Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Interview With the Editors: Reading J.Z. Smith

Reading J.Z. Smith (Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2018). 

What is the main argument in this book?

Both of us have been enormously influenced by J. Z. Smith (1938-2017), through his many writings, obviously, but also in numerous visits and conversations with him. Along with many others, we consider Smith to be one of the most provocative and influential theorists of religion of the last half-century or so. Reading J. Z. Smith does not argue this, however; rather, it presupposes it and, through the informality of the interview format, demonstrates it. The main purpose of this book is to gather in one place some the oral, informal musings of Smith on the field, his own work, and his teaching style. After all, high-level scholarship and teaching were of equal importance to him. Along with the interviews that Smith gave on numerous occasions, we are enormously pleased also to include Smith’s previously unpublished inaugural “Lifetime of Learning Address” to the American Academy of Religion in 2010. This address (introduced by Ann Taves), along with the interviews and his more formal essay “When the Chips Are Down” (in Relating Religion, University of Chicago Press, 2004) forms a body of Smith’s self-reflection on what he calls the “persistent preoccupations” of his long scholarly career. We thought that the material published in Reading J. Z. Smith would give readers an insight into Smith’s motivations, expressed with his characteristic candidness and provocation. Anyone who has had the pleasure of listening to Smith lecture, whether at a conference or in the classroom, will enjoy the edgy liveliness of the interviews and the dynamic mind that he brought to his work.

What motivated your work?

Well, though the interviews and even the “Lifetime of Learning Address” are no substitutes for reading Smith’s many published essays, we thought that the conversations recorded in this book could illuminate his written work, provide expository wisdom on his scholarship, and provide a new more informal point of entry for newcomers to his writings. So we thought that these pieces might help to clarify his often difficult and dense formal work, even motivate readers to do the labor of reading (or re-reading) Smith. As one reviewer (James Tabor) very nicely commented, “J. Z. Smith is infinitely better ‘in his own words’ and this volume is such a wonderful window into just that – not just Smith but Smith on Smith.” We agree. Smith has significantly shaped the field of the study of religion and fundamentally influenced a couple of generations of scholars now in the field. What could be better than “hearing” him talk about what he thought he was up to in his scholarship and teaching? And doing so in explicit conversation with others—since that’s how all scholarship actually works, though evident sometimes at conferences, its back-and-forth nature is often occluded in our published work, something readers have to piece together from the citations and footnotes. As it turned out, although Smith was fully on board with our book’s project—we met with him a couple times, in Chicago, to discuss it and kept him in the loop as it developed—he did not live to see it published. So, the words in this book may be the last words of Smith that will be published. Thus, certainly unanticipated by us, this book is also a sort of farewell by him to the academy and we are glad to have been able to facilitate that.

What is J. Z. Smith’s legacy in terms of theory/pedagogy?

