Scholars of religion will gather in Denver this week, the first Annual Meeting since the passing of Jonathan Z. Smith.

“In what I freely acknowledge is a necessarily imperializing move, theology is one appropriate object of study for religious studies. From the perspective of the academic study of religion, theology is a datum, the theologian is one native informant. As I have argued …., the study of religion is ill served by the “primordial” (itself, largely an interest of the “transcendent approach.” We need to be far more attentive to the exegetical labors of religious folk, to their systematic projects of articulations and understanding.”

Jonathan Z. Smith “Are Theological and Religious Studies Compatible” in On Teaching Religion (2013, 74 (1997))
(Emphasis mine, please note the lack of a definite article)

The elements of J.Z. Smith’s work that we can take in, adapt, and apply to other case studies of “the labors, articulations, and understandings of religious folk” have been part of the common ground across critical scholars of religion within the AAR, SBL & NAASR and the rest of the community connected by the IAHR and those who happen to study religion globally, going back a few decades. I want to talk about my experience of how he inhabited the role of “esteemed scholar of religion” and also how he surfaced in one of most idiotic moments at a professional meeting in which I have been involved, as both speak to part of his impact on the study of religion….more