6. The Enduring Presence of Our Pre-Critical Past; or, Same As it Ever Was, Same As it Ever Was
On the Subject of Religion - Charting the Fault Lines of a Field of Study - James Dennis LoRusso
Russell T. McCutcheon [+]
University of Alabama
Russell T. McCutcheon is University Research Professor and Chair of the Department of Religious Studies at the University of Alabama, USA. He publishes widely on the history of the study of religion, the tools scholars use in their work, and the practical implications of that work. Among his recent publications are Reading J. Z. Smith (with Willi Braun; Oxford University Press, 2018), ‘Religion’ in Theory and Practice (Equinox Publishing, 2018) and Fabricating Religion (de Gruyter, 2018).
Using initiatives to enhance both students’ and the publics’ religious literacy as the example—from professional associations establishing guidelines to Departments seeing in it their raison d’etre--this paper argues that recent critical gains in the study of religion have been effectively domesticated and thereby limited (such as strong critiques of the world religions paradigm). The paper concludes by challenging a new generation of scholars, some of whom are undoubtedly working in conditions that, in key regards, are rather different from their predecessors, to defend the academic study of religion as an exercise separate from advocating for various religious stances.