Religious Studies

Podcast

What does religious literacy mean in your context?

Will #religiousliteracy save Religious Studies? At the 2019 AAR in San Diego, Dave McConeghy moderated a roundtable with early career scholars about the meaning of religious literacy in their context. Join us for a lively discussion about what it means to teach religious studies with Richard Newton, Chris Jones, Rebekka King, Jenna-Gray-Hildenbrand, Kevin Minister, and Bradly Onishi.
Podcast

Demystifying the Study of Religion

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.
Podcast

What is the point of of academic conferences?: A roundtable discussion

Why attend conferences? What is the point? What else could we do instead that might be a better use of our time? And how did we find having a fully-functional podcast studio set up at this conference? These are just a few of the issues that crop up in this lively roundtable discussion, facilitated by the inestimable Moritz Klenk.
Response

Religion and its Publics (Part 2)

In the last feature of the "semester" we're continuing with the video format. A couple of months ago the RSP attended the Open University's conference on Contemporary Religion in Historical Perspectives. I went about asking the pundits a couple of questions about Religion and its Publics. This week we have the second question (link for Part 1 in the sidebar).
Podcast

From Static Categories to a River of Theories: “The Myth of Disenchantment”

In a free wheeling conversation, Dr. Jason Josephson-Storm and Dan Gorman discuss the intellectual history of religious studies and the myth that magic is dead.
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Shall we play the game?

The Research Excellence Framework (REF) is something which I have been commenting upon since and constitutes the core of one of my arguments about what it is to do “social science” in my forthcoming The Idea of a Genuine Social Science (Springer, 2018).
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A student response to “Hinduism”

This week we're doing some a little different with the format of the response. Rather than have a single respondent to the interview, we opened up the opportunity to several students from the University of Edinburgh's Religious Studies Masters program to have a stab at writing their own.
Podcast

Changing Your Story: Assessing Ex-Member Narratives

Ex-member testimony can be a difficult to deal with. Such testimony tends to receive privileged treatment in anti-cult literature, while some academics are prone to be sceptical, even suggesting ex-member testimony is worthless due to the danger of adaption and fiction.
Response

“Communicating Religion”. Annual Conference of the EASR

Visiting your Alma Mater is always accompanied by mixed emotions. On the one hand you see familiar things you missed but on the other hand you’re confronted with downsides you hoped were a thing of the past. My visit to the KULeuven for the EASR conference had both, although the positives far outweighed the downsides.
Podcast

Sexual Ethics and Islam

Sexual ethics and Islam? How might one begin to study such a vast and "problematic" topic? What are some of the most prescient issues that recur in this contested field? And what is the broader significance of this discussion for Religious Studies in general?
Podcast

Religion, Gender, and Gender Violence

In this podcast Dr Caroline Blyth discusses her research on 'theologies of rape' and gender violence as enacted against males and masculinity, particularly within the Christian Church. Blyth also discusses her upcoming edited series Rape Culture, Gender Violence and Religion (edited with Dr Emily Colgan and Dr Katie Edwards).
Podcast

Comedy, Comedians, and Church: The Interplay between Religion and Humor

Dr Elisha McIntyre discusses her research into religion and humour, particularly looking at comedic work The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints as well as a broad range of evangelical comedians. McIntyre discusses the use of religious comedy as a point of entertainment as well as an identity solidifier, evangelical tool, and preaching format within Christianity.
Response

Sociology of Religion and Religious Studies: Disciplines, Fields, and the Limits of Dialogue

As it happens, just two and a half weeks ago, I was in the audience of a panel called ‘Rethinking Theory, Methods, and Data: A Conversation between Religious Studies and Sociology of Religion’ presented at the annual conference of the American Academy of Religion.
Podcast

New Horizons in the Sociology of Religion: Beyond Secularization?

In this longer-than-usual episode, Chris and David provide an interlinking narrative between Grace Davie, Joe Webster, Carole Cusack, Jonathan Jong, Paul-Francois Tremlett, Linda Woodhead and Kim Knott, reflecting on current or future developments in the sociology of religion which challenge the ubiquity of the secularization thesis, ...
Podcast

Sociology of Religion – and Religious Studies?

