, graduate students, undergraduates, independent scholars, and professionals from both inside and outside the Region to submit proposals for papers and panels to be presented at the 2016 Regional Meeting. Alongside the regular panels, the conference will include a series of special sessions on the theme of Globalizing the Human(ities).

Proposals are welcome in all areas within the study of religion, including:

  • Anthropology
  • Art history and criticism
  • Comparative religions
  • Ethics
  • Gender
  • History
  • Literature
  • Method and theory
  • Textual studies
  • Music history and criticism
  • Philosophy
  • Psychology
  • Politics
  • Sociology

In particular, the program committee is interested in proposals related to our special theme: Globalizing the Human(ities). With this theme, the organizers hope to engage questions of how interdisciplinary and historical humanities research, and especially the study of religion, can be done in an increasingly global age. What does it mean to be human, and to construct the human as an object of study, particularly in global perspective? How do individuals construct religious knowledges, ethics, and identities in such a context? How have religious communities responded to or engaged with globalizing cultural, economic, political, and social forces, as well as with local, regional, or national issues? Especially welcome are proposals which consider the role of religion in conjunction with the following issues:

  • Humanities/Religious Studies as a discipline
  • Global and local religious identities
  • Religious responses to/rejections of globalization
  • Imperialism and resistance/discourses of knowledge & power
  • Humanitarianism/Human Rights
  • International politics/issues/affairs
  • Humanism/Post- and Trans-humanism
  • Global interactions in literature, philosophy, & the arts
  • Relationship of humanity to the sacred
  • “World Religions” & Global Paradigms
  • Global networks/technology/media
  • Global movement/migration/diaspora/transnationalism
  • Human psychology/mindfulness/wellness
  • Global environmental issues/religious ecology/ecotheology
  • Processes of Modernization/Global Modernity
  • Humanity & Gender/Sexuality/LGBTQ Identities

New to the EIR Meeting in 2016

In addition to individual papers, panels, and roundtables, the committee also invites students, faculty, and filmmakers/producers to submit proposals to show their original documentary films on religious topics as part of the conference. At least one researcher/filmmaker must be present at the viewing for his/her film to be eligible. See below for submission guidelines.

Submission Guidelines

Individual PapersIndividual paper presentations are limited to twenty minutes in delivery. Each proposal should contain the following in a single e-mail attachment in MS Word format:

  1. One-page abstract (300 word maximum) describing the nature of the paper.
  2. Cover page that includes the submitter’s full name, title, institution, phone number, e-mail, and mailing address.

Panels or Roundtables: Each proposal should contain the following in a single e-mail attachment in MS Word format:

  1. One abstract per proposed paper and a brief overview of the panel/roundtable by the organizer. Please include information about any respondents, if applicable.
  2. Cover page that includes the primary contact person’s full name, title, institution, phone number, e-mail, and mailing address.

Undergraduates : In addition to the above requirements, undergraduate proposals must include a letter from a faculty member who has supervised the student’s work.

AV/Tech Support If you require technological support for your presentation/panel (such as an Internet connection or audio and projection equipment), you must request it with your proposal.

All presenters at the 2016 regional conference, with the exception of undergraduates, must have active membership in the AAR or SBL. All participants must register for the conference.

Please send your proposal to Deadline for submission of proposals: February 15, 2016 Please visit for more details.

Student Paper Competition

Graduate and undergraduate students in the Eastern International Region are invited to enter the student paper competition. Please note that to be eligible for consideration, the student must attend a university in the Eastern International Region (Canada: Ontario, Québec; NY: zip codes 10900-10999, 12000-14999; PA: zip codes 15000-16899, 17200-17299). Up to two $200 awards will be presented at the conference.

To enter the competition, please include a line in your proposal (due February 15, 2016) confirming that you wish to enter your paper into the contest. A final draft of the paper (3000 word maximum) is due to the EIR Regional Coordinator, Verna Ehret (, by April 28, 2016. The submitted paper must conform to your conference presentation in its entirety. &

PDF of the Call For Papers PDF URL:

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NAASR Annual Meeting!

atlanta-picIn the most recent issue of the Bulletin readers will find a complete program for the annual meeting of the North American Association for the Study of Religion (NAASR), the academic society with which the Bulletin is affiliated. Of course the program is also available on the NAASR website. The meeting will be held in Atlanta, GA on November 20 and 21, in conjunction with the annual AAR/SBL annual meeting.

