Irreverence and the Sacred

Critical Studies in the History of Religions

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Hugh B. Urban, Greg Johnson
  • Oxford, England: 
    Oxford University Press
    , November
     352 pages.
     For other formats: Link to Publisher's Website.
Review coming soon!

Review by Melody Everest forthcoming.


Irreverence and the Sacred brings together some of the most cutting edge, interdisciplinary, and international scholars working today in order to debate key issues in the critical and comparative study of religion. The project is inspired in large part by the work of Bruce Lincoln, whose influential and wide-ranging scholarship has consistently posed challenging, provocative, and often-irreverent questions that have really pushed the boundaries of the field of religious studies in important, sometimes controversial ways. Retracing the history of the discipline of religious studies, Lincoln argues that the field has tended to champion a "validating, feel-good" approach to religion, rather than posing more critical questions about religious claims to authority and their role in history, politics, and social change. A critical approach to the history of religions, he suggests, would focus on the human, temporal, and material aspects of phenomena that are claimed to have a superhuman, eternal, or transcendent status. This volume takes up Lincoln's challenge to "do better," by engaging in critical analyses of four key themes in the study of religion: myth, ritual, gender, and politics. The book also interrogates the "politics of scholarship" itself, critically examining the relations of power and material interests at work in the study as well as the practice of religion. The scholars involved in this project include not only some of the most important figures in the American study of religion--such as Wendy Doniger, Russell McCutcheon, Ivan Strenski, and Lincoln himself--but also European scholars whose work is hugely influential overseas but not as well known in the U.S.--such as Stefan Arvidsson, Claude Calame, Nicolas Meylan, and others.

About the Author(s)/Editor(s)/Translator(s): 

Hugh B. Urban is Professor of Religious Studies and South Asian Studies in the Department of Comparative Studies at Ohio State University. He is the author of nine books, including The Church of Scientology: A History of a New Religion (2011) and Zorba the Buddha: Sex, Spirituality and Capitalism in the Global Osho Movement (2016).

Greg Johnson is Associate Professor of Religious Studies and Director of the Center for Native American and Indigenous Studies at the University of Colorado, Boulder. He is the author of Sacred Claims: Repatriation and Living Tradition and co-editor of Handbook of Indigenous Religion(s) (2017).

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