What makes the sociology of religion and Religious Studies distinct from each other - if anything? Paul-Francois Tremlett, Titus Hjelm and David Robertson discuss what the two approaches have in common, and how they differ. Importantly, they consider how they might learn from each other.
Podcast

Death, Music, and Ritual: Contemporary Requiems in the Commemoration of Death and Violence

Hoondert discusses the step away from the liturgy associated with requiems as way for today's individual to deal with death or violence in their own way. Still, It is clear that the ritual elements of the requiem remains, hence where this contemporary music fits into the sacral landscape is up for debate.
Podcast

Communism and Catholicism: Religion and Religious Studies in Lithuania

What is the religious field like in a country where religion was banned for half of the 20th century? And how do you set up a Religious Studies department there? Under Communism, religion was suppressed in the formerly Catholic Eastern European country of Lithuania until the 1990s.
Podcast

Categorising “Religion”: From Case Studies to Methodology

In this interview, Dr Teemu Taira discusses the role of marginal traditions in understanding the application of the term "religion" in differing context, in particular he discusses Karhun Kansa, the People of the Bear. This leads onto a methodological discussion on the use of the term and the role scholars play in this discourse.
Podcast

Religious Studies as a Discipline

Aaron Hughes (University of Rochester) has been a vocal critic of some of the theories and methods used by religious studies scholars working on Islam. In this podcast, he discusses his critique of the discipline and practice of religious studies he has made through works such as Situating Islam (Equinox, 2008), Theorizing Islam (Equinox, 2012), Abrahamic Religions (Oxford, 2012), The Study of Judaism (SUNY, 2013), and, most recently, Islam and the Tyranny of Authenticity (Equinox, 2015).
Podcast

Method and Theory in the Cognitive Sciences of Religion

Recorded at the 2015 North American Association for the Study of Religion (NAASR) conference, Robert McCauley discusses methodological and theoretical issues within the cognitive sciences of religion. "Science surprises us!" - McCauley podcast with the Religious Studies Project in 2014, Dr. Robert McCauley gave an overview of some of these ...
Podcast

See you in the next life? Cognitive foundations of reincarnation beliefs

Human reincarnation: Same person, different body, another life. While conceptual scaffolding surrounding the idea of reincarnation can vary widely from culture to culture, in this podcast Claire White draws on some of her recent research pointing out that many similarities exist in how individuals reason about and discern the pre-rebirth identities of the reincarnated.
Response

Report: 2015 Joint Conferences of the New Zealand and Australian Associations for the Study of Religion

The biennial conference of the New Zealand Association for the Study of Religions (NZASR) and the annual conference of the Australian Association for the Study of Religions (AASR) were held together in Queenstown, New Zealand from December 8-10 2015. Interdisciplinary perspectives and theoretical approaches across the humanities and social sciences were evident in the wide-range of papers presented. Islam, and Asian religions more generally, were the most consistent objects of focus, perhaps unsurprising given Australasia’s proximity to Asia and recent increased media attention to the Islamic State.
Podcast

Discursive Approaches and the Crises of Religious Studies

What is a discursive approach to the study of religion? And how can it answer the crises of contemporary RS? Kocku von Stuckrad tells David Robertson in this week's RSP podcast. Discursive analysis of one kind or another is perhaps the most prominent methodology in the study of religion today.
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NAASR 2015 Annual Meeting: A Report from the Field

The North American Association for the Study of Religion (NAASR) held its annual meeting last week in connection with the American Academy of Religion (AAR) and Society for Biblical Literature (SBL) conference in Atlanta, GA. Conference report for The Religious Studies Project by Matt Sheedy.The theme for this year’s NAASR panels was “,” which aimed to signal a basic problem in the study of religions;
Response

“Religion in Peru” — conference report, 2015

That this conference took place at the National University of San Marcos was quite inspiring. This was the first university on the continent with a theology and arts faculty during the second half of the sixteenth century. Now, almost five hundred years later, Peruvian academics still have an interest in studying religion. However, our current perspectives and methodologies are far more diverse, and ever broadening. I remain optimistic that, in the near future, the academic study of religion in Peru will be as widespread and supported as other research areas.
Response

World Religions in Academia and the Loci of Tradition in Irish Paganism(s)

This brings up and interrogates the basic distinction between Christianity and paganism, or rather the issue of identification of paganism by agents of Christianity. In her interview with the Religious Studies Project, Dr. Jenny Butler spoke with Christopher Cotter about the specificities of the object of her doctoral research at University College Cork (2012), contemporary Irish Paganism, and about the field of Pagan studies in the context of Irish academia.
Response

