Surely we have moved past the idea of sinister cults brainwashing innocent victims? When it comes to the law, not so, Susan Palmer tells David G. Robertson.cult" and "sect" uncritically. Nevertheless, outside of academia, the language of "cults" continues to be used,...

About this episode

cult” and “sect” uncritically. Nevertheless, outside of academia, the language of “cults” continues to be used, and particularly through the law, has an affect on the lives of real people. Susan J. Palmer joins David G. Robertson to discuss the intersection between new or minority religions and the law. Professor Palmer describes how she came to study these minority groups, and to realise that they were often being misrepresented, or at least unduly targeted. Discussion ranges from Scientology in France to the Branch Davidians and the Nuwaubians in the US, with issues of secularity, race and “brainwashing” come to the fore. A fascinating overview for anyone interested in how the discourse on “religion” operates in the contemporary world. Religion and the Law (Winnifred F. Sullivan), Studying “Cults” (Eileen Barker), and Is Britain still a Christian country? (Linda Woodhead), and feature essays by Daniel SillimanEssi Mäkelä, and Kevin Whitesides. You can download this interview, and subscribe to receive our weekly podcast, on iTunes. If you enjoyed it, please take a moment to rate us . And remember, you can use our Amazon.co.ukAmazon.com, or Amazon.ca links to support us at no additional cost when buying academic texts, fake fir trees, playing cards, and more!

This episode has not been transcribed yet. 

Consider a donation to pay for the cost of editing a transcript?

Responses to this episode

New Religious Movements and Contemporary Discourses About Religion

Increased attention to religion by international governments and NGOs has not necessarily resulted in less problematic models of religion being used by these governments and groups. As I listened to Susan Palmer’s RSP interview and read about her new co-authored book (with Stuart A. Wright) Storming Zion: Government Raids on Religious Communities (2015), I was reminded why NRMs make such useful case studies in the religious studies classroom. From a pedagogical perspective, ...

Related Resources

How Religious Freedom Makes Religion

Podcast

Tisa Wenger tells David Robertson how local, national, and international regimes of religious freedom have produced and reproduced the category 'religion' and its others in the modern world.
Teaching and Learning in Contemporary Religious Studies

Podcast

Today we are joined by Dr Dominic Corrywright of Oxford Brookes University in the UK, to discuss current developments in higher education pedagogy, the challenges and opportunities that these present for Religious Studies, and some practical examples from Dominic’s own experience.
There’s More Than One Way to Skin a Cat: Comments on Kocku von Stuckrad’s Discursive Approach

Response

It seems to me to be perfectly possible for someone to agree on the problem of representation, highlight the importance of reflecting on the situatedness of observer, challenge essentialism and still show no particular interest in problematizing analytical definitions of religion. There is more than one discursive approach in religious studies. In his interview with the RSP, professor Kocku von Stuckrad outlines some of the key issues that are relevant for constructing a discourse theoretical framework for religious studies.

Other EPISODES YOU MIGHT ENJOY

Music, Marketing and Megachurches

Podcast

Music is a big part of a new "mediapolois", part of a marketing matrix of people, places and industries. Today, music's meaning is more often part of a branded ecosystem, not limited to entertainment, but part of the experience of everyday life, including religion.
Christmas Special 2016 – The Unverifiable Truth-Claim!

Podcast

"The Unverifiable Truth-claim", recorded at BASR 2016, hosted by David Robertson, and featuring Christopher Cotter, Katie Aston, Jonathan Tuckett, and Krittika Bhatta... Bhatta... Bhattacharjee! Plus a special appearance by RSP Managing Editor, Thomas Coleman!
Muslim Superheroes

Podcast

A. Dave Lewis joins us again for a discussion of representations of Muslims in superhero comics. We talk about some positive representations, like Kamala Khan, Marvel's new Ms Marvel, and some less-than-positive portrayals, like Frank Millar's Holy Terror!
Gurdjieff and the Study of Contemporary Religion

Podcast

David Robertson speaks to two remarkable scholars, Carole Cusack and Steven Sutcliffe, on the significance of G. I. Gurdjieff to the study of religion. How do we approach figures like Gurdjieff whose legacies (and archives) are tightly controlled by their followers, and who often aren't seen as worthy of study by the academy and publishers?
Critical Approaches to Pre-Islamic Arabia and Early Islam

Podcast

Given the way in which many introductory courses present the history of early Islam and pre-Islamic Arabia, we may be tempted to think that the historical facts were well established and the narrative uncontested. However, this is far from the case. What evidence do we actually have from this period, and how may it challenge the conventional narratives that have become canonised in sacred and academic histories? What misconceptions might be challenged by modern epigraphic work, or the application of Social Identity theories to ancient texts? And why might this matter for contemporary Islam, contemporary Islamic Studies, and the critical study of religion more broadly? Joining Chris to discuss these questions, is Dr Ilkka Lindstedt of the University of Helsinki.
Demystifying the Study of Religion

Podcast

In this podcast we have a group discussion about Russell McCutcheon's new book, Religion in Theory and Practice: Demystifying the Field for Burgeoning Academics. Joining us on the podcast is not only the author himself, but two young scholars who also contributed to the book, Matt Sheedy and Tara Baldrick-Marone.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution- NonCommercial- NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

The views expressed in podcasts, features and responses are the views of the individual contributors, and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Religious Studies Project or our sponsors. The Religious Studies Project is produced by the Religious Studies Project Association (SCIO), a Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation (charity number SC047750).