Maps of Nothing in Particular: Religion as a Cross-cultural Taxon

William E. Arnal and Russell T. McCutcheon

in The Sacred Is the Profane

Published in print November 2012 | ISBN: 9780199757114
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780199979530 | DOI:
Maps of Nothing in Particular: Religion as a Cross-cultural Taxon

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This chapter explores more recent work in the field of religious studies in which the question of defining religion is again addressed and in which the modern parameters of the category of religion are called into question. Wilfred Cantwell Smith's and Jonathan Z. Smith's quite different approaches to “religion” are discussed, as are current discourses on rejecting religion as a category, especially those of Asad, Fitzgerald, Dubuisson, and Maurice Bloch. The chapter also explores the special relationship between an idea of religion as a distinct field and the phenomenon of colonialism, as well as the idea of the secular state. In the end, the chapter concludes that what we call “religion” is, as Bloch argues, an arbitrary portioning of the larger social imaginary.

Keywords: definition; Wilfred Cantwell Smith; Jonathan Z. Smith; colonialism; Maurice Bloch; secularism; social imaginary

Chapter.  5654 words. 

Subjects: Religious Studies

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