Response: Underground Religious Studies: Intercepted Dispatches

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

Rebekka King [+-]
Middle Tennessee State University
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Rebekka King, PhD, is an Assistant Professor of Religious Studies at Middle Tennessee State University. Her research focuses on the negotiation of boundaries within North American Christianity. Her first book (under contract with NYU Press) charts the development of progressive Christianity in North America as a movement that spurned Christian orthodoxy in pursuit of a resolutely skeptical faith. She teaches courses on method and theory, anthropology of religion, and contemporary Christianity.


Set 37 years in the future, this paper is a work of speculative, epistolary fiction. It imagines a world in which the impulse to transform the study of religion into a professional and bureaucratic discipline vis-à-vis religious literacy and its impact on civic health and workplace proficiency has become the animating purpose of religious studies. As a result, the need for professional experts in religious studies has sky-rocketed with a multitude of positions in the private sector, government, and census work. The unnamed author of the letter writes to a young protégé to explain that the study of religion used to be an academic venture and describes key events in the early decades of the twenty-first century that led to its shift to a pragmatic field tasked with promoting governmental surveillance. The piece implies that scholars aligned with the NAASR approach to religion studies have been forced underground and a network of rogue scholars continue the “work of historical, critical, and social scientific approaches to the study of religion, as well as a relentlessly reflexive critique of the theories, methods, and categories used in such study.

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King, Rebekka. Response: Underground Religious Studies: Intercepted Dispatches. On the Subject of Religion - Charting the Fault Lines of a Field of Study. Equinox eBooks Publishing, United Kingdom. Oct 2021. ISBN 9780000000000. Date accessed: 13 Jul 2020 doi: 10.1558/equinox.41079. Oct 2021

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