7. ISIS: What’s a Poor Religionist to Do?
Fabricating Difference - Steven W Ramey
Aaron W. Hughes [+]
University of Rochester
Aaron W. Hughes is the Dean’s Professor of the Humanities and the Philip S. Bernstein Professor in the Department of Religion and Classics at the University of Rochester. His research and publications focus on both Jewish philosophy and Islamic Studies. He has authored numerous books, including Situating Islam: The Past and Future of an Academic Discipline (Equinox, 2007); Theorizing Islam: Disciplinary Deconstruction and Reconstruction (Equinox, 2012); Muslim Identities: An Introduction to Islam (Columbia, 2012); and Abrahamic Religions: On the Uses and Abuses of History (Oxford, 2012). He currently serves as the editor of the journal Method and Theory in the Study of Religion.
This chapter exposes the continued and pervasive Protestant assumption endemic to the academic study of religion. It uses ISIS as a way to show the way in which the rhetoric of authenticity/inauthenticity function in the field, describing how groups like ISIS undermine what we believe or have been told to believe religion is (e.g., internal, spiritual, positive, and as something that is supposed to do good in the world). The result is that we have largely written such groups off as somehow not religious, irreligious, or even areligious. Instead of this, we need to use groups such as ISIS to rethink our traditionally liberal paradigms for studying religion.