“Legacy” is a big word and implies both a bequest and the reception of it. There are many insights that Smith offers the student of religion. Perhaps first and foremost is his repeated insistence that “religion is an inextricably human phenomenon,” as he puts it in his first essay collection, Map Is Not Territory (1978). This of course means many things. One thing it obviously means is that students of religion are interested in human doings; their focus in on humans who speak about and interact with the gods or other non-obvious beings and not on those gods themselves. Religion does not exist without and apart from human doings. This is why Smith insists that the study of religion is best described in relation to the Human Sciences, in relation to Anthropology rather than Theology. This anthropological orientation is something to which he remained true in all his work. Now, humans do many things, of course. So, a second step is needed, which is to limit our focus of interest to just some of these doings that we then somewhat arbitrarily call religious. “Religion,” as he made evident on many occasions, is a taxonomic term, a classifier. And this act of classification that identifies some human practices as religious—regardless who does it (so this includes scholars too)—is itself entirely a human act. It’s this that we read Smith to have meant when he famously (and to many peoples’ chagrin) insisted that “there is no data for religion. Religion is solely the creation of the scholar’s study … Religion has no independent existence apart from the academy” (see the opening lines of Imagining Religion). In other words, there is no inherently religious data set; some human activities become religious only once they are defined and classified as such. It is true of course, that definition and classification are intellectual acts and, as such, they can be contested and changed. Smith would grant that, we’d argue. What he did not grant is that there are self-evidently religious things out there—and this marks a significant break between him and many others writing in the field either before or even after him. Although the “anthropological turn” in religious studies has been advocated by others, no one has elucidated the implications of this with greater clarity and rigor than Smith. One immediate implication that comes to mind is his distinct contribution to the act of comparison – another term that Smith has made famous. “I tried always to be comparative,” he says (Reading J. Z. Smith, 7). This not only because classification by necessity demands comparison, but because intellection, knowing, itself depends on comparison. For, as he wrote: “We never look at one thing; we always look at more than one thing” (Reading J. Z. Smith, 7). The problem of comparison and his suggested method for comparison is among what Smith called his “persistent preoccupations” and it comes up for comment frequently in Reading J. Z. Smith (see the book’s detailed index). At its core, Smith insists, comparison is typically done to relate like to like: x reminds people of y, and therefore x and y must somehow be like each other. Also typically, comparison is tends to be competitive to determine relative value: x is better/greater/more valuable/more exceptional/etc. than y. (Think of how our field once worked, in the late-19th century or early 20th, for example, or consider how world religion textbooks still work today.) For Smith comparison instead serves the student’s intellectual purposes; it is motivated by our curiosity and must produce cognitive gain. So, he suggests, “comparing … is not about the similarity or difference of the things compared, but is instead in the service of some intellectual interests and curiosities of the scholar,” as we write in the introduction to Reading J. Z. Smith. For this reason, Smith advocates a method of comparing two things always “with respect” to a third. This delimits comparison and allows for difference to emerge in the compared examples. Much more needs to be said about this, but let it be enough to say here that surely one of Smith’s lasting gifts to the academy is a rigorous method of comparison that is not driven by commonality and the unification of things, much less by presumptive hierarchy of values, but by questions such as: What is comparison? What can it do for us in trying to understand religion and the religions? How can a scholar compare responsibly?

How might the book be used in a classroom?

We like to think that this little book is an expository companion to Smith’s work. On the one hand, it lends itself to being a primary text. Here is what Smith says he is doing and why; now go and see him do it in article x or y. (One of the features of the volume is that it contains numerous editorial notes that refer readers to Smith’s other works where something he mentions in passing is worked out and demonstrated.) On the other, the volume is also fruitfully read after having worked through Smith’s scholarly essays—a way of debriefing and seeing how Smith himself might rephrase, in conversation, a point illustrated in his work. There’s four interviews in the volume, conducted from 1999 onward, in which he talks to scholars but also to students, such as the still read Chicago Maroon online student newspaper interview with him (from 2008), that sheds some interesting light on, among other things, his writing habits—it’s an interview that’s fun, at times, and it humanizes a famous scholar, and we think students often benefit from realizing that the authors they read in their classes are people too, just like them. The fifth interview is actually a recorded 2013 session from the University of Chicago Divinity School (and our thanks to Andie Alexander for transcribing these audio pieces) in which he presented on the choices that went into making his intro course’s syllabus, followed by a Q&A session with the grad students there. So working through all of these five pieces, which often involve questions with which student readers can likely identity, will thicken anyone’s understanding of the issues being debated in the field today, let alone Smith’s other works.

How do you think students would most benefit from your book?

Hopefully, the book will entice students to become careful readers of Smith’s many other books and essays. And, in many instances it will answer candidly what Smith thought he was up to. But given his clear thoughts on questions being far more important than answers (see the question about this in one of the interviews), the book’s conversational model makes evident how he arrives at his answers—the process is far more important than the outcome, for if you can figure out how to, for instance, compare two things, then you can take that method and go do things your teacher hadn’t even anticipated. So we’d hope that students would benefit by using the book to think not just about how they think about the study of religion but, more broadly, how they go about thinking about a host of other things, for we’re all doing comparison all throughout our day, just to get from place to place or to arrive somewhere on time. So if the book helps get readers either to read more of Smith or even just to consider how it is that they know some two things are alike or different, then we’d consider that a victory.

Monday, June 4, 2018

Critiquing Clichés in the Classroom

Maya Aphornsuvan recently graduated with a BA in Religious Studies and Political Science from Elizabethtown College. Working with Richard Newton, she explored social theory in the study of religion. To conclude her coursework, Maya created a short video series companion to Brad Stoddard and Craig Martin’s Stereotyping Religion. She tells us about the project in this guest post.

