On the Subject of Religion - Charting the Fault Lines of a Field of Study - James Dennis LoRusso

Leslie Dorrough Smith [+-]
Avila University
Dr. Dorrough Smith's most recent research focuses on the cultural significance of American Conservative Protestant rhetoric, with special emphasis on the Christian Right. Many scholars who study the Christian Right (NCR) often account for the movement's popularity and distinction by pointing to its absolutist moral positions, its religious fervor, and its selective embrace of seemingly anti-modernist platforms. Unlike other theories of conservative power that focus on the allure of such moral absolutes, Dr. Dorrough Smith's work shows how these absolutes are really not the defining quality of the movement. Rather, they are the byproduct of a certain type of rhetoric (which she calls "chaos rhetoric") that uses chaos, rather than order, imagery to induce persuasion and thereby secure social power. Her work focuses on the linguistic engineering involved in producing chaos rhetoric, and how such movements depend on the strategic manipulation of specific cultural symbols to naturalize and "sell" their political interests.


Previous volumes in the NAASR Working Papers series have critical reflections on key domains of field, such as theory, method, data, and categories. This latest addition to the series takes a step back to consider syncretically how religion is imagined or invented through several lenses. It takes as inspiration the work of the late Jonathan Z. Smith, who challenged scholars to be mindful of the ways they imagine religion and religious data. Building off this crucial insight, On the Subject of Religion brings together a range of early-career and established scholars of religion to explore how various domains of society—namely the classroom, academic literature, public debates, and private fundraising—shape and are shaped by the contours of the academic study of religion. For example, how is religion depicted in the academic study of religion? How do private donors selectively privilege certain descriptions of religion and to what ends? Do the practical needs of students align or conflict with the theoretical concerns of scholars? To what extent do answers to these questions reveal shared challenges or fault lines across the field of study?

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Dorrough Smith, Leslie . Rejoinder. On the Subject of Religion - Charting the Fault Lines of a Field of Study. Equinox eBooks Publishing, United Kingdom. Oct 2022. ISBN 9780000000000. Date accessed: 27 Feb 2021 doi: 10.1558/equinox.41073. Oct 2022

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