By including the program in the “Field Notes” section of the Bulletin, it is our hope that readers will not only attend the sessions but also use the September issue as a guide to these sessions (so bring your copy of the September issue to Atlanta!).

Here is a brief overview of the sessions (for the full program, see the Bulletin or the NAASR website):

NAASR 2015 Annual Meeting, Atlanta Program Overview

On the Restraint of Theory 11:00am–1:00pm, Friday November 20—Hilton Downtown, Room 311

What the Cognitive Science of Religion Is (And Is Not) 2:00pm–3:50pm, Friday November 20—Hilton Downtown, Room 311

Of Cognitive Science, Bricolage, and Brandom 4:00pm–5:50pm, Friday November 20—Hilton Downtown, Room 311

Annual Reception, Co-Sponsored with Equinox Publishing Friday Evening/Location TBA

The High Stakes of Identifying (with) One’s Object of Study 9:00am–10:50am, Saturday November 21—Hilton Downtown, Room 311

Business Meeting 11:00am–12:00pm, Saturday November 21—Hilton Downtown, Room 311

Presidential Panel 1:00pm–3:30pm, Saturday November 21—Hilton Downtown, Room 311

“…But What Do You Study?”: A NAASR Workshop on Theory & Method in the Job Market 1:00pm–3:30pm, Sunday November 22—Hilton Downtown, Room 407—seats reserved— email to register

NAASR co-sponsored SBL panel: When Is The Big Tent Too Big? 4:00pm–6:30pm,         Sunday November 22—Location  TBA

As the Bulletin’s editor, I want to encourage readers to attend this year’s NAASR meeting. Some of the most cutting edge work in the academic study of religion – especially with a focus on theoretical and methodological challenges facing the discipline – continues to be facilitated by and through NAASR. Since its founding in 1985, the society has never shied away from challenging the field of religious studies through critical and reflexive scholarship, continually calling on scholars to refine the academic study of religion through serious engagement with theoretical work in the field. (See Luther Martin and Don Wiebe’s brief overview of NAASR’s founding.) It is within the pages of Method & Theory in the Study of Religion, the Bulletin for the Study of Religion, the “Key Thinkers in the Study of Religion” book series, and the annual meeting that NAASR continues to facilitate such scholarship.

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NAASR Statement In Support of BASR and the Study of Religion at Stirling

stirlingIn support of the Religion Department at the University of Stirling, which is being threatened with closure, the North American Association for the Study of Religion issued the following letter on the NAASR website. In order to “get the word out” and to encourage people across the discipline to show support for the department at Stirling, we want to share this letter here on the Bulletin‘s blog.


Below is the text sent on 4 September 2015 to the University of Stirling on behalf of NAASR’s Executive Council.

On behalf of the Executive Council of the North American Association for the Study of Religion, a member of the International Association for the History of Religions, we are writing you to offer our strong support of the September 3rd statement issued by the British Association for the Study of Religion. We agree that “Colleagues and students from Stirling have been at the forefront of critical study and debate about religion,” and that the academic and nondenominational study of religion “has a key role within higher education institutions.” Consequently, we echo their call for you to  “reconsider the closure of an independent department that is greatly valued nationally and internationally.”


Russell McCutcheon
University of Alabama
NAASR President
Aaron Hughes
University of Rochester
NAASR Vice President
Craig Martin
St. Thomas Aquinas College
NAASR Executive Secretary/Treasurer
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Texts and Their Scholars: The Co-Production of Texts, Audiences, and Communities

IMG_2712The following is the editorial introduction to the September 2015 issue of the Bulletin for the Study of Religion (the full table of contents having already been posted), written by our managing editor Arlene Macdonald (University of Texas Medical Branch). We offer this editorial here on the blog in order to give readers an overview of the most recent issue of the Bulletin.


