In the study of religion there are various camps that each approach their subjects in unique ways. Each method is shaped by particular interpretive choices, such as to be objectively neutral, experientially invested, or use scientific measures, for example. Whatever strategy one uses there is a relationship between one’s social identity and the categories shaping theoretical and methodological assumptions.
This is what Christopher M. Driscoll
, Assistant Professor at Lehigh University, and Monica R. Miller
, Associate Professor at Lehigh University, argue in their new book Method as Identity: Manufacturing Distance in the Academic Study of Religion
(Lexington, 2018). These dynamics can be witnessed when thinking about how the boundaries of methodological practice are defined in the so-called critical study of religion versus something like the study of black religion, where there is often an assumed identity-interested motivation to analysis. Driscoll and Miller produce a generative set of inquiries that require researchers to consider the role of race and social identity and how that informs their interpretive stance. In our conversation we discuss questions of the “whiteness” of certain methods, the function of the designation “black” in “black religion,” the 1958 meeting of the International Association for the History of Religions, pioneer scholar Charles Long and the Chicago school of History of Religions, the relationship between the categories race and religion, hip hop, and the productive role of writing in tension.
Kristian Petersen is an Assistant Professor of Philosophy & Religious Studies at Old Dominion University. You can find out more about his work on his website, follow him on Twitter @BabaKristian, or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.