Sticks and stones and all that

ManufRelA grad student elsewhere in North American recently contacted me to say that my first book, Manufacturing Religion, was on their class’s reading list and so asked if I’d answer a few questions in advance of their discussion on the book. Continue reading

A Word from the Balcony

Picture 9A yesterday a colleague posted a blog with three hypotheses on the topic of studying a thing called American Religious History — concerning how it may very well be a nationalist project, from start to finish (no matter how it is done), and that it is a discourse that may have historical continuities with (and practical effects akin to) the world religious discourse that so many in our field now claim to critique.

His point, as I read him, was not how to do it better but why we do it in the first place. Continue reading

Membership Has Its Privileges

popecommunionMy first book, Manufacturing Religion, was a critique of what I called the discourse on sui generis religion — that is, the approach to studying religion that presumes its object of study is somehow unique, self-caused, original, one of a kind, can’t be fully explained, etc. To rephrase it, it was a critique of those who think that, when it comes to studying religion, a special set of interpretive tools must be used, to get at the deep meaning of religious acts and symbols, tools that are different from how we study other mundane aspects of the human.

Because, well, religion is just different. It’s religion! Continue reading

Backstory: Prof. Russell McCutcheon

russell3

Backstory” is a series that asks the REL Faculty to tell us a little bit about themselves, to explore how they became interested in the academic study of religion and their own specialty, elaborating on their current work both within and outside the University.

Where are you from?

I was born in Port Colborne, Ontario, in Canada, not far from Buffalo, NY, actually, in a region that is called southern Ontario. It’s both an industrial and a farming region—lots of grapes for wines being grown along the shore of Lake Ontario, about 45 minutes north of where I was from, which was on the north shore of Lake Erie—I could see Pennsylvania on the other side. And lots of heavy industry, like car manufacturing and steel mills, though not as much as when I was a kid. Now, tourism is probably as big as the manufacturing industry once was. There was a canal cutting through my town, which lakers took so they didn’t have to go over Niagara Falls when going to and from the ocean—good thinking. Continue reading