By Arlene Macdonald

This issue of the Bulletin considers a multiplicity of texts. Taken collectively, the issue is an extended deliberation on how we as readers and as scholars should interpret, assess, employ, and consume the written words that figure as our objects of study, our modes of scholarly transmission, and our scaffolds of scholarly community. While textual analysis has long been a staple of the discipline, what Matthew Engelke (2010) labels “a media turn” in religious studies has brought new insights to bear on our notions of “texts.” What counts as a “text,” what brings a text into being, what material form a text takes, what divine presences or absences it mediates, what allows it to circulate (or not), what audience(s) it addresses, what practices it facilitates . . . such are the questions posed by a materialist orientation and an understanding of religion as mediation, as “a set of practices and ideas that cannot be understood without the middle grounds that substantiate them” (Engelke 2010, 371).

Encyclopedic ventures such as the 4th edition (and first English translation) of Religion Past and Present address their audiences with the weightiness of both history and volumosity, but also with the specificity of what Klaus-Peter Adam describes as “a legacy of nineteenth-century German theology, exegesis, and religious studies.” Adam, Richard DeMaris, Robert Saler, and Robert Segal reflect on the success of this text’s address to audiences rooted in North American scholarly traditions (Adam), to audiences shaped by different disciplinary affiliations (Segal), to theological audiences suspicious of canons and curation (Saler), and to religious studies audiences suspicious of an overweening accent on theology and concomitantly an overweening accent on “texts” themselves (DeMaris).

If panels and publicity greeted the recent release of RPP, the texts of Galen of Pergamum (129–ca. 216/217 CE) have only recently been “rediscovered” and “reassembled” after years of relative neglect. Trevor Thompson argues that the works of this renowned physician and philosopher can be profitably used to inform the interpretation of early Christian literature. The extent to which Galen’s texts circulated amongst early Christians or Galen’s familiarity with Christian texts is not the issue here. What Galenic materials and early Christian literatures share, Thompson argues, is not so much textual communities as textual cultures; Galen’s works afford insight into the library and literary culture among Rome’s educated elite, into second century lexical semantics, and into the materiality of texts in the early Christian world.

Drawing on phenomenological philosophical hermeneutics, Catherine Caulfield turns our attention from the producers to the readers of texts. Tracking the figure of Jesus through five fictional works, Caulfield makes clear that the “drift” of this familiar figure into new literary spaces potentially generates “an incongruence between the world of the reader and the world of the text” and hence a “surplus of meaning” that subsequently “serves to broaden our understanding of the depth and range of meaning incarnated in this figure.” The meaning of these texts, Caulfield stresses, is being co-created as we, as readers, engage with them.

It is particular readers—students—that concern Richard Newton. In this issue’s “Tips for Teaching,” Newton describes his REL101 course, “Signifying Religion: An African American Worldview.” A thoughtful composite of readings, visual media, active learning activities, and class discussion, the course is designed to introduce students to the study of religion in a way that encourages them to critically reflect on the classifications of religion rather than replicate them.

Newton’s concern to equip and produce a particular kind of student—one who is prepared to interrogate religion’s taken for granted discursive map—is a normative concern. It is the normative concerns of the discipline at large, furthermore, that preoccupy editor Philip Tite in the “Editor’s Corner” feature that closes this issue of the Bulletin. Following the echoes of Russell McCutcheon’s influential book Critics Not Caretakers: Redescribing the Public Study of Religion (2001) through a proliferation of new textual forms (blogs, podcasts), Tite argues that debating normative claims about who we should be as scholars of religion is part and parcel of our work as scholars.

Scholarly texts, teaching texts, fictional texts, ancient texts, electronic texts: it is the production, circulation, and practiced engagement of this material stratum that forms our scholarly community.


Engelke, Matthew. 2010. “Religion and the Media Turn: A Review Essay.” American Ethnologist, 37: 371–79.

McCutcheon, Russell T. 2001. Critics Not Caretakers: Redescribing the Public Study of Religion. Albany, NY: SUNY Press.