“Understanding Religious Change” – 2015 ASR Conference Report

77th Annual Meeting of the Association for the Sociology of Religion (ASR), 20-22 August 2015, in Chicago, Illinois. Conference report for The Religious Studies Project by Amanda Schutz, PhD student in the School of Sociology, University of Arizona. The theme of this year’s annual ASR meeting was a familiar one among social science conferences: understanding change. In her presidential address, “Complex Religion:
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Conference report: Rethinking Boundaries in the Study of Religion and Politics

"Oganessian proposed that if we were to view politics, or the public sphere, as a “marketplace of ideas,” that would allow us to move beyond the religious/secular binary that dominates western thought. In this “marketplace of ideas” framework, we should view all ideologies, concepts, or moralities as having a societal value, and politics as a kind of flea market for any given worldview to sell their perspective on how to govern the society. This framework frees religious thought of its unfair stereotype of only being suited for one’s private life, putting it on an even footing with all other worldviews."
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Conference Report (and rant): Fandom and Religion, Leicester, 2015

Conference report for The Religious Studies Project by our very own Venetia Robertson, RSP Editor and a PhD candidate at the University of Sydney. The University of Leicester hosted the Fandom and Religion conference this July 28-30 in affiliation with the Theology, Religion and Popular Culture network. A reasonably small conference with just over 30 presenters and 50 attendees, organisers Clive Marshall and Isobel Woodcliffe of Leicester’s Lifelong Learning Centre ran the event smoothly
Response

‘Religious Innovation and Religious Change in the 21st Century’ – 2015 CESNUR Conference Report

CESNUR (Centre for Studies on New Religions, Torino) Annual Conference 2015, Tallinn University, Estonia, 17-20 June. Conference report for The Religious Studies Project by Prof. Carole M. Cusack, Department of Studies in Religion, The University of Sydney The 2015 CESNUR conference was held at University of Tallin, Estonia, and was organized by Dr Ringo Ringvee (The Estonian Ministry of Interior).
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2015 Conference on Religion and American Culture Report

The Biennial “Conference on Religion and American Culture” was held June 4 to June 7, 2015 in Indianapolis. The conference is sponsored by the Center for the Study of Religion and American Culture and Religion & American Culture: A Journal of Interpretation. Conference report for The Religious Studies Project by Jeffrey Wheatley, a PhD student at Northwestern University.
Response

“The Study of Religions in Ireland: People, Places, Projects” – 2015 ISASR Conference Report

The Study of Religions in Ireland: People, Places, Projects” Irish Society for the Academic Study of Religions (ISASR), Trinity College Dublin, May 11th 2015. Conference report for The Religious Studies Project by Dr. Eoin O’Mahony, Department of Geography, St Patrick’s College DCU
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Dressing in Skins of Gods: New Approaches to Aztec Religion

Recent scholarship on Mesoamerican religions has been influenced by Mircea Eliade in a persistent fashion that has yet to be critically addressed. Molly Bassett is an enthusiastic advocate for studying Mesoamerican religion, a welcome new direction in Religious Studies. She credits the critical mentorship of David Carrasco, Neil L. Rudenstine Professor of Latin America Studies at the Harvard Divinity School. Although she does not mention this, his influence makes her an intellectual “granddaughter” of Mircea Eliade, ...
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Conference Report: The Society for the Scientific Study of Religion and the Religious Research Association, 2014

On October 31 – November 2, the Marriot Hotel of downtown Indianapolis, Indiana hosted the 2014 annual meeting of the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion (SSSR) in conjuncture with the Religious Research Association (RRA). The major theme for SSSR was “Building Bridges” and beautifully illustrated on the program cover by Kenan Sevinc. From my understanding, this was the first year that the program was in colour.
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Taking Witchcraft and Possessions Seriously with Philip Almond

When the past has provided us as many truly excellent documents as early modern Europe has on witchcraft and possessions, what need have we to inject ourselves into their discussions? In this interview with Philip Almond, Emeritus Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Queensland and Deputy Director of the Centre for the History of European Discourses, listeners are treated to a wide-ranging survey of the past decade of Almond’s work on witchcraft and demonic possession in early modern England.
Response

