Tag Archives: North American Association for the Study of Religion

Method Today: Redescribing Approaches to the Study of Religion

I’m excited to see that an Equinox volume to which I contributed a small essay is now available. The volume, Method Today: Redescribing Approaches to the Study of Religion, edited by Dr. Brad Stoddard, offers reflections by senior scholars on four different aspects of the study of religion, followed by responses from younger scholars. The table of contents is above. I responded to Dr. Naomi Goldenberg’s discussion of “description,” and I used cognitive linguistics to address concerns with attempts to define “religion,” as well as the notion that there’s something problematic about the category in light of its incommensurability with definition. You can get a 25% discount by using the code RELIGION at checkout. (Feel free to email me for more information on my essay.) 


2016 Annual Meeting of the North American Association for the Study of Religion

The program for the 2016 annual meeting of the NAASR has been posted on the organization’s blog. This meeting takes place in San Antonio from Friday, November 18, to Saturday, November 20. I will be responding to Naomi Goldenberg in the “Description” panel of the Method Today portion of the program, as described and outlined below:

Method Today

NAASR’s 2016 program, which will take place in San Antonio, TX, is intended to create opportunities for specialists from across our field, all of whom are at a variety of different career stages, to investigate what “method” means in the study of religion today.

With the success of the 2015 NAASR program—devoted to examining the current state of theory in the study of religion with four main papers plus responses—the 2016 program will retain the same format but turn its attention instead to the closely related topic of method. And because of the wide variety of methods used in the cross-disciplinary study of religion we’re proposing narrowing the focus to four key tools that all scholars of religion surely employ, regardless their approach to the study of religion: description, comparison,interpretation, and explanation.

The program committee is therefore inviting members to consider the place of each of these in the study of religion—recognizing that examining each opens conversations on far wider topics of relevance to NAASR’s mission, such as description being intimately linked to ethnography, viewpoint, first person authority (to name but a few). In much the same way, detailed consideration of the other three tools also leads into conversations on the basics of the field (E.g., Having survived critiques of comparison as ethnocentric, what is the future of comparative studies and how ought they to be carried out? Given the once dominant, but for some now discredited, place of hermeneutical approaches what is entailed in the interpretation of meaning today? And, despite their once prominent place several generations ago, what does one make of the continuing lack of interest in the academy in naturalistic, explanatory theories of religion?) This focus on method, by means of these four basic tools, therefore provides us with an opportunity to assess the current state of the field.

As with the 2015 program, three scholars who work in a variety of subfields will respond to each of the four main papers (thereby involving 16 participants in total). The four main, pre-circulated papers will only be summarized briefly at their sessions and a large portion of the sessions will again be reserved for open conversations; the goal is that all of the papers will then be published in a special issue of MTSR. Unlike last year, however, the Program Committee will commission the four main generative papers (based on hopes that they eventually contribute to a new NAASR book series, to be announced soon).

1. “Description,” Naomi Goldenberg (University of Ottawa)
10:00am-11:50am, Friday, November 18—El Mirador C East at the Hilton Palacio del Rio

Emily Crews (University of Chicago)
Ian Cuthbertson (Queen’s University)
Neil George (York University)
Dan McClellan (University of Exeter)

2. “Interpretation,” Kevin Schilbrack (Appalachian State University)
1:00pm-2:50pm, Friday, November 18—El Mirador C East at the Hilton Palacio del Rio

Mark Gardiner and Steven Engler (Mount Royal University)
Joshua Lupo (Florida State University)
Matt Sheedy (University of Manitoba)
Jennifer Eyl (Tufts University)

3. “Comparison,” Aaron W. Hughes (University of Rochester)
3:00pm-4:50pm, Friday, November 18—El Mirador C East at the Hilton Palacio del Rio

Lucas Carmichael (University of Colorado)
Thomas Carrico (Florida State University)
Drew Durdin (University of Chicago
Stacie Swain (University of Ottawa)

Annual Reception, Co-Sponsored with Equinox Publishing
7:00pm-9:00pm, Friday, November 18
Location TBD

Business Meeting
1:00pm-1:50pm, Saturday, November 19—El Mirador C East at the Hilton Palacio del Rio

4. “Explanation,” Ann Taves and Egil Asprem (University of California—Santa Barbara)
9:00am-10:50am, Sunday, November 20—El Mirador C East at the Hilton Palacio del Rio

Spencer Dew (Centenary College)
Joel Harrison (Northwestern University)
Paul Kenny (SOAS, UK)
Erin Roberts (University of South Carolina)