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Now Published – Bulletin for the Study of Religion 44.3 (September 2015)

IMG_2712The September issue of the Bulletin has now been published and is available. Below is the table of contents of this issue, which includes a panel of papers emerging from an AAR/SBL Panel on Religion Past and Present. This issue also includes articles exploring the intersection of ancient religion, specifically with a focus on a recently published text by Galen. We also have a study of disruptive narratives, applying literary theoretical models to modern fictional re-imaginings of Jesus as a narrative figure. This issue of the Bulletin also includes another “Tips for Teaching”, this time exploring one innovative approach to teaching world religions beyond the world religions paradigm. A new section is launched in this issue of the Bulletin with the “Editor’s Corner” (an occasional section of the Bulletin where the editors offer provocative musings on theoretical challenges facing the discipline). Finally, we are pleased to include in our “Field Notes” section the program for the annual meeting of the North American Association for the Study of Religion (NAASR).

As always, we welcome submissions for future issues – including responses to published articles – from established scholars and graduate students engaged in the study of religion (regardless of discipline) for either publication in the Bulletin or for here on the Bulletin‘s blog. Our guidelines for the journal are available online.

Table of Contents

Bulletin for the Study of Religion Volume 44, Issue 3 (September 2015)

“Texts and Their Scholars: The Co-Production of Texts, Audiences, and Communities” Arlene Macdonald (University of Texas Medical Branch) [Editorial introduction] – (pg. 2)


 Religion Past and Present — The English Translation of the 4th edition: Introducing an AAR/SBL Review Panel” Klaus Peter Adam (Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago) – (pgs. 3-5)

“Review of Articles in the Field of Hebrew Bible in Religion Past and Present Klaus Peter Adam (Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago) – (pgs. 5-8)

“New Testament Studies in Religion Past and Present Richard E. DeMaris (Valparaiso University) – (pgs. 8-10)

“Canon and Curation: What does the Completion of RPP Mean for North American Students of Theology, Church History, and Philosophy?” Robert Saler (Christian Theological Seminary) – (pgs. 11-15)

“The Approach to the Social Sciences in Religion Past and Present Robert A. Segal (University of Aberdeen) (pgs. 15-20)


 “Galen, De indolentia, and Early Christian Literature” Trevor Wade Thompson (University of Chicago) – (pgs. 20-25)

“Disruptive Narratives of Jesus: Feuerbach and Ricoeur in Dialogue” Catherine Caufield (Athabasca University) – (pgs. 26-35)

Tips for Teaching: “Signifying on the World Religions Paradigm: My Version of Religion 101” Richard Newton (Elizabethtown College) – (pgs. 35-37)

Editor’s Corner: “Critics or Caretakers? It’s All in the Mapping” Philip L. Tite (University of Washington) – (pgs. 38-39)

Field Notes: News and Announcements in the Discipline – (pgs. 40-44)

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Theses on Professionalization: Nickolas Roubekas


In this series with the Bulletin, we have asked 21 early career scholars to weigh in on Russell McCutcheon’s Theses on Professionalization, first published in 2007. In his 21 theses, McCutcheon offers advice to young scholars entering (or soon to enter) the job market, addressing the all-to-important (but often overlooked) question of professionalization. Each of the contributors in this series has been asked to comment on a single thesis, addressing its contemporary relevance, and how it relates to their own experience moving forward in the academic world. For other posts in this series, see here

by Nickolas Roubekas

Thesis #12: Many doctoral students do not realize that finding authors willing to write book notes, book reviews, etc., is sometimes difficult for journal editors. As a first step in professionalizing themselves, graduate students should become aware of the journals in their field and write to their book review editors, suggesting that the journal allow them to write and submit a review (especially for books that they are already reading for their courses or research, thereby minimizing on work additional to their class and dissertation research). Besides providing experience in writing and a much needed line on ones c.v., one never knows who will read the review or what other opportunities might follow upon it.

Most scholars tend to see book reviewing as a burdensome, tedious, and frankly pointless undertaking that diverts them from more important and creative projects. Add teaching workloads, administration work, grant applications, and personal obligations and one realizes that dedicating precious time to review a new book is, to say the least, unattractive. A line on one’s cv or the enticement of a free book are often not enough to persuade scholars to review a new publication.

PhD students or young scholars entering the job market do not face the same problems but they do deal with an even more stressful issue, namely, the dim and admittedly deterring possibilities of employability. When one needs to spend countless hours filling in applications, writing postdoctoral project proposals while at the same time finalizing a PhD thesis or working on individual chapters followed by back-and-forth email exchanges with her/his supervisor, why should s/he spend time in reviewing a book? Is merely a free book or a line in one’s cv enough to persuade young scholars to engage into such a time-consuming project?

