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Relating Religion

Essays in the Study of Religion

One of the most influential theorists of religion, Jonathan Z. Smith is best known for his analyses of religious studies as a discipline and for his advocacy and refinement of comparison as the basis for the history of religions. Relating Religion gathers seventeen essays—four of them never before published—that together provide the first broad overview of Smith’s thinking since his seminal 1982 book, Imagining Religion.

Smith first explains how he was drawn to the study of religion, outlines his own theoretical commitments, and draws the connections between his thinking and his concerns for general education. He then engages several figures and traditions that serve to define his interests within the larger setting of the discipline. The essays that follow consider the role of taxonomy and classification in the study of religion, the construction of difference, and the procedures of generalization and redescription that Smith takes to be key to the comparative enterprise. The final essays deploy features of Smith’s most recent work, especially the notion of translation.

Heady, original, and provocative, Relating Religion is certain to be hailed as a landmark in the academic study and critical theory of religion.

Read the first chapter.

424 pages | 6 x 9 | © 2004

Religion: Comparative Studies and History of Religion, Judaism


"Jonathan Z. Smith is one of the two or three most widely read and discussed living theorists of religion. He has been publishing in that field for almost forty years. . . . An excellent sense can be had from this volume—and most especially from its opening autobiographical chapter—of the state of play in the academic study of religion."

Paul J. Griffiths | First Things

"A new book by Jonathan Z. Smith is something to look forward to. This latest book by one of the most inspiring theorists of religion fully justifies the high-level expectations of the reader. . . . Smith is to be congratulated on the publication of a fundamental and thought-provoking contribution on religion and religions."

Karel van der Toorn | Journal of Biblical Literature

Table of Contents

1. When the chips are down
2. Acknowledgments : morphology and history in Mircea : Eliade’s Patterns in comparative religion (1949-1999), part 1 : the work and its contexts
3. Acknowledgments : morphology and history in Mircea : Eliade’s Patterns in comparative religion (1949-1999), part 2 : the texture of the work
4. The topography of the sacred
5. Manna, mana everywhere and [actual symbol not reproducible]
6. The domestication of sacrifice
7. A matter of class : taxonomies of religion
8. Religion, religions, religious
9. Bible and religion
10. Trading places
11. Differential equations : on constructing the other
12. What a difference a difference makes
13. Close encounters of diverse kinds
14. Here, there, and anywhere
15. Re : Corinthians
16. A twice-told tale : the history of the history of religions’ history
17. God save this honourable court : religion and civic discourse
App. Jonathan Z. Smith : publications, 1966-2003


American Academy of Religion: American Academy of Religion Awards for Excellence

Choice Magazine: CHOICE Outstanding Academic Title Awards

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