Critics Not Caretakers: Redescribing the Public Study of Religion

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SUNY Press, Mar 29, 2001 - Education - 266 pages
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Critics Not Caretakers argues that the study of religion must be rethought as an ordinary aspect of social, historical existence, a stance that makes the scholar of religion a critic of cultural practices rather than a caretaker of religious tradition or a font of timeless wisdom. From a general introduction written for a wide audience and a theoretical essay that outlines the basis of an alternative, socio-rhetorical approach to studying religion, the book moves on to a series of dispatches from the theory wars, each of which uses the work of such writers as Karen Armstrong, Walter Burkert, and Benson Saler as a point of entry into wider theoretical issues of importance to the field’s future. The author then examines the socio-political role of this brand of critical scholarship—a role that differs dramatically from the type of sympathetic caretaking generally associated with scholars of religion who feel compelled to “go public.” Concluding the work is a consideration of how scholars as teachers can address issues of theory and critical thinking in the undergraduate classroom. Written with verve, Critics Not Caretakers provides a viable alternative for all those dissatisfied with the covertly political, liberal humanist approach that currently dominates the study of religion.
 

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Contents

More Than a Shapeless Beast Lumbering through the Academy with the Study of Religion
3
Redescribing Religion as Social Formation Toward a Social Theory of Religion
21
Dispatches from the Theory Wars
41
Writing a History of God Just the Same Game Wherever You Go
43
Explaining the Sacred Theorizing on Religion in the Late Twentieth Century
57
Were All Stuck Somewhere Taming Ethnocentrism and Transcultural Understandings
73
The Economics of Spiritual Luxury The Glittering Lobby and the Worlds Parliament of Religions
85
My Theory of the Brontosaurus Postmodernism and Theory of Religion
103
Going Public Teaching Theory
153
Our Special Promise as Teachers Scholars of Religion and the Politics of Tolerance
155
Redescribing Religion and Film Teaching the InsiderOutsider Problem
179
Methods and Theories in the Classroom Teaching the Study of Myths and Rituals
201
Theorizing in the Introductory Course A Survey of Resources
217
Afterword
237
Afterword
239
References
241

Culture Critics and Caretakers
123
A Default of Critical Intelligence? The Scholar of Religion as Public Intellectual
125
Talking Past Each Other The Issue of Public Intellectuals Revisited
145

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Page xi - The starting point of these reflections was usually a feeling of impatience at the sight of the "naturalness" with which newspapers, art and common sense constantly dress up a reality which, even though it is the one we live in, is undoubtedly determined by history.

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About the author (2001)

Russell T. McCutcheon is Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of Religious Studies at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa. He is the coeditor (with Willi Braun) of Guide to the Study of Religion, editor of The Insider/Outsider Problem in the Study of Religion: A Reader, and author of Manufacturing Religion: The Discourse on Sui Generis Religion and the Politics of Nostalgia.

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