I think that there are three important reasons why doctoral students and young scholars should consider book reviews as a step in professionalizing themselves, but certainly not merely the first one. I strongly believe that book reviewing is an academic exercise that is often neglected or even scorned among academics for several reasons. First, most journals simply ask for a mere presentation of the book under review without requiring (or, worse, some times, denying to accept) a critical approach by the reviewer. Second, some reviewers tend to request and evaluate books written by either ‘friends’ or ‘enemies’, with a specific agenda in mind, which in turn produces biased reviews that add little to the academic ongoing discussions and debates. Third, book review editors often assign books without considering the reviewer’s field, expertise, and ability to submit something substantial. Fourth, the book reviews section in academic journals is often seen by scholars as a promotional one replacing publishers’ catalogues. Fifth, editors tend to accept almost all submitted reviews. This, of course, reflects the difficulty they have in finding reviewers to begin with and, as one can imagine, the high acceptance rate is sometimes against the scholarly nature of the book reviews section and its service to the field.

So, why bother? Here are three reasons why I think PhD students and young scholars should consider book reviews beyond the given demand for reviewers, a free book, and a line on their cv’s:

  1. Academic reading of a book and reviewing a book serve different purposes. In the former, one goes through a particular text in search of important data or information for justifying theories, approaches, and conclusions promoted in a research output (be it a PhD thesis, a journal article, a research proposal, etc.). In the latter, however, the stakes are higher. Reviewers are – ideally – required not only to present the structure and basic ideas of the book under review, but also to: identify problems; point out future developments that the reviewed book possibly promotes; parallel the text in question with previously published works and underline the scope and the location of the work in the wider academic setting; critically assess the methods and theories promoted and justify their potentiality within the specific field it belongs to.
  1. Writing book reviews will help you do better in job interviews. This admittedly bizarre statement needs further reflection. It is almost sure that during an interview for an academic job no one will ask you something along the lines of “What do you think of Bruce Lincoln’s approach to myth?” If your PhD thesis was on myth, you are most likely aware of Lincoln’s approach to the topic. But, in all honesty, no one cares about it. It is too specialized, narrowed, and people who decide whether you will get the job or not will want to see something beyond your ability to defend anew your PhD thesis. It is more likely to be asked something like “What do you think a department of Religious Studies should offer to students?” Such a question virtually requires a broader and academically coherent answer. Your ability to know, apply, and evaluate Lincoln’s definition of myth granted you a PhD (or will soon do so). Your critical approach to Lincoln’s work on myth and its placement in the field of Religious Studies with the simultaneous evaluation of how the discipline should or could function based on Lincoln’s suggestions (which is the result of a different reading of his work usually required when you review a book) will allow you to go beyond your PhD thesis and, hopefully, impress your interviewers.
  1. Writing book reviews will make you a better academic author. When reviewing a book keep in mind that you are working on a text that managed to survive going through various stages before being published. From the book proposal stage and the various anonymous reviews to series editors and copy editors and their suggestions, what you are working on is – most of the time – a polished and well-presented text. A careful and thorough reading of a book under review will give you a very good idea of what is the standard in academic writing regarding structure, style, referencing, and argumentation. If you are working on your thesis, this is an invaluable source; if you are working on a book proposal, you have at hand an example of what you should be aiming at. Given that for most – if not all – young scholars their PhD thesis will constitute the topic of their first book proposal, having worked on book reviews gives them an advantage in presenting a project that is coherent, well thought-out, and has all the academic elements that will convince a publisher to offer a contract.

Nickolas Roubekas is Teaching Fellow in the Department of Divinity & Religious Studies at the University of Aberdeen, U.K. He received his PhD from the Aristotle University, Greece, and held a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of South Africa as a member of the ongoing research project ‘Redescribing Graeco-Roman Antiquity’, coordinated by Gerhard van den Heever. He is currently working on a monograph on euhemerism as a theory of religion (forthcoming, Routledge) and an edited volume on theory and ancient religions (forthcoming, Equinox). Since 2012 he has been the book reviews editor of Religion & Theology, published by Brill.

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