Locating Value in the Study of Religion

Sowing the Seed is going on break for summer vacation. We have lots of projects in the works to hit the ground running in September. I do have some publications that will be coming out in the next few months which I’ll share here.

My latest journal article, “Locating Value in the Study of Religion,” is in Method & Theory in the Study of Religion. It makes the case that religious studies operates best as an analytical discipline when it makes “value” and “evaluation” as objects of study rather than an aspiration.

The piece continues my research into theorizing signification and the anthropology of scriptures. If you’re interested in the direction of the field, the insider/outsider problem in the study of religion, pedagogy, or the concept of scriptures, then you may enjoy this article.

Religious studies courses frequently justify their existence with the rhetoric of “value.” While appeasing the socio-economic concerns of college boards, this undermines the work of more critical approaches under the field’s big tent. The following paper responds to this disconcerting trend by casting religious studies as an analytical discipline that takes “evaluation” as its object of study. It details a way of navigating the critical turn using Michel de Certeau’s notion of “scriptural economy” as a pedagogical framework for three lower-level, undergraduate classes: REL-101 Signifying Religion: An African American Worldview, REL-226 Introduction to the New Testament, and REL-293 Introduction to Islam. Students theorize religion as a heuristic for studying how bodies are conscribed, prescribed, described, and inscribed in relation to evaluative systems.

Abstract  from “Locating Value in the Study of Religion”

The article is currently available from Brill with a subscription to MTSR.

Richard Newton, PhD is curator of Sowing the Seed and Assistant Professor of Religious Studies at Elizabethtown College. His scholarship focuses on the anthropology of scriptures. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @seedpods.

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