In Tuesday’s post on Habermas, Matt Sheedy noted:
In case it is not painfully clear, Habermas is not a scholar of “religion.” He does not take up the term critically, examine its uses in various contexts, nor ask what interests are being served when it is deployed by various social actors.
I have no intention here of picking on Matt or Habermas, and by no means do I think every scholar on “religion” should take up exactly these tasks. However, one thing that interests me is the fact that scholars in other fields working on “religion” rarely avail themselves of cutting edge research from our field of study.
This is not reciprocal: scholars of religion writing on gender read critical gender studies; scholars of religion writing on culture read anthropology; scholars of religion writing on society read sociological theory.
Yet, scholars in other fields may write on religion without ever having availed themselves of our work. Hence we get Daniel Dennett recreating a 100-year-old wheel, when arguing that religion is animism.
Is this because “religion” in the popular imagination is something so naturalized or self-evident that serious theory on it need not be read? Or is it because our discipline has fallen down on the job?