Russell T. McCutcheon

University Research Professor

Office Hours

By appointment


The Religious Studies Project

Culture on the Edge

Research Groups

Culture on the Edge


  • PhD, Religion, University of Toronto, 1995


Russell T. McCutcheon, who came to the University of Alabama’s Department of Religious Studies as its Department Chair in the summer of 2001, was trained at Queen’s University (Kingston, Ontario) and the University of Toronto, where he received his PhD in the academic study of religion in 1995. He came to the U.S. from Canada in 1993, to teach full time as an Instructor at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville (1993-96); from 1996 to 2001 he was an Assistant and then Associate Professor at Southwest Missouri State University (Springfield; now known as Missouri State University). Since 2005 he has held the rank of Professor and, in February 2018, was awarded the rank of University Research Professor from the University of Alabama’s Board of Trustees.

He stepped down as chair at the end of the 2008-09 academic year (after serving two terms), led technology projects for the College of Arts & Sciences for two years, returning to REL to teach and then, in August of 2013, was reappointed to the role of department chair; in 2018 he was appointed by the Dean of the College of Arts & Sciences to his fourth 5 year term.

His areas of interest include the history of scholarship on myths and rituals, the history of the publicly-funded academic study of religion as practiced in the U.S., secularism, theories of religion, as well as the relations between the classification “religion” itself and the rise of the nation-state.

He has written a wide number of books, including his first, Manufacturing Religion (1997) and Studying Religion: An Introduction (2007; second ed. 2018), as well as publishing a several collections of his own essays, such as Critics Not Caretakers (2001), The Discipline of Religion (2003), A Modest Proposal on Method (2015) and Entanglements (2015) — while also editing journals and editing or co-editing a variety of resources in the field (such as The Guide to the Study of Religion [with Willi Braun, 2000], Fabricating Origins [2015], Fabricating Identities [2017], and Religion in 5 Minutes [with Aaron Hughes, 2017]). In 2018 he published two new collections of his own essays: “Religion” in Theory and Practice (Equinox) and Fabricating Religion (Walter de Gruyter) as well as another co-edited book with Braun, Reading J. Z. Smith (Oxford University Press).

His recent books include an edited collection of Willi Braun’s essays, Jesus and Addiction to Origins (Equinox 2020), Remembering J. Z. Smith (a collection of essays on the influence of Jonathan Z. Smith, co-edited with Emily Crews; Equinox 2020), and, with Aaron Hughes, a collection of leading scholars debating each other’s definitions of religion (for Oxford University Press; Fall 2021). His collection of essays, On Making a Shift in the Study of Religion and Other Essays was published in Berlin by Walter de Gruyter in 2021 and, along with Aaron Hughes, he co-authored two new resources, Religion in 50 Words: A Critical Vocabulary and Religion in 50 More Words: A Redescriptive Vocabulary (2021). With Aaron Hughes he is also the editor of What is Religion? Debating the Academic Study of Religion (2021). Among his upcoming publications is an edited volume on teaching, new editions of both his intro book, Studying Religion, and his 2001 essay collection, Critics Not Caretakers, as well as an edited volume on the future of doctoral training in the study of religion.

He was the series editor for Religion in Culture and Critical Categories in the Study of Religion (both with Routledge), an earlier series now published by Bloomsbury (Controversies in the Study of Religion), as well as currently being one of the co-editors of the Supplements to MTSR book series (published by Brill).

Learn More

See his A Good Book episode.

Courses Taught

McCutcheon regularly teaches large enrollment sections of REL 100 Introduction to the Study of Religion as well as a wide variety of courses and upper-level seminars in the Department (on such topics as theories of religion and the rhetoric of religious experience). In addition, he is a member of the Graduate Faculty and regularly supervises M.A. students.

Selected Publications

Visit Prof. McCutcheon’s author’s page to learn more about his work or find him on Google Scholar.