Power and Diversity in 4th Century Martyr Shrines

How were 4th century Christian martyr shrines locations for the negotiation of power and diversity? In this interview, Nathaniel Morehouse explains the contested nature of these shrines. With an eye to the context of the diverse Mediterranean world and its complex configuration of political and religious identities, Morehouse sees shrines as an excellent interface for understanding not only the theological issues that were paramount for Church Fathers of this era, but also the lives of worshippers. An excellent starting place for beginners looking to understand more about the world of early Christianity, this interview concludes with suggestions for further reading beyond Morehouse's own work, Death's Dominion and its emphasis on power, identity, and memory.

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Manifestos and the Academic Study of Religion

In this roundtable from the Department of Studies in Religion at the University of Sydney, we get a variety of religious studies approaches to subject of manifestos and their creators. Join Carole Cusack, Alana Louise Bowden, Ray Radford, Sophie Roe, and Anna Lutkajtis as they unpack the discourses surrounding manifestos and topics ranging from the consumerization of religion and Anders Breivik to the Unabomber manifesto and Artaud's theatre of cruelty. It's a fascinating conversation from a great group of scholars, so have a listen!

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Conspiracy Theories, Public Rhetoric, and Power

What are conspiracy theories? How do we distinguish the conspiracy theories from religion? And what are the effects of this categorization? In this episode, Andie Alexander chats with RSP co-founder David G. Robertson about the roles and effects of conspiracy theory discourses in the academy and more broadly. Robertson outlines the primary academic approaches to conspiracy theories and argues that we, as scholars, should be deconstructing these categories and taking seriously their implications in our social worlds. Ranging from early studies and current psychological studies on mental illness to the role of conspiracy theories in social governance, media, and 'fake news', Robertson demonstrates just how intertwined these discourses are in our modes of knowledge production.

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Masculinity and the Body Languages of Catholicism

What are the body languages Catholics use to express masculine devotion? In this interview with Prof. Alyssa Maldonado-Estrada about her recent book, Lifeblood of the Parish, the subject is Brooklyn, New York and its Italian Catholic parish of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. Yearly the community celebrates San Paolino di Nola with a festival that culminates with the carrying of the giglio — a seventy-foot (21m) tall, four-ton tower. In her analysis, masculinity, devotion, and even Catholicism itself are made through labor and the process of "doing the work" from counting money to painting statues, getting tattoos, or lifting the giglio. By refocusing our attention on the embodied labor of masculinization and devotion, Prof. Maldonado-Estrada challenges what kinds of discourses and practices are most revealing for discussions of gender and piety.

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Islam, Politics, and Identity: The (Im)possibility of Sudan’s Islamic State

Sudan currently ranks in the top ten most at risk countries on the Fragile State Index. Yet despite decades of political instability and conflicts destabilizing the country, the aspirations for an Islamic state proved to be resilient, and an Islamist government of the Sudanese state continues to function. How are we to explain the resilience of this Islamic state when conventional wisdom seems to suggest it should have been an impossible project from its outset? Noah Salomon's ethnography of the Islamic state in Sudan provides a window into the making of a modern Islamic state by focusing our attention on the Sudanese people that not only constitute it, but bring it to life through their poetry, spiritual devotions, and everyday lives.

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South American Austral Religions in an Ethnohistorical Comparative Perspective

Indigenous peoples have history. Though this fact might not pervade the collective imaginary in different countries, recognizing it is crucial for understanding the social processes that have shaped the current struggles indigenous peoples face in South America. In this direction, the sub-field that has contributed the most is ethnohistory, through the register of ritual practices, life cycle events, and the general way of life of an indigenous group in a given time in history.

In this episode, Boris Briones talks to RSP interviewer Sidney Castillo about his comparative research on the Mapuche and Selk’nam people of austral South America. His work delves into the indigenous religions of both groups, located in the southern regions of Chile and Argentina, where he did extensive archival research to reconstruct their history, beliefs, and practices, some of which are still present to this day.

An important point raised through the conversation is that these indigenous peoples have become systematically ostracized and exterminated by the state in both countries, resulting in the ethnocide of the Selk’nam, and the continuous marginalization of the Mapuche. Given this context, scholarly inquiry of this kind is of greater importance due to its potential for cultural, social, and political vindication in their respective countries. But this impact does not limit itself to academia, as Briones himself has carried out several initiatives for reaching to the general public in an effort to provide basic literacy on these matters. Such endeavor highlights the importance of moving beyond the ivory tower for supporting current struggles related to religion and indigenous peoples, a responsibility that we owe to the very people that aid us in our research in the first place.

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Sovereignty and Spiritual Warfare

Join Savannah H. Finver and Dr. S. Jonathon O'Donnell for a timely conversation about the role of demonology in American political rhetoric. Savannah chats with Dr. O'Donnell about their interest in rhetoric around demons and how that interest translated into their first monograph, Passing Orders: Demonology and Sovereignty in American Spiritual Warfare (Fordham University Press, 2021). The two also discuss Dr. O'Donnell's methodology, the importance of including interdisciplinary perspectives in religious studies projects, and discourse analysis as a theoretical framework. We wrap up our conversation with a discussion about what it means to engage in the "critical study of religion" from multiple perspectives and how Dr. O'Donnell sees their work fitting in—or not—to this larger project. What's next for Dr. O'Donnell? Tune in and find out!

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Freak Out!: How Critical Race Theory became a Moral Panic | Discourse! June 2021 (with video)

Our June episode of Discourse! is the final episode of Season 10! Wow! It's been a fantastic season, and we are so grateful for your support. For our final episode, Andie Alexander, Ishanika Sharma, and K. Merinda Simmons decided to dive into the current discourses on Critical Race Theory! After defining Critical Race Theory (CRT) and outlining a brief history of its emergence, they dive into some recent examples of how popular conceptions of CRT (contrary to the intersectional aims of CRT discourses) reify the dichotomy between individualism and structuralism. They discuss the recent Georgia and Alabama education resolutions, discourses around India's caste system, the emergence and role of the Religious Right in America, and conclude with controversy around The 1619 Project. There's far more to say but only so much time in an episode!

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Law, Religious Racism, and Religions of the African Diaspora

In this episode, Dr. Danielle N. Boaz joins the RSP's Benjamin Marcus to discuss her new book, Banning Black Gods: Law and Religions of the African Diaspora (PSU Press 2021). Dr. Boaz explains a key concept she explores throughout the book: "religious racism," and also describes similarities and differences in the ways that legal systems in a variety of countries — including Brazil, Canada, England, France, Haiti, South Africa, and the United States — treat African-derived religious traditions. She explains how and why the study of law furthers the study of African-derived religious traditions and vice versa. Learn more about Dr. Boaz's work on Twitter at @religiousracism.

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