Over at U.S. Intellectual History blog, Ray Haberski tries to explain what he calls the “tsunami” of scholarship on religion. He connects it, among other things, to the work of the Center for the Study of Religion & American Culture at IUPUI and its Young Scholars in American Religion Program. Here is a taste:
If I want to understand why so many of us in academia have found religion so fascinating, I wonder if a big part of the story is not that we are enamored with the subject because it at once satisfies our interest in the physical construction of history and our desire to want to write about people who take seriously how they find meaning in their work of constructing history. To use an example readily at hand, David Chappell’s book A Stone of Hope seems so convincing to me because he welds together a history of a crucial social movement to the ideas, ideals, and metaphysics of the people who created that movement. To wit: my students are tired of hearing me ask, why did these people in the movement believe in what they were doing? They took their faith seriously, constructing a physical historical movement that we take seriously. But, Chappell asks, why haven’t we taken their faith quite as seriously as the construction of the historical movement for which they are known?
As a gesture toward investigating my own question, I am interested in doing research on a program that I think gets close to the center of this religion tsunami: IUPUI’s Young Scholars in Religion Program. Its director for the last decade has been Philip Goff, a historian of modern American religions and the editor of one of the most indispensable books on American religious scholarship: The Blackwell Companion to Religion in America. While I have come to know personally a number of the people who have gone through the YSR program (my colleague Marian, William Mirola, was in the first couple of groups in the 1990s), I think many of us have great respect for the many of fine books and essays of the people who have been part of this program. You can peruse the different classes of YSR over the years through the link above. I have a hunch (that needs testing) that one of the keys to the success of these scholars has been offering a place where they get a chance to explore how to be both savvy and serious about a subject that they will offer to the ostensibly secular academy.
Read the entire post here.
Raymond J. Haberski, Jr. says
As always, thanks John. I would add here that while your work falls into that category of religious history that Jon Butler felt little need to comment on, you do take up the study of religion as history in your latest book as well as your edited volume. I would be very interested to hear you initial reactions to some of the comments below my post. Your books have garnered awards as well and while not about the modern period of US history you have quite clearly been part of the “tsunami!”
John Fea says
Thanks, Ray. I am going to give this a shot.
John Fea says
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kevin smith says
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