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Bloomsbury Academic

Cultural Approaches to Studying Religion : An Introduction to Theories and Methods

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Cultural Approaches to Studying Religion

This is the first book to provide an introduction to contemporary cultural approaches to the study of religion. This book makes sophisticated ideas accessible at an introductory level, and examines the analytic tools of scholars in religious studies, as well as in related disciplines that have shaped the field including anthropology, history, literature, and critical studies in race, sexuality, and gender.

Each chapter is written by a leading scholar and includes:

· the biographical and historical context of each theorist
· their approaches and key writings
· analysis and evaluation of each theory
· suggested further reading.

Part One: Comparative Approaches considers how major features such as taboo, texts, myths and ritual work across religious traditions by exploring the work of Mary Douglas, Phyllis Trible, Wendy Doniger and Catherine Bell.

Part Two: Examining Particularities analyzes the comparative approach through the work of Alice Walker, Charles Long and Caroline Walker Bynum, who all suggest that the specifics of race, body, place and time must be considered.

Part Three: Expanding Boundaries examines Gloria Anzaldúa's language of religion, as well as the work of Judith Butler on performative, queer theories of religion, and concludes with Saba Mahmood, whose work considers postcolonial religious encounters, secularism, and the relationship between “East” and “West.”

Reflecting the cultural turn and challenging the existing canon, this is the anthology instructors have been waiting for.

For primary texts by the theorists discussed, please consult The Bloomsbury Reader in Cultural Approaches to the Study of Religion, edited by Sarah J. Bloesch and Meredith Minister.


“[An] important resource for any religious studies course that includes a theoretical dimension.” - Nova Religio

“A fresh, concise introduction to some of the most important theorists of religion in recent decades. A must for future courses on theoretical approaches to the discipline.” —Laurie Maffly-Kipp, Archer Alexander Distinguished Professor in the Humanities, Washington University in St. Louis, USA

“What distinguishes this introduction from its more traditional predecessors is its robust insistence that neither the lived experience nor the study of religion can be separated from issues of cultural context, power, and identity. The result is an innovative guide to the field that models the relation of theory and praxis.” —Mark A. Chancey, Professor of Religious Studies, Southern Methodist University, USA

“I cannot endorse this highly enough. Many introductions to religion and culture claim a fresh perspective, but Bloesch and Minister give so much more in this accessible and exciting volume. Religious Studies students need ?Cultural Approaches to Studying Religion.” —Dawn Llewellyn, Senior Lecturer in Christian Studies and Deputy Director of the Institute of Gender Studies, University of Chester, UK

“This is the book so many have asked for in secret. Keeping up with the widening field is an increasingly difficult task. Finally there's a way to fill in some of the gaps. It reminds readers that the study of religion isn't a genuflection to past thinkers but a generative, ongoing conversation. And you'll want to take part!” —Richard Newton, Assistant Professor of Religious Studies, The University of Alabama, USA

“This volume not only fills a glaring lacuna in the available handbooks, it breathes new life into the theory and methods course in religious studies.” —Kent L. Brintnall, Associate Professor of Religious Studies, The University of North Carolina at Charlotte, USA

ISBN:  9781350023734