When undergraduate students look through a course catalog and see the title World Religions
they probably have some idea what the course will be about. But why is that? Why do World Religions
seem so self-evident in this historical moment?
In After World Religions: Reconstructing Religious Studies
, 2016), edited by Christopher R. Cotter
, Leverhulme Early Career Research Fellow in the School of Divinity at the University of Edinburgh, and David G. Robertson
, Lecturer in Religious Studies at the Open University, several authors attempt to delineate the history and engage with the problems of the World Religions paradigm. The history of the production of the category religion has defined the concept as a universal sui generis
entity. This system of classification was bound up in scientism, evolutionary thinking, colonial encounters, and Protestant biases. The World Religions Paradigm extends from this model and has governed both research and teaching in Religious Studies. The essays in After World Religions
offer strategies to interrogate or subvert the World Religions Paradigm from within, how to approach introductory courses in the study of religion outside of this governing structure, and the role of emergent pedagogical techniques.
In our conversation we discussed the history of religion
, textbooks as data, navigating graduate instruction, questions of the sacred, archeological data, new age stuff, critical thinking as opposed to the accumulation of information, the destabilizing effects of alternative data, the planet Pluto, and another podcast, the wonderful Religious Studies Project
Kristian Petersen is an Assistant Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Nebraska Omaha. He is the author of Interpreting Islam in China: Pilgrimage, Scripture, and Language in the Han Kitab
(Oxford University Press, 2017). He is currently working on a monograph entitled
The Cinematic Lives of Muslims, and is the editor of the forthcoming volumes
Muslims in the Movies: A Global Anthology (ILEX Foundation) and
New Approaches to Islam in Film (Routledge). You can find out more about his work on his website, follow him on Twitter @BabaKristian, or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.