A Response by James Cox to Bjørn Ola Tafjord on the Classification ‘Indigenous Religions’

By defining Indigenous Religions as focused primarily on ancestors and as rooted in location, I have restricted the term in a way that then opens up wide permutations of ancestral and localised traditions as they are affected by modernity, globalisation, travel and mass communication, including indigenous people living in diaspora...
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Between the Lab and the Field: Xygalatas and the Science of Extreme Rituals

Breaking down the boundary between the research lab and the “field site” is becoming more common beyond the boundaries of religious studies and anthropology. The research project of Dimitris Xygalatas is part of a growing trend in cognitive approaches to human sociality. This trend involves breaking down the boundary between the lab and the field; sometimes this involves bringing the field into the lab—an approach not uncommon to many social psychologists
Response

Demons, Exoticism, and the Academy

demons and spiritual warfare aren’t something that snake handlers invented just yesterday, it is a major thread woven through the entire history of Christianity, and one that continues to be woven through it today. Something that strikes me about contemporary spiritual warfare is how it’s not so radically different thematically in its interests and its languages than a lot of contemporary American religion.
Podcast

Roundtable on Religious Studies and Academic Credibility beyond ‘World Religions’

A while back a few of us gathered for what became the first of a 'successful' bout of roundtables conducted by a cadre of 'amazing people' with differing and 'unique' opinions. In that first ‘test’ for the ones that would follow, six of us gathered together to discuss the ‘future of religious studies.’
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Guthrie’s Anthropomorphism Helped Bring Religious Studies into the Modern Academic Age

After all, how can one have a scientific understanding of New Age religions or UFO cults without understanding the spirits, ‘energies’, UFOs, and extraterrestrials that inhabit those religious worlds? Guthrie provided, for the first time, a theoretical basis for such a research project. Without theories such as that presented by Prof. Guthrie, particularly in his book Faces in the Clouds (1993), the current move towards an empirical study of religious beliefs and behaviors...
Podcast

Religious Education

For those of us in Britain the question of Religious Education (notionally 'Religious Studies at primary and secondary school level') has become an ever-increasing issue of concern. Just what exactly should RE entail? Should RE be teaching about religion or teaching religion? Who, even, should be RE teachers? In this interview, ...
Response

Tomato: Fruit or Vegetable? Discuss.

According to Oxford Dictionaries, scientifically speaking, a tomato is a fruit. In the culinary world, the tomato is referenced as a vegetable because it is savory. Notice that the argument has morphed from pertaining to what category the tomato is in based on its qualities to a matter of who is doing the speaking. Budding theorists may find themselves conscripted into the ideological battles over the nature of religion or, to put a finer point on the argument, how scholarship in religious studies should be done.
Podcast

Christmas Special 2013 – Nul Point

What is the least well known book of the Bible? How many people in the UK listed their ‘religion’ as ‘Jedi Knight’ on the UK 2011 Census? What is Professor Jim Cox’s drink of choice? To find out, you need do nothing more than hit ‘Play’ and enjoy this forty minutes of pure, unadulterated, top quality Religious Studies entertainment.
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What is the Study of Religion/s? Self-Presentations of the Discipline on University Web Pages

What is the study of religion\s and how is the nature of the discipline communicated to the public? This article provides a content analysis of the self-presentation of the study of religion\s on the internet by providing a content analysis of a sample of 101 university webpages (departments and programs) from 70 universities from 15 countries. In general, the meta-analysis of the state of the discipline according to its public self-presentation on the university web pages point to a rather limited degree of intellectual coherence. Reflexive statements, i.e. statements that self-critically address the parameters of the study of religion\s on a meta-level, are almost absent in our sample. In light of this analysis, this article suggests some "best practices" for online presentations of the study of religion\s.
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The Problem with Myth

"‘Levi-Strauss argues that what “we” in “the West” call history is in fact myth by another name’ (Tremlett, 2008:56). Conversely, what we call myth is also history. But if so, what difference is there in calling a story myth or history? If Evolution can be called both history and myth what differs between each usage? It is, I suggest, the fact that when we speak, for example, of the Evolution myth we think of something that is false-prone and when we speak of the Evolution theory (here a synonym for history) we think of it as true-prone. The question of which is used depends on who is speaking."
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Reflections on Teaching Religious Studies Online

"As we find new and innovative ways to teach students, we as instructors are charged (sometimes without formal or proper orientation) to adopt new methods of instruction." This podcast explores the nature of learning within online learning and the benefits and disadvantages of this type of curricular design.
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Is There a Christian Agenda Behind Religious Studies Departments?

