11. Enlarging Religious Studies, Wither-ing Neoliberalism
Matt Sheedy [+]
University of Bonn
Matt Sheedy holds a Ph.D. in the study of religion and is a visiting professor of North American Studies at the University of Bonn, Germany. His research interests include critical social theory, theories of secularism and atheism, as well as representations of Christianity, Islam, and Native American traditions in popular and political culture. He is the author of Owning the Secular: Religious Symbols, Culture Wars, Western Fragility (Routledge, 2021).
In this chapter I address the theme of crisis in the study of religion through the broader lens of neoliberal ideology, which I combine with a discussion of Scott Elliott’s 2013 volume Reinventing Religious Studies: Key Writings in the History of the Discipline, covering forty-years of debates in the Council of Societies for the Study of Religion (CSSR) Bulletin, from 1969-2009. One thing that is clear when looking back on this period is that a feeling a crisis has always been lingering in the field, though the terms and conditions have decidedly changed. Previous crises in religious studies have primarily focused on who gets to determine the shape and identity of the discipline, with theology and its various sublimations playing the heel. In our current era, the very existence of the field as a tenuous member of the humanities and social sciences is under increasing threat, and this time the power to contest our disciplinary identity may be largely out of our hands. Or is it? That is the primary question that I wish to provoke here.