Maya Clare Aphornsuvan
Elizabethtown College

For the past semester, I have been working on my own video series titled Maya Clare Cares About Religion. It may seem strange to many that a Political Science and Religious Studies double major is interested in doing work in the world of media, but this video series has been a project in my mind long before this academic year.

I have always held the media up in high regards, and I most certainly agree with people being critical of what we consume. However, I believe the media reflects what is valuable in society, and it is clear to me that we now live in a time and age where data, science, and statistics matter more than concepts and theories that invisibly run how we function and how we relate to one another. A problem I encounter with the media is that we continue to talk about topics we don’t consider to be as important as things we can create charts and graphs for, so when we come across the topic of religion in discussions, for example, we simply say that religion is a personal matter, and therefore, everybody can discuss it on television freely. Take John Oliver’s Last Week Tonight as an example. What makes Oliver’s show addicting is that he manages to go in-depth into an issue and offer extremely detailed notes, as well as craft a well-rounded understanding for viewers while keeping people glued to their screens with his sense of humor. I am a fan of Oliver’s show, but when Oliver comes across the topic of religion, I find myself disappointed. And this is not only with him, but I find this in a wide range of successful and opinionated television and radio hosts. The show becomes a 20-minute-long session of roasting religious leaders, poking fun at those who follow religious teachings, and criticizing the irrationality behind people’s decisions.

What Oliver and many other news presenters and personalities fail to even attempt to understand is that “religion,” as we understand, is not a “problem” only certain people come into contact with, nor is it a way to distinguish fools from the bright ones. Those who are clearly religious, as I aim to point out in my series, are perhaps similar to those who claim to be against religion yet live their lives doing religious things without realizing it.

We, the public, ignore the importance of understanding our relationship with “religion” but we are so quick to giving our two cents on it. I find it fascinating that no news outlet would bring on a commentator with no knowledge of international politics to explain current world affairs, yet the discussion of religion and myths surrounding claims regarding religion are thrown around liberally.

This brought out frustrations in me. The media is responsible for doing their research before presenting a topic, and the public is responsible for critically analyzing what they take in. But this relationship between the media and the public does not seem to exist the same way conversations about politics or economics do when it comes to religion. Therefore, I decided to try to tackle some of these frustrations and create a video series that would debunk certain ways we, the public, talk about religion.

Last semester I had the opportunity to use Malory Nye’s Religion: The Basics (Second Edition, Routledge 2008) as my guide in class. It was through Nye’s guidance that I was able to articulate my definition of religion as follows: religion describes the ritualized activities and resulting experiences that define a common group, and they take it as meaningful while others would call it out of the ordinary.

Through my understanding of religion, I then use Stereotyping Religion: Critiquing Cliches (Bloomsbury 2017) to analyze and understand each chapter more thoroughly, and I decided to create videos that correspond to the different chapters in the book.

The common understanding of religion as something that exists in its own lane does not apply to me; as a Buddhist from Thailand, I have often struggled with separating my Thainess from Buddhism, and it has resulted in nothing but more confusion. Therefore, In the creation of my videos, I make sure to always keep this in mind and use my “Thainess” and “Buddhistness” in presenting the content. I value presenting information in a humorous way and it is my goal to bring the topic of religion closer to the public, as well as create a more “user friendly” guide to how the media and the public can perhaps change their relationship regarding the topic of religion. My video series is only my first attempt at doing so, but my goal is to continue on finding ways to bring more thought into the presentation of religion in the media.

Monday, March 26, 2018

What are we looking for when we look at 'religion and popular culture'?

Malory Nye
University of Glasgow

This post originally appeared on Malory Nye’s Religion Bites blog

I recently taught some classes exploring issues of religion within the study of culture — particularly popular culture.

I have tried to do this in various ways in the past, and the question always comes back to a basic issue of methodology: if we are exploring religion in culture, then how and what do we talk about as religion?

This is a question that goes across much of the contemporary study of religion, and impacts on it in various ways — not only in particular religious and culture contexts, but also very noticeably in the idea/approach of ‘material religion’. It also highlights issues that I left relatively untouched in a paper that I wrote twenty years ago, on the idea of religion as practice, or religioning.

In short, if we want to explore ‘religion’ within particular cultural locations — such as religion in a book (e.g., Harry Potter) or a film/s (e.g., Star Wars) — then can we say that religion is a thing to find or a ‘manifestation’ of something (such as ‘the sacred’)?

