Introduction: Theory in a Time of Excess
Theory in a Time of Excess - Beyond Reflection and Explanation in Religious Studies Scholarship - Aaron W. Hughes
Aaron W. Hughes [+]
University of Rochester
What does it mean to “do theory” in the study of religion today? The terms “method and theory” are now found in course titles, curricula/degree requirements, area/comprehensive exams, and frequently listed as competencies on the C.V.s of scholars from across a wide array of subfields. Are we really that theoretically and methodologically sophisticated? While a variety of groups at annual scholarly conferences now regularly itemize theorizing among the topics that they examine and carry out, it seems that few of the many examples of doing theory today involve either meta-reflection on the practical conditions of the field or rigorously explanatory studies of religion’s cause(s) or function(s). So, despite the appearance of tremendous advances in the field over the past 30 years, it can be argued that little has changed. Indeed, the term theory is today so widely understood as to make it coterminous with virtually all forms of scholarship on religion. This volume seeks to re-examine just what we ought to consider theory to signify. After a critical Introduction written by the editor, the first two chapters reflect generally on what the place of theory has been in the study of religion, and what, at this particular moment, its focus ought to be. The remainder of the book comprises four distinct sections by a leading theorist in, respectively, anthropology of religion, cognitive science of religion, philosophy of religion, and cultural/literary theory. Each section is be followed by three shorter response papers, and each section concludes with a response by the theorist.