A Response to “Responsible Research Practices,” Part 4: Research on Human Subjects

Picture 18This is an installment in an ongoing series on the American Academy of Religion’s recently released draft statement on research responsibilities.
An index of the
complete series (updated as each
article is posted) can be found here.

The previous post ended by citing the fourth of Bruce Lincoln’s “Theses on Method” — specifically, his call for scholars always to contextual, historicize, what they study by asking “who speaks here?” and “to what audience?” Among my difficulties with the AAR’s draft document is that it reads as if its authors had never read or taken seriously comments on the field such as Lincoln’s. Again, while I have no idea what debates took place between the members — or better yet, what compromises were required — reading their draft’s second bullet point’s advice that we “promote good” by, among other things, “telling the truth” flies in the face of Lincoln’s own widely read thoughts on what we ought to be doing in this field when we do research. Continue reading

Profiting from a Bankruptcy

anthologyofworldreligionsAre you looking for a way to think through what it takes for a local idea to spread worldwide and be adopted globally — an idea such as the now taken-for-granted assumption that the world has such things in it as religions, which exist in a variety of (as Wilfred Cantwell Smith once phrased it) major or minor forms that, mostly, end in the suffix -ism?

Well, look no further than the marketing campaign for W. W. Norton’s new anthology of world religions readings. I can only imagine how much money is up for grabs in the textbook/anthology market to prompt them to invest the sort of budget they must have in promoting it. (I also can’t imagine the permissions budget they established to acquire the rights to all of the reprints it includes.) Continue reading