Critics Not Caretakers: Redescribing the Public Study of Religion

Paperback (Print)
Used and New from Other Sellers
Used and New from Other Sellers
from $18.35
Usually ships in 1-2 business days
(Save 42%)
Other sellers (Paperback)
  • All (6) from $18.35   
  • New (1) from $95.79   
  • Used (5) from $18.35   


A lively critique of the study of religion in the modern academy, one that makes the scholar of religion a cultural critic rather than a caretaker of a religious tradition or a guru dispensing timeless wisdom.
Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“McCutcheon makes a strong case that the study of religion is deeply flawed, and that there are important ramifications for current society and politics in these flaws. Agree or disagree with it, this book provokes the reader to think. McCutcheon’s work stands alone as a critique of the pathologies of Religious Studies.”— Timothy Murphy, Case Western Reserve University

“Critics Not Caretakers represents a new paradigm in the study of religion. All serious students of theory and method in Religious Studies will need to come to terms with McCutcheon’s stimulating and challenging critique of the mainstream tradition.” — William E. Paden, author of Religious Worlds: The Comparative Study of Religion

McCutheon (religious studies, University of Alabama) argues that the study of religion must be recast as an ordinary aspect of social, historical existence. He presents the scholar not as the caretaker of traditions, but as a critic of cultural practices. Following 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 presents a series of essays addressing the wider theoretical questions of the discipline. It also examines the socio-political role of this brand of critical scholarship. Concluding the work is a consideration of how teachers can address issues of theory and critical thinking in the undergraduate classroom. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (
Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780791449448
  • Publisher: State University of New York Press
  • Publication date: 3/28/2001
  • Series: Suny Series, Issues in the Study of Religion Ser.
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 266
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

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.

Read More Show Less

Table of Contents



Copyright Permissions

PART I. Redescribing Religion as Something Ordinary

1. More Than a Shapeless Beast: Lumbering through the Academy with the Study of Religion

2. Redescribing 'Religion' as Social Formation: Toward a Social Theory of Religion

PART II. Dispatches from the Theory Wars

3. Writing a History of God: "Just the Same Game Wherever You Go"

4. Explaining the Sacred: Theorizing on Religion in the Late Twentieth Century

5. "We're All Stuck Somewhere": Taming Ethnocentrism and Transcultural Understandings

6. The Economics of Spiritual Luxury: The Glittering Lobby and the World's Parliament of Religions

7. "My Theory of the Brontosaurus...": Postmodernism and "Theory" of Religion

PART III. Culture Critics and Caretakers

8. A Default of Critical Intelligence? The Scholar of Religion as Public Intellectual

9. Talking Past Each Other: The Issue of Public Intellectuals Revisited

PART IV. Going Public: Teaching Theory

10. Our "Special Promise" as Teachers: Scholars of Religion and the Politics of Tolerance

11. Redescribing "Religion and..." Film: Teaching the Insider/Outsider Problem

12. Methods and Theories in the Classroom: Teaching the Study of Mythis and Rituals

13. Theorizing in the Introductory Course: A Survey of Resources

PART V. Afterword




Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Be the first to write a review
( 0 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star


4 Star


3 Star


2 Star


1 Star


Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation


  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously

    If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
    Why is this product inappropriate?
    Comments (optional)