14. Caffeinated and Half-baked Realities: Religion as the Opium of the Scholar
Constructing Data in Religious Studies - Examining the Architecture of the Academy - Leslie Dorrough Smith
Jason W.M. Ellsworth [+]
Dalhousie University/ University of Prince Edward Island
In the following chapter the author opens with a discussion on food labels – or more specifically claims of fair trade. This type of terminology is meant to persuade consumers that the food they are buying and consuming is in some way socially just. However, as can be seen in many studies on tea and coffee, fair trade is not a homogenous label, but rather a contested name that can be manipulated in bureaucratic fashions for the purpose of capitalist accumulation. Jason W.M. Ellsworth uses this as a segue into Martin’s work on anti-realism, and particularly his own interest in the study of “religion.” He argues that “religion” as a category is the opium of the scholar, where a categorical tool acts like opium to conceal underlying symptoms in society, constructs realities, and obscure the scholar’s involvement in this very construction. The chapter ends with a few notes on how commodity chain studies might offer insight on how one might approach the study of religion.