Entries by Kevin Whitesides

Living in Limbo

Thompson, in her interview with the RSP, touched on very interesting points regarding youth, young people’s religiosity, and their exit from the church at teenage years. In this time-limited interview, she gave us a lot of food for thought. In this piece, I would like to discuss her responses in a mixed order while maintaining a proper flow.Thompson begins the interview by talking about youth…

Evangelical Christian Space is Not a Category, It’s a Relationship – But With What?

On the one hand, many scholars in religious studies rightfully state that much work has been done on religion and space, and, on the other hand, many anthropologists (including myself) still feel confident claiming that there is a dearth of work on this topic.
The topic of religion and space has been tackled a couple of times by the Religious Studies Project, with interviews and responses featuring…

Pagan Scholarship from a Pagan Perspective

Religious identifications that are alternative to the major world religions are relatively new to census questionnaires. However, there is a stark difference between the available options on religious identity in the 2012 US Census than there are in the 2011 UK Census.Ethan Doyle White, a PhD student in Anthropology of Religion at University College London, recently discussed his research into his 2015 book Wicca: History, Belief, and Community in Modern Pagan Witchcraft.

What is Right With Pagan Studies?

For all our talk of religion being a human endeavor, we are unaccountably unaccustomed to thinking of it as one; we treat it as an abstract phenomenon that can be subjected to a passably “objective” study, like thermodynamics or photosynthesis.Ethan Doyle White’s interview with the RSP is a fascinating follow-on to While Taira seeks a new paradigm of religious studies that does not require definition of “religion,” …

Troubling Essentialism: Studying Religion and Feminism

Secular feminist scholars would benefit from understanding ‘religion’ as a category without set boundaries, and from studying religion as ‘lived’ within fluid contexts.In her interview with the Religious Studies Project, Dawn Llewellyn gives a succinct and well-considered account of the ‘tricky relationship’ between feminism and religion. Tackling two such wide-ranging topics, their various definitions,

The Catholic Underground: Lithuanian Catholicism Under the Soviet Union

Instead of expressing a need for pluralism and to be recognized for the differences that their religion brings to the country, religious minorities push for the security of agreeing with the majority.Professor of Sociology at Vytautas Magnus University, in Lithuania has changed during the counter-reformation, the First Republic after WWI, the Soviet Union, and finally after the Second Independence.
According to Dr. Alisauskiene, the Roman Catholic Church heavily dominated pre-Soviet Union Lithuania.

From Secularisation to Religious Diversity: Understanding Religion in Europe

It may be said that secularisation has made the West religiously illiterate, in that it struggles to accommodate those who do not espouse its secular values, particularly the separation of religion from the state (la laïcité).In her interview with the RSP, Grace Davie provides a survey of the history of the discipline of sociology in the study of religion, and considers the manner in which it has developed in British universities, in contrast to European models.

Whither the Sociology of Religion?

I cannot help but think that the field’s continued reliance on these classical thinkers works to limit the possibilities for analysis to those concerns raised by such figures even in the midst of increased calls for non-Western scholarly interlocutors and more diverse research sites.Grace Davie’s discussion of the sociology of religion provides a comprehensive overview of the field. She offers insights garnered from her own eminent career within British sociology of religion and speaks …

Theoretical Veganism: Practicing Religious Studies without Religion

Perhaps it is time to stop treating the word “religion” as a tool of the scholar and to start treating it as the very object of study. Aside from being an oxymoron, the thought of “meatless meatballs” can elicit strong reactions, whether of disgust, confusion, or hunger. Such products are capable of breeding suspicion, whether in regards to their taste, their origins, or their status as “food.” After all, what exactly is meatless meat?

The Deconstruction of Religion: So What?

Scholars who deconstruct without re-construction undertake a feeble version of deconstruction that undermines itself (often without realising it).In his interview with the RSP, Teemu Taira refers to his work as in some sense a response to Kevin Schilbrack’s 2013 paper, “After We Deconstruct ‘Religion’, Then What?” However, I don’t find it speaking to the concerns of Schilbrack’s paper. This, is not to question the excellence of Taira’s work, scholarship, or methodology, all of which I am deeply impressed with.

Timeless Yoga and Sinister Yogis: David Gordon White’s Brief History of Yoga

The current proliferation of studies exploring the development of contemporary yoga can be seen as a direct challenge to popular perceptions of yoga as a timeless and unified practice which are reproduced (often as a marketing ploy) in non-academic contexts.
Research on the history of yoga has steadily grown throughout the past two decades, focusing primarily on developments and transformations since the height of the colonial period in India.

Futures Found Wanting

Figured as discursive objects, both the witch and the UFO exceeded (or were thought to exceed) the epistemic capacities of contemporary knowledge, necessitating the creation of new forms of knowing.In her recent book on confession and witchcraft in early modern France, French Studies scholar Virginia Krause argues that early modern demonology was a ‘science of the night’.The activities of the Devil, and of the witches who served him, occurred in the darkest hours,…

Time Travel and Fictions of Science

Despite his best scholarly efforts, Tylor’s Anahuac is “fiction” in the same way that Europeans have drawn on their vast reservoir of myths, legends, and stories of Amazons and the Lost Tribes of Israel in their mastery of the Americas.
In 1856, Edward Burnett Tylor, of inscribed with “Huitzilopochtli the god of war, Teoyaomiqui his wife, and Mictlanteuctli the god of hell” all compiled into a gruesome symbol of Aztec religion. “There is little doubt,” Tylor opined, “that this is the famous war-idol which stood on the great teocalliof Mexico,…

Ours Can Be To Reason Why

While perspectives about conversion are Christian-centric, the idea of conversion itself is religion-centric.Lynn Davidman’s recent RSP interview illustrates why her work is important, serious, and engaging. As I listened to the podcast, three ideas came to mind.
First, I was delighted to hear Davidman describe much of the literature on conversion and deconversion as Christian-centric. While I think she could have made this point even more compellingly in the podcast, …

Modern & Lofton Illumine “Religion”

Lofton points out that while many scholars recognize the shortcomings of Geertz’s work, we can’t stop reading it. Admittedly, it’s great fun to teach in undergrad courses. Why’s that?
I think . . . one of the underlying directives of Class 200 is to get that kind of conversation going, just that very notion of is there a relationship between description and explanation and what is it . . . The idea, I think underlying Class 200, is this notion that the way in which you write informs your argument, …