The revised essays collected here, four of which are published for the first time, continue a longstanding argument made by McCutcheon and others: that the study of religion would benefit from self-conscious scrutiny of its tools, the interests that may drive them, and the effects that might follow their use. The chapters examine a variety of contemporary sites in the modern field where this thesis can be argued, whether involving the anachronistic use of of the category religion when studying the ancient world to current interest in so-called critical religion or critical realist approaches. Moreover – contrary to some past characterizations of such critiques – a constructive way forward for the field is once again recommended and, at several sites, exemplified in detail: redescribing not only religion as something ordinary but also our tendency to create the impression of exceptional and thus set-apart things, places, and people. Aimed at scholars and students alike, the book is an invitation to examine our own scholarly practices and thereby take a more active role in shaping the field in which we carry out our work as scholars of this thing we call religion.
Russell T. McCutcheon, University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, U.S.A.