Good morning and welcome to “Instituting Religion: Investigating Trajectories of the Study of Religion in Institutions of Higher Education.”
This is the Columbia Religion Graduate Students Association’s fourth interdisciplinary conference. This year we are sponsored by the Department of Religion and the Graduate Student Activities Council.
Our first two conferences focused primarily upon theoretical and methodological issues regarding the study of religion within and without religious studies. Last year our theme turned to a more thematic discussion of Religion and Popular Culture. This year, returning to earlier concerns, we hope to take the institutional setting and shaping of the categories, theories, methods, general approaches, and assumptions we use in the study of religion/s (including the concept of religion itself). Therefore, instead of trying to define what religion is, per se, we hope to investigate disciplinary and departmental divisions and interrelationships. As such, throughout the day, one will find many of the papers peppered with references to such figures as Talal Asad, especially his Genealogies of Religion, Timothy Fitzgerald, and especially Russell McCutcheon, who are in their own ways interested in the genealogical, social, political, or ideological aspects of “religion” and religious studies. These developments will be discussed in conjunction with the rise of particular sub-fields in religious studies, often coinciding with constructions of traditions, such as Buddhism, Hinduism, etc.
This conference strongly focuses upon the interrelations between Religious Studies departments and departments of history, anthropology, sociology, philosophy, area studies departments, and so on. In this way, the two afternoon panels are partially inverse images of each other. Thus, “Religion Outside Religion” investigates where and how religion, or particular religious traditions such as Islam and Buddhism, is studied in such departments and places, as well as the historical, conceptual, institutional, and ideological implications of this. In converse, “the interdisciplinary study of religion” discusses how the theories and methods developed in departments of sociology, anthropology, and history among others have been used and combined in religious studies, looking toward the implications and emerging possibilities of their interactions in religious studies.
To discuss these broad-brushed issues in particular instantiations, we are pleased to have participating students and faculty from the Departments of Religion and Socio-Cultural Anthropology at
I would like to thank all of our presenters for their participation. I’d like to thank Terry Todd, Jack Hawley, and Rosemary Hicks for responding to today’s panels and for agreeing to form a “respondents’ panel” as our closing discussants, providing general reflections on today’s events and productive possibilities for further inquiry. Thanks to the Religion Department and the Graduate Student Activities Council for sponsoring this event. In this connection, thanks to Jon Keune who acts as our department’s representative to GSAC. This event would have never gotten off the ground without the help of Rick Moore, off of whom I bounced ideas many months ago as this conference was still being conceptualized, and who sent out the call for papers and conference announcements to institutions throughout
We have a busy day ahead of us; one that I hope you will all find intellectually rewarding. I especially hope that the discussions extend beyond the panels themselves, whether during our breaks or over a glass of wine at our evening reception (please do join us for some wine, food, and conversation this evening). And from there, may ongoing conversation and dialogue spill out beyond these walls and this campus.
And so, without further ado, let the investigation of the institutional settings of religion begin, as I now turn things over to our first panel, “The Production of Religion/s,” and its moderator, Todd French.