My straightforward answer to this is a definite ‘no’: religion is not a thing, it is not an it.

Neither is religion an essence that becomes manifest.

When I talk of religioning, I am suggesting that people are doing actions. But they are not doing these actions with religion, they are deploying and acting on discourses and ideas (and ideologies) that they think of as religion.

Thus, we are skewing our analysis to rush towards a conclusion that religion can be found there in culture. Indeed such a conclusion involves theologizing an analysis that I would prefer to keep separate from such theology.

For example, we can analyze C.S. Lewis’ The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe, and point out that Aslan is being presented as an implicit allegory for Christ. This is no accident, of course, and so this is not an issue of ‘finding’ religion in culture. We need to recognize that when the author (Lewis) constructed this text, he was specifically doing things with certain ideas that we call ‘religious’. And additionally, there are also the many ways in which readers of the book associate Aslan with ideas and discourses that they may call ‘religion’ (or ‘spirituality’).

One way of describing this is Ian Cuthbertson’s (at present unpublished) discussion of the process of ‘religionization’. This avoids us rushing to talk about finding religion in culture, or of sacred embodiment, hierophany, or whatever. Instead, we are exploring the ways in which discourses related to important categories of identity and practice (particularly ‘religion’) are worked out in certain contexts (such as books and films) by certain cultural creators and the audiences who engage with their work.

And so, in Cuthbertson’s words:
‘religionization describes the ongoing discursive processes involved in constructing religion as a separate sphere of human activity, one modeled on an inherited Western distinction between religion and the secular’

Religionization is quite simply the processes of ideas, values, and imaginations (fantasies?) of the category of ‘religion’ being worked out in certain cultural contexts.

In his discussion of religious groups based on fictional works, Markus Davidsen describes how fantasy can work like a set of ‘metaphorical binoculars’ (p384) through which certain aspects of the world becomes visible (as the really real, possibly). This process can very often be interpreted as being about religion (i.e., it is involves certain forms of religionization). Or it may make specific reference to concepts, categories, narratives, or organizations that presume aspects of the work to be labeled as ‘religious’ by the author and/or reader

I still have another issue with this, though, since it somewhat begs the question of what sorts of ‘things’ do we decide should come within this category of religion? This becomes especially important when we move away from books or films which are specifically, consciously presented as being Christian. Thus, what are the ways in which we can talk about religionization in the Star Wars series? Where do we start?

This comes back to my class this week. I tried to stand back from a direct methodologizing of the approach I was taking, particularly as I had a considerable amount of material to explore and I had previously discussed ‘theory and method’ with much of this same second year undergraduate group last semester. But the one point I stressed in the first class was the following, which for me is the primary starting point for any study of religion (and culture):

What can we learn here through exploring categories of race and gender?

I follow this up with a subsidiary question, which is related to the primary one. That is,

How has history (particularly colonial history) helped to cause: (i) what we are looking at, (ii) how we talk about what we are looking at?

For me, this is a much more useful starting point to any that relies on a process of looking for something we call religion within popular culture.

If we explore and analyze categories of gender and race, then within this analysis we will very definitely bump into and subsequently need to analyze the many different layers of what the author, the reader, and the scholar/student may talk about as religion.

Such religion in culture will be gendered, it will be racialized, and will be part of an ongoing history that is largely produced by colonial history. Or, to go back to my earlier use of Cuthbertson’s idea, the processes of religionization by all who are involved will be made more clear by an intersectional analysis of such gendering and racialization. (And for more detail on the many useful texts and authors who can contribute to such an intersectional approach, you may find my online open access syllabus of interest.)

At this point, I think it is worthwhile to conclude. I would like to come back to this issue at some point and explore particular case studies, particularly of the gendered and racialized ways in which the category of religion can be made to work in various ways in specific forms. As starting points, though, I can point towards two discussions I have previously written on specific dramas. One is of Martin Scorcese’s 2016 film Silence and the other is on the ongoing Australian TV drama about racialization, othering, and Indigenity called Cleverman.

In both instances, I argue that the search for religion within such cultural representations is not a simple matter of pulling a thing out of the narrative and calling it religion. Both of these dramas are about gender and racialization, and through those categories it is possible to understand ways in which the writers/producers are exploring a category that they understand as religious. That is how they are both religionized, in their different ways.

