I’m really stoked about reading this summer. Now that school is done, I want to focus a lot on developing my own approach to religious studies by using some fields of thought not superficially associated with religion: critical theory/Marxism, feminism/gender studies, critical race theory, post-colonialism, general social theory, and ideology/discourse.
If anyone is interested, I can let you know what I’m reading. I just started two books, one ostensibly not having to do with religion and one kind of: Ideology: An Introduction by Terry Eagleton (the edition I borrowed from the library has a cool cover image called “Industrialized Peasants” by Georg Sholz) and Studying Religion: An Introduction by Russell McCutcheon.
Why I’m focusing on these areas for the time being is that they are not boring. They approach ideas from the outskirts of norms, thus offering perspectives I don’t usually encounter. In fact, I’ll probably not use much of it, but it will at least spur me to think about why I think certain things.
I don’t know why, but I have been notoriously scared about reading what I term “the heavies” (what I call heavies are those authors everyone calls classic and authoritative but has never read) since I left undergrad. There are perhaps a few reasons.
- I used to maintain that there was only one meaning a work could have and that one has to interpret the work according to that reading, or miss the point entirely. So there was fear because of not getting things correct.
- There was also the possibility that these names that I have heard as respected authorities, or at least incredible thinkers—Kant, Marx, the Frankfurt School, Nietzsche, Dubois, Durkheim, Foucault, Haraway, Weber, Butler, Said, Bhaba, etc.—what if I read them and wasn’t impressed? I call that the fear of losing the mystery behind these people rather than dealing with what got them considered authoritative in the first place: novel ideas.
- Then there is the possibility that I won’t be able to understand them and my own intellectual shortcomings will shine. Perhaps this is everyone, but I like to think better of myself than I maybe should. More often than not I like to run from my shortcomings rather than face them and grow.
After having the class “Theories of Religion” where I read a lot of “heavies,” I became less intimidated and more sorrowful: why had I avoided these exciting things for so long? I didn’t dwell on that feeling for long, though. I made a plan for this summer and now I’m starting it. We’ll see what happens. Perhaps I’ll become a radical. More probably, I’ll become a better thinker as I sharpen myself with already sharpened minds.