Synopses & Reviews
How is knowledge about religion and religions produced, and how is that knowledge authenticated and circulated? David Chidester seeks to answer these questions in Empire of Religion
, documenting and analyzing the emergence of a science of comparative religion in Great Britain during the second half of the nineteenth century and its complex relations to the colonial situation in southern Africa. In the process, Chidester provides a counterhistory of the academic study of religion, an alternative to standard accounts that have failed to link the field of comparative religion with either the power relations or the historical contingencies of the imperial project.
In developing a material history of the study of religion, Chidester documents the importance of African religion, the persistence of the divide between savagery and civilization, and the salience of mediationsimperial, colonial, and indigenousin which knowledge about religions was produced. He then identifies the recurrence of these mediations in a number of case studies, including Friedrich Max Müllers dependence on colonial experts, H. Rider Haggard and John Buchans fictional accounts of African religion, and W. E. B. Du Boiss studies of African religion. By reclaiming these theorists for this history, Chidester shows that race, rather than theology, was formative in the emerging study of religion in Europe and North America. Sure to be controversial, Empire of Religion is a major contribution to the field of comparative religious studies.
“Chidester renders highly original readings of major figures like Max Müller, Charles Darwin, James Frazer, Herbert Spencer, E. B. Tylor, and W. E. B. Du Bois. . . . By foregrounding the complex apparatuses of imperialism, racialization histories, and the imbrication of racial knowledge with colonial power, Chidester offers a game-changing volume that will shift scholarly understanding of empire and religion. . . . Essential.”
“There is a growing body of scholarship that explores the complex relations between European imperialism and the modern field of comparative religion, but Empire of Religion is the first to really interrogate the relations between colonial Africa and the modern study of religion in a comprehensive and sophisticated way. Elegantly pairing key themes and authors in each section, Chidesters lucid and powerful book will be of central importance to specialists in African religions and history, and the larger genealogy of religion as a modern category.”
“Here, for perhaps the first time, is a genuinely empirical study of the empire of religion. Chidester doesnt merely name a genealogy and geography of power, he proves it in the form of triple mediations that spin out from a very specific place, South Africa. Moving restlessly between the accounts of local actors, colonial officials and, most importantly, metropolitan theoreticians, Chidester ‘doggedly (see the book!) disentangles the dubious series of transactions and translations that generated the fetish called theory, and exposes its imperial encumbrances.”
“Chidester makes vivid his story by focusing on important figures in the discipline, including Friedrich Max Müller, E.B. Tyler, Andrew Lang, James Frazer, and W.E.B. DuBois. Even H. Rider Haggard and Mohandas Gandhi also figure in this genealogy. . . . Chidester’s critical analysis of how the early scholars navigated their cultural heritage suggest lessons modern scholars might consider.”
One of the most influential theorists of religion, Jonathan Z. Smith is best known for his analyses of religious studies as a discipline and for his advocacy and refinement of comparison as the basis for the history of religions. Relating Religion
gathers seventeen essays—four of them never before published—that together provide the first broad overview of Smith's thinking since his seminal 1982 book, Imagining Religion
Smith first explains how he was drawn to the study of religion, outlines his own theoretical commitments, and draws the connections between his thinking and his concerns for general education. He then engages several figures and traditions that serve to define his interests within the larger setting of the discipline. The essays that follow consider the role of taxonomy and classification in the study of religion, the construction of difference, and the procedures of generalization and redescription that Smith takes to be key to the comparative enterprise. The final essays deploy features of Smith's most recent work, especially the notion of translation.
Heady, original, and provocative, Relating Religion is certain to be hailed as a landmark in the academic study and critical theory of religion.
About the Author
Jonathan Z. Smith is the Robert O. Anderson Distinguished Service Professor of the Humanities in the College and the Committee on the Ancient Mediterranean World at the University of Chicago. He is the author of numerous works, including Map Is Not Territory, Imagining Religion, To Take Place, and Drudgery Divine. He is also the editor of The HarperCollins Dictionary of Religion.
Table of Contents
1. When the chips are down
2. Acknowledgments : morphology and history in Mircea : Eliade's Patterns in comparative religion (1949-1999), part 1 : the work and its contexts
3. Acknowledgments : morphology and history in Mircea : Eliade's Patterns in comparative religion (1949-1999), part 2 : the texture of the work
4. The topography of the sacred
5. Manna, mana everywhere and [actual symbol not reproducible]
6. The domestication of sacrifice
7. A matter of class : taxonomies of religion
8. Religion, religions, religious
9. Bible and religion
10. Trading places
11. Differential equations : on constructing the other
12. What a difference a difference makes
13. Close encounters of diverse kinds
14. Here, there, and anywhere
15. Re : Corinthians
16. A twice-told tale : the history of the history of religions' history
17. God save this honourable court : religion and civic discourse
App. Jonathan Z. Smith : publications, 1966-2003