Cuthbertson, Ian Alexander. n.d. “Preaching to the Choir? Religious Studies and Religionization.” In Method Today: Redescribing Approaches to the Study of Religion, edited by Brad Stoddard. Sheffield: Equinox. (forthcoming 2018)

Davidsen, Markus Altena. 2013. “Fiction-Based Religion: Conceptualising a New Category against History-Based Religion and Fandom.” Culture and Religion 14 (4). Routledge: 378–95. doi:10.1080/14755610.2013.838798.

Nye, Malory. 2000. “Religion, Post-Religionism, and Religioning: Religious Studies and Contemporary Cultural Debates.” Method & Theory in the Study of Religion 12 (1): 447–76. doi:10.1163/157006800x00300.

    Tuesday, February 20, 2018

    How do you Teach a Course on Ancient Religions?

    Vaia Touna
    University of Alabama

    In the Fall of 2017 I proposed a new introductory course on ancient religions that I will teach for the first time in the Fall of 2018. Among the objectives of the course is to introduce students to different “ancient religions” but most importantly to introduce them to those recent scholarly debates which have been very critical on using the term “religion” to describe the ancient world, given that there is no equivalent term in those societies. So, although it may sound like a straightforward course to teach there are several issues that I had to think about.

    There are different positions on how one should approach the topic. On the one hand, there are those who suggest that students need to have enough descriptive information about a specific culture before they start thinking critically about issues of definition, classification, description, etc. On the other hand, there are those who suggest that having students think critically about the concepts we are using to describe the ancient world should be the starting point. Although I think that there is value in both positions, one should also take into account the students who will attend the class. Most likely they’ll be first year students who are not necessarily majoring in Religious Studies, and who take the class to fulfill their humanities requirements and therefore not likely to take another class in the field. I want those students not only to learn something about the ancient cultures that we will be looking at but also acquire some knowledge and skill that will be transferable to the other courses they are taking.

    And I think that, in the case of my new course, that skill has something to do with self-consciousness.

    So the question is how do you teach a course on ancient religions when there has been so much critique over the anachronistic use of religion to describe features of the ancient world? It’s a critique that sometimes meets with a sincere anxiety from scholars who study ancient religions and who therefore understand such a position to undermine their work.

    Despite everyone’s agreement (whether one is a religious studies scholar, classicist, historian, anthropologist, etc.) that religion was not the same in the ancient world, at least in the way that we understand religion today, both the term religion and its application to describe ancient societies persist. Every year numerous books and articles, on some ancient religion or its aspects (i.e., myths, rituals, etc.) see the light of publishing, and most of the times they uncritically use the term religion. That alone begs for a course on “ancient religions.”

    So, despite the fact that I belong to those scholars who have been critical on the use of the term “religion” to describe the ancient world, I still think there is great value in teaching a course on “ancient religions,” but with a certain shift of approach—a shift that provides an opportunity to draw tools and assumptions to our students’ attention. So it’s a course that will not examine what is ancient religion but why, when, and by who religion became a tool to describe and analyze the ancient world and towards what effect.

    Instead of describing the various elements that are often considered to imply, explicitly or implicitly, religion (namely myths and rituals), as a general introduction to the academic study of ancient religions the course will first examine how scholars defined “ancient religion” and then how they were able to understand ancient cultures (from ancient Greece, to Rome, to Egypt, to Mesopotamia, etc.) by means of that descriptor. The course will focus in detail on the problem of defining ancient religion, and the practical implications (that is, social, economic, political) of defining it in this or that way.

    So, although it will be an experiment (and something to report on again in a future post) I hope students will learn that the same analytical and critical skills—such as an awareness of how we do what we do—that can be applied in other courses. And I also hope they’ll be on the look out on the effects of describing cultures (whether near or far both in time and space) with our particular concepts.

