Religion in

REL 373-001 Advanced Studies in Asian Religions:
The Invention of Religion


Dr. Russell McCutcheon

Office: Manly Hall 211
Office Hour:
T 2:00-3:00
Class Times:
T/Th 11:00-12:15
Manly 210


Online Readings

Some course readings are posted as PDFs in a "secure" folder; students can only access these essays by clicking each link and then entering their Bama User Name and Password, just as if they were logging onto bamamail to check their email.

If students have forgotten their Bama ID, but know their Campus Wide ID (CWID), then go here.

If students have other difficulties accessing these readings, contact the instructor by email.

Who is...?

Talal Asad

S. N. Balagangadhara

Paul Courtright

Wendy Doniger

Clifford Geertz

Richard King

Jeffrey Kripal

James Laine

Bruce Lincoln

J. E. Llewellyn

Rajiv Malhotra

Edward Said

Hayden White



This course examines the wider theoretical and political issues involved when scholars of religion represent the meaning systems of those who are often termed "the Other." After becoming familiar with some of the recent scholarship on the category "religion," and the issues involved in using it to name what is assumed to be a universally shared human trait, the course then examines some recent controversies, reading samples of the scholarly works in question and the critical responses from south Asian scholars and members of the south Asian diaspora community.

Not interested in deciding which side in such debates is correct, the course instead uses this episodes as an example of how, despite what is sometimes thought, discourses on the past, meaning, and identity are unavoidably political.



Fall 2008



• James Laine, Shivaji: Hindu King of Islamic India

• J. E. Llewellyn, Defining Hinduism: A Reader

• Krishnan Ramaswamy, Antonio de Nicolas, and Aditi Banerjee (eds.), Invading the Sacred: An Analysis of Hinduism in America



Talal Asad, "The Construction of Religion as an Anthropological Category" (PDF)

Paul Courtright, "Studying Religion in an Age of Terror" (PDF)

Clifford Geertz, "Religion as a Cultural System" (PDF)

Richard King, "Orientalism and Indian Religions" (PDF)

Jeffrey Kripal, "From the Heart"

Jeffrey Kripal , "The Tantric Truth of the Matter: A Forthright Response to Rajiv Malhotra"

Bruce Lincoln, "The Politics of Myth"

Rajiv Malhotra "Wendy's Child Syndrome"

Russell McCutcheon, "A Gift With Diminished Returns" (PDF)

Russell McCutcheon, "The Jargon of Authenticity and the Study of Religion" (PDF)

Russell McCutcheon, "Religion and the Governable Self" (PDF)

Russell McCutcheon, "'They Licked the Platter Clean': On the Co-Dependency of the Religious and the Secular"(PDF)

Christian Lee Novetzke, "The Laine Controversy and the Study of Hinduism" (PDF)

Hayden White, "The Fictions of Factual Representation" (PDF)