9781904768814 / 1904768814

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About the book:

This volume takes as its object not religion as such but a set of interventions that raised to scholarly consciousness some of the intellectual problems and political stakes in the representation of religion. Its point of departure is Wilfred Cantwell Smith's early critique of European and North American productions of religion as an object of knowledge. Selections take up something of the form and consequences of Smith's argument as the task of making explicit the historically determined status of religion's use as a category for describing and differentiating humans, their behaviors and social practices. Thematic links are made between classic interventions in Religious Studies and related fields of critical inquiry (including essays by Walter Benjamin, Roland Barthes, Joan Wallach Scott, and Jonathan Z. Smith) and their contemporary interlocutors. Framed innovatively by the themes of cultural and scholarly mapping, the critique of texts and textuality, and sexualized, racialized, and gendered constructions of the body, with each section prefaced by original contributions from leading scholars in the field (e.g. Amy Hollywood and Burton Mack), Readings in the Theory of Religion will prove indispensable to students and scholars in every sub-field of critical and cultural studies of religion.

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