    Sunday, February 4, 2018

    Teaching Discourse Analysis as a Practical Tool

    Tenzan Eaghll
    College of Religious Studies, Mahidol University

    This semester I am teaching half a PhD seminar on ‘Contemporary Approaches to the Study of Religion.’ I am sharing the seminar with one of my colleagues and my half of the course is titled ‘Discourse Analysis.’ I chose the topic of discourse analysis over a myriad of other possible options because it seems to me like the elemental contemporary approach to the study of religion. It doesn’t matter what a students area of specialty or their methodological preferences, if they don’t know how to perform a basic discursive analysis of a particular topic they will not be able to understand the current gaps in the field or situate their work in relation to other scholarship. Admittedly, there are many other contemporary approaches that might be more flashy and exciting to cover, but without discourse analysis a student can’t weigh the significance of any literature within the field. After all, discourse analysis is more than a mere literary review of a particular topic―it doesn’t simply list previous scholarship on a particular issue―but is an analysis of how the central categories of any topic have been defined, classified, compared, and interpreted. It lays bare the intellectual and contextual scaffolding of concepts, and in my opinion, is a practical research tool that every graduate student―regardless of whether their primary methodology is abstract philosophy, ethnography, or even one of the hard sciences―should learn to do effectively.

    To look at discourse means to look at both the object of analysis, the text, culture, speech under study, as well as the way in which the scholarly analysis itself is put into discourse. Tim Murphy, The Guide, p. 396

    The primary text for the seminar is The Guide to the Study of Religion, edited by Willi Braun and Russell McCutcheon. I chose this text for two reasons: it is the only handbook for the study of religion with an actual chapter on ‘Discourse,’ and because the first four chapters of this volume are specifically titled ‘Definition,’ ‘Classification,’ ‘Comparison,’ and ‘Interpretation,’ respectively. Of course, the subject analyzed in these latter chapters is ‘religion,’ so the authors are not discussing discourse analysis in general, but the chapters provide students with specific examples of how to perform discourse analysis in relation to these four critical categories, which makes them perfect for the class.

    The objective for the class is largely practical. Although teaching this subject inevitably requires me to discuss some discourse theory and the way that French thinkers like Roland Barthes and Michel Foucault have influenced scholarship in religious studies, my primary goal is to get students to apply discourse analysis in their own research. I want each student to use the chapters from The Guide as a springboard to think about how the central categories from their own areas of study have been defined, classified, compared, and interpreted in previous scholarship. Each week the students are required to read one of the aforementioned chapters beforehand, and then we use the class time to discuss the underlying logic/progression of the authors argument and how it applies to their own proposed thesis topics. This not only gives the students specific examples of how to interrogate ‘religion,’ but provides them with the kind of questions they need to ask when doing research. For instance, Will Arnal’s chapter on ‘Definition’ teaches them to not only think about different ways their topic has been defined by scholars, but to expose the underlying tensions and assumptions hidden within these definitions. And J.Z. Smith’s article on ‘Classification’ encourages them to think not only about how their area of study has been classified internally as a system of knowledge (i.e. what sort of things and actions get classified as ‘Buddhism’, ‘ritual,’ etc.) but objectively in relation to other systems of knowledge (i.e. how has ‘Buddhism’ or ‘Hinduism’ been classified in relation to other ‘religions’).

    In this manner, I am not using the class to read selections from the history of discourse theory or even to read lengthy genealogical works by religious studies scholars. The goal of the class is not to turn the students into post-structuralists or devoted discourse theorists. In fact, I don’t even care if the students agree with some of the theoretical conclusions of the chapters we read together from The Guide. Rather, my goal is simply to teach the basic questions of discourse analysis and to provide a class where the students can critically apply these questions in their own research areas. It is for this reason that I have purposively made the readings in the class rather light―after all, assigning one chapter a week isn’t exactly heavy PhD reading―because I want the students to spend most of their study time actively applying discourse analysis. To this end, the students assignment each week is not to write a response paper―which is the typical grad school weekly task―but to actively use the tools learned in each chapter to research how their topic has been defined, classified, compared, and interpreted, and then to share their findings during class discussion. The end result of this process for each student will hopefully be an extensive bibliography of previous scholarship on their respective topics that they can use to write the final paper for the class. Of course, I am also hopeful that they use this research to write their dissertation proposals, introductions, and chapters, but that will be up to them and their supervisors.

    In sum, I think there is immense value in teaching discourse analysis as a practical tool for all graduate students, regardless of their primary research methodology. I think discourse analysis should actually be a required course for all religious studies graduate students―and perhaps even the humanities and human sciences in general. Though I am personally a fan of discourse theory and all the insights that come with it, I don’t think it is necessary for us to turn students into lovers of Barthes and Foucault to get them to think critically about the various discourses and analytical categories being used in the field, and it is the latter capacity that will have a real impact upon their research.