"[Martin] alludes to a greater problem: the imbalance of power, the greater influence of Christianity in Western academia, compared with other religions, both major and minor." A version of this post was published earlier today with a couple of minor but important changes made by Chris and mistakenly not communicated to the author. These unauthorised changes have been removed, and the version presented below meets with the approval of both Mr Lataster and the editors.
Podcast

Studying Nonreligion within Religious Studies

How we can position the study of non-religion within the discipline of Religious Studies? Sounds like a bit of an oxymoron, doesn’t it? Those of you who have been listening to the Religious Studies Project for some time will be somewhat familiar with the emerging sub-field of ‘non-religion’ studies. Perhaps you have listened to our podcast with Lois Lee, ...
Podcast

Wouter Hanegraaff on Western Esotericism

In this interview, Professor Wouter Hanegraaff tells us about what he dubs “the biggest blank spaces of neglected territories in the study of religion”, namely Western esotericism. He tells how he first came over the German Folklorist Will-Erich Peuckert’s book Pansophie (1936) and discovered a group of renaissance thinkers he had never heard of, ...
Podcast

Should Scholars of Religion be Critics or Caretakers?

The inspiration for this episode came from one of Russell McCutcheon's works which we had encountered through the undergraduate Religious Studies programme at the University of Edinburgh, entitled 'Critics Not Caretakers: Redescribing the Public Study of Religion'. The result is this compilation of differing opinions and interpretations ...
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Nuancing the Qual-Quan Divide: The Vitality of Research Methods in the Academic Study of Religion

By using “vitality” in the title above, I mean to point to two aspects of the same urgent call. First, I simply mean that research methods are vital to the academic study of religion. As Stausberg and Engler suggest, “it is through methods that data and theory speak to each other and become part of a shared horizon” (2011: 11), and indeed it is still not a platitude to recall that theory, method and data can be considered three sides of that triangle we conjure, whether implicitly or explicitly,
Podcast

‘Religion’ and Mystification

In this interview, Timothy Fitzgerald presents his critical deconstruction of religion as a powerful discourse and its parasitic relation to ‘secular’ categories such as politics and economics. Religion is not a stand-alone category, he argues; ‘religions’ are modern inventions which are made to appear ubiquitous and, by being removed to a marginal, ...
Podcast

Roundtable: Can We Trust the Social Sciences?

In another roundtable gathering, conversation ranges from the strengths and weaknesses of such data, whether there is more to the social sciences than quantitative methods, and the place of the social sciences within a multi-disciplinary Religious Studies field. Can we trust social sciences when we study religion? Is a social scientific approach the future of religious studies?
Podcast

Roundtable: What is the Future of Religious Studies?

After this week’s podcast, which involved eight scholars giving their views on the future of Religious Studies, there was really only one way we could create a suitably collective and varied response – six postgrads sitting around a table, accompanied by pink gin and our trusty dictaphone. Conversation ranges from the public perception of what Religious Studies does, ...
Podcast

What is the Future of Religious Studies?

This week we decided to do something a bit different. Every time David and Chris have conducted an interview, they have been asking the interviewees an additional question: “What is the Future of Religious Studies?” The result is this highly stimulating compilation of differing perspectives and levels of optimism The result is this highly stimulating compilation of differing perspectives and levels of optimism on what has become one of the most hotly debated topics in the academic study of religion at the start of the second decade of the twenty-first century.
Podcast

The Insider/Outsider Problem

The Insider/Outsider problem, relating to where scholars position themselves relating to the subject matter (whatever that may be), is one of the most perennial problems in the academic study of religion. Does one have to be a member of a community for your testimony about that community to be valid? Or does your membership of the community invalidate your objectivity?
Podcast

The Relationship between Theology and Religious Studies

It is generally accepted - at least as far as most academics are concerned - that there is a distinct difference between religious studies and theology. As you shall see from this interview, however, things are much more complicated, and Professor Wiebe is particularly qualified to present his own take on the relationship between these two distinct disciplines.