8. Surprised by History: Encountering Data in Religious Studies
Constructing Data in Religious Studies - Examining the Architecture of the Academy - Leslie Dorrough Smith
Holly White [+]
In this essay, the author draws attention to Matthew Baldwin's suspicions of recent discourses on materiality as just one more phenomenology. Holly White agrees with his frame of discourse analysis but think he too quickly skips over the materiality of history that funds his argument. This response addresses the potentials of historicization--potentials Baldwin labels as "surprises." By considering what informs scholarly surprise specifically, Holly White extends the term and relate it to how to describe the movements of political economy generally. In reflecting how the social field produces its objects, the author highlights that scholars are not the only site for object construction. Non-scholars, she argues, are under similar urgency to form objects; however it is the scholar who is tasked to give an account of these mechanisms of production. A more nuanced concept of history, what Fredric Jameson capitalizes as History, contributes to her own account of how materiality might appear as impersonal excess. It is this excess that is surprising and can occasion thought in scholars and non-scholars alike. To demonstrate the usefulness of broader notions of materialist surprises, the author reflects on two mundane objects relevant to popular religion to highlight how particularity can give way to the overwhelming substance of history.