2. Imagining a Proper Academic Study of Religion Inspired by Jonathan Z. Smith

Thinking with J. Z. Smith - Mapping Methods in the Study of Religion - Barbara Krawcowicz

Sam Gill [+-]
University of Colorado
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Sam Gill is Professor Emeritus University of Colorado at Boulder. Jonathan Smith was his most important influence and mentor for nearly fifty years. He works on indigenous religions, dancing and religion, religion theory, and religion and technology.

Description

Sam D. Gill encourages us to pay more attention to the playful or ludic dimension of Smith’s writings. As he points out, the titles of Smith’s essays are often riddles and jokes that confound as well as delight. They often engage games and play, homophones, and double-entendres, even nursery rhymes. While clever and provocative, Gill argues, Smith’s titles are lumps of compressed theory radiating insights that he had developed throughout his studies persistently preoccupied by incongruity, difference, and gaps. Take, for example, Smith’s short essay “The ‘End’ of Comparison”. Its title is a riddle signaled by putting the word “end” in quotation marks. “Some have focused on this particular presentation of comparison,” Gill observes, “because it appears to outline a straight-forward linear comparison technique: description, comparison, redescription, rectification. My sense is that it is a serious error to consider this the culminating conclusion to Smith’s consideration of comparison”. If not the conclusion, however, then what is it? How should we read that little essay and other jests and riddles one encounters in Smith’s writings? Gill’s answer is: not as definitive statements or solutions—after all, these are not things we normally expect from riddles—but rather as clues initiating and emphasizing the ongoing play of difference.

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Citation

Gill, Sam. 2. Imagining a Proper Academic Study of Religion Inspired by Jonathan Z. Smith. Thinking with J. Z. Smith - Mapping Methods in the Study of Religion. Equinox eBooks Publishing, United Kingdom. p. Oct 2023. ISBN 9781781799840. https://www.equinoxpub.com/home/view-chapter/?id=39924. Date accessed: 26 Nov 2022 doi: 10.1558/equinox.39924. Oct 2023

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