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It’s Been Said Before …

December 16, 2009

I just got my Yale University Press Religion catalog.

Every book in the “Religious Thought” section is oriented around Christianity. Every book in the “History of Religion” section is oriented around Christianity. Almost everything else is about Christianity too.

It’s been said before, but I’ll say it again: apparently “religion”apparently  just means “Christianity.” When the particular passes for the universal, there is usually a form of privilege being reproduced. I guess we’re not that far from the discourse that opposes true religion (Christianity) to idolatry (everything else).

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10 Comments leave one →
  1. December 16, 2009 2:55 pm

    I think bringing this up might be worthwhile when theologians or Christian scholars of religion talk about how the academy is biased against them.

    …but…

    Who cares if lots of people are interested in writing about Christianity rather than some other religion? And why does this mean that “religion = Christianity” in the eyes of Yale UP or anyone else? Why doesn’t it simply mean that a lot of religion scholars are more interested in Christianity than in other religions?

    Seriously… if this is bothersome to you, write a book about another religion and encourage others to do the same. You act as if a topic’s popularity is an indictment in itself.

  2. missivesfrommarx permalink*
    December 16, 2009 3:36 pm

    Who cares? I care.

    I care that some form of normalization is going on. Just like I care that almost all mainstream television shows are primarily populated by white actors. That’s not innocent—it reflects and reinforces the idea that white is normal, and thereby helps to prop up white privilege.

  3. missivesfrommarx permalink*
    December 16, 2009 3:37 pm

    In addition, there are a number of brilliant scholars out there writing books about traditions other than Christianity. Why isn’t Yale publishing any of them?

  4. December 16, 2009 6:54 pm

    In addition, there are a number of brilliant scholars out there writing books about traditions other than Christianity. Why isn’t Yale publishing any of them?

    Oh, give me a break.

    Princeton UP’s religion titles tend to be weighted towards stuff that’s tied to ethics or politcs… University of New Mexico Press’s religion titles are mostly of regional interest… The MIT Press doesn’t even offer a religion title list, although Islamic studies is a sub-topic under their Humanities section.

    Any particular publisher’s portfolio says precious little about privilege or normalization. Different presses are known for different specializations… they have their rolodex of certain specialist reviewers, their longstanding relationships with certain editors or book series, etc.

    Yale probably isn’t publishing all of these brilliant religion scholars you speak of because other presses are.

  5. Jonathan permalink
    December 16, 2009 7:58 pm

    This is like when people call all brands of tissues Kleenex. So wrong.

  6. December 17, 2009 10:44 pm

    I agree that this form of religious (Christian) normalization from academic presses is especially harmful because it not only clearly displays the centrism that exists but reinforces its existence.

  7. December 18, 2009 12:17 am

    This is part of an old European tradition that carries on very strongly today – religion is a code for Christianity. But it also indicates how strongly the definition of religion relies on a Christian framework.

  8. sophia permalink
    December 18, 2009 9:38 am

    I am sure a similar catalogue from an Iranian university would centre itself on Islamic thought…

    A catalogue of religious books in Chinese would also probably not centre so strongly on Christianity either.

    You do realise that America does not rule the world right?

  9. December 19, 2009 8:33 pm

    “You do realize that America does not rule the world right?”

    One could hope (that it indeed does not), I suppose. :)

  10. designprof permalink
    December 20, 2009 8:22 pm

    I find the lack of diverse offerings from scholarly publishers a problem when I try to include more than one perspective in my courses. Art history is another area where there is a dominant offering in western, christian and male artists. I think the point is that if a top university press should be more diverse in its offerings. I have also worked for a scholarly publisher and this does not suprise me.

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