The Critical Study of Religion
This chapter reviews some of the current and recent literature produced in religious studies departments and delineates the present book in relation to them. It shows how the construction of “religion” as an essentialized domain distinct from “nonreligious” domains feeds on other essentialized rhetorical binaries such as God and the world, nature and supernature, mind and matter, female and male, science and faith, rationality and irrationality. These binaries underlie the transformation of encompassing Religion as Christian Truth into the contemporary commodification of religions as multiple objects in the world. Religion has been “disembedded” from a holistic worldview and turned into the objects of “secular” knowledge, much as anthropologists have disembedded a putative sphere of “economic” practice from non‐European cultures. Problems in translating dominant Anglophone categories into non‐European languages are analogous to translating contemporary Anglophone usages into premodern Anglophone usages. “Religions,” like “nations,” are specific, historically emergent acts of the imagination that make modernity seem inevitable.
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