Manufacturing Religion: The Discourse on Sui Generis Religion and the Politics of Nostalgia / Edition 1

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Overview


In this new book, author Russell McCutcheon offers a powerful critique of traditional scholarship on religion, focusing on multiple interrelated targets. Most prominent among these are the History of Religions as a discipline; Mircea Eliade, one of the founders of the modern discipline; recent scholarship on Eliade's life and politics; contemporary textbooks on world religions; and the oft-repeated bromide that "religion" is a sui generis phenomenon. McCutcheon skillfully analyzes the ideological basis for and service of the sui generis argument, demonstrating that it has been used to constitute the field's object of study in a form that is ahistoric, apolitical, fetishized, and sacrosanct. As such, he charges, it has helped to create departments, jobs, and publication outlets for those who are comfortable with such a suspect construction, while establishing a disciplinary ethos of astounding theoretical naivete and a body of scholarship to match. Surveying the textbooks available for introductory courses in comparative religion, the author finds that they uniformly adopt the sui generis line and all that comes with it. As a result, he argues, they are not just uncritical (which helps keep them popular among the audiences for which they are intended, but badly disserve), but actively inhibit the emergence of critical perspectives and capacities. And on the geo-political scale, he contends, the study of religion as an ahistorical category participates in a larger system of political domination and economic and cultural imperialism.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"[McCutcheon] stands in a long tradition of excellent company that goes back at least as far as classical Greek dramatists and philosophers who inquired persistently into the prevailing mythos....This book s likely to provoke very fruitful debate for many years."--Choice

"...McCutcheon's book is a sharp, sustained critique of the way religion is studied in North America, with an alternative proposal for a naturalist, materialist method of studying religion."--The Cresser Trinity

"McCutcheon's book is a formidable critique of its subject and should be widely read and debated. It will repay close critical attention from those interested in theory and method."--British Association for the Study of Religions

"...the book is fascinating and thought-provoking."--eligious Studies Review

Booknews
McCutcheon takes up arms against a good portion of traditional scholarship on religion, especially the history of religion as a discipline, Mircea Eliade and recent scholarship on his life and politics, and contemporary textbooks on world religions. But his chief target is the ideological basis for and service of the view of religion as ahistoric, apolitical, fetishized, and sacrosanct. Based on a 1995 doctoral dissertation for University of Toronto. Annotation c. by Book News, Inc., Portland, Or.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195105032
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 3/28/2002
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 272
  • Lexile: 1690L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 6.56 (w) x 9.50 (h) x 0.87 (d)

Table of Contents

Introduction: The Manufacture of "Religion" 3
1 Ideological Strategies and the Politics of Nostalgia 27
2 Autonomy, Discourses, and Social Privilege 51
3 The Debate on the Autonomy of Eliade 74
4 The Poverty of Theory in the Classroom 101
5 The Category Religion in Recent Scholarship 127
6 The Imperial Dynamic and the Discourse on Religion 158
7 Institutional Identity and the Significance of Theory 192
Notes 215
References 227
Index 243
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