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Although many would today argue that the onetime dominance of the phenomenology of religion has receded, and with it the traditional approach to studying religion as a unique and deeply-felt experience that defies explanation, the essays collected here take quite the opposite stand: that this approach has merely been re-branded and continues to characterize much work being done in the field today. Offering a different way forward—one that is based on experiences gained by the members of the Department of Religious Studies at the University of Alabama, a program that has successfully reinvented itself over the past 20 years—the book includes a variety of practical suggestions for how members of Religious Studies departments can revise their approach to studying and teaching about religion. Seeing religion instead as mundane but always exemplary of basic social elements found all across cultures, the volume argues that the way forward for this field lies not in the specialness of its object of study but, instead, the fact that thinking and acting as if something is special is itself an ordinary aspect of history and culture. Making just this shift helps the scholar of religion to contribute to wide, interdisciplinary conversations all across the Humanities and Social Sciences, demonstrating the practical relevance of their work.
Documents the continued dominance of the phenomenological approach to the study of religion
Describes practical innovations in a department at a public US R-1 University
Offers practical examples for reviving religious studies
Russell McCutcheon, University of Alabama, USA.
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