Notes on the Sociology of Religion (14)

John C. Rankin

McCutcheon, Russell, “Introduction: The Manufacture of Religion,” from McCutcheon, Manufacturing Religion: The Discourse on Sui Generis and the Politics of Nostaligia (New York: Oxford University Press, 1997).


  1. Background: Ph.D. University of Toronto 1995; Chair, Department of Sociology, University of Alabama.
  2. Manufactured religion: a) “This book, then, addresses one way in which the critical category of religion is portrayed, understood, and represented – in a word, manufactured – throughout an academic discourse as sociopolitically autonomous … Shaw is quire right to conclude that ‘by making it (sui generis religion) central to their discourse, scholars in the history of religions are effectively insulated from uncomfortable questions about standpoint and privilege’ ” (p. 4) − 1. Terry Eagleton, Edward Said, Michel Foucault…, 2. “Get hands dirty,” yet theoretical review of teachers of religion, without any field studies himself; b) drop autonomous study of religion in favor of interdisciplinary model − 1. nix Mircea Eliade’s claim of sui generis (“essentialism”) in favor of Marxist diagnosis of imperialistic domination, i] “It names and challenges the hegemony of scale that operates in the modern study of religion, which defines and manufactures religion as an essentially ahistorical human intuition clothes in certain historically accessible categories, such as myth, symbol, and ritual” (p. 24), 2. do not permit religion to use “strategy of exclusion” (p. 18) against other fields such as sociology, political science, feminism, economics, 3. Need to “negotiate relationships of power and control” (p. 26).
  3. Critique: Intramural academic squabble over definition of departments of study, extrinsic to any theological considerations.