In this new book, author Russell McCutcheon offers a powerful critique of traditional scholarship on religion, focusing on multiple interrelated targets. Most prominent among these are the History of Religions as a discipline; Mircea Eliade, one of the founders of the modern discipline; recent scholarship on Eliade's life and politics; contemporary textbooks on world religions; and the oft-repeated bromide that "religion" is a sui generis phenomenon. McCutcheon skillfully analyzes the ideological basis for and service of the sui generis argument, demonstrating that it has been used to constitute the field's object of study in a form that is ahistoric, apolitical, fetishized, and sacrosanct. As such, he charges, it has helped to create departments, jobs, and publication outlets for those who are comfortable with such a suspect construction, while establishing a disciplinary ethos of astounding theoretical naivete and a body of scholarship to match. Surveying the textbooks available for introductory courses in comparative religion, the author finds that they uniformly adopt the sui generis line and all that comes with it. As a result, he argues, they are not just uncritical (which helps keep them popular among the audiences for which they are intended, but badly disserve), but actively inhibit the emergence of critical perspectives and capacities. And on the geo-political scale, he contends, the study of religion as an ahistorical category participates in a larger system of political domination and economic and cultural imperialism.
Manufacturing Mennonites examines the efforts of Mennonite intellectuals and business leaders to redefine the group's ethno-religious identity in response to changing economic and social conditions after 1945. As the industrial workplace was one of the most significant venues in which competing identity claims were contested during this period, Janis Thiessen explores how Mennonite workers responded to such redefinitions and how they affected class relations. Through unprecedented access to extensive private company records, Thiessen provides an innovative comparison of three businesses founded, owned, and originally staffed by Mennonites: the printing firm Friesens Corporation, the window manufacturer Loewen, and the furniture manufacturer Palliser. Complemented with interviews with workers, managers, and business owners, Manufacturing Mennonites pioneers two important new trajectories for scholarship - how religion can affect business history, and how class relations have influenced religious history.
History of the Parsis Including Their Manners Customs Religion and Present Position
Method as Identity considers how social identity shapes methodological standpoints. With a refreshing hip hop sensibility, Miller and Driscoll reorient the contemporary academic study of religion toward recognition of the costs and benefits of manufacturing “critical” distance from our objects of study.
A lively critique of the study of religion in the modern academy, one that makes the scholar of religion a cultural critic rather than a caretaker of a religious tradition or a guru dispensing timeless wisdom.