Friday, November 20, 2015
Pre-Workshop Refreshments 12:00 pm
Workshop, 12:20-5:45 pm
Georgia State University
Atlanta, Georgia

“ any given society, the social practices of reading and writing are systematically regulated. The social effects of this regulation are produced, therefore, by the concerted operation of social institutions, not only by acts of individual judgment.  

Once this point has been given its due, it should be possible to shear away the philosophical problem of aesthetic value from the historical problem of canon-formation… The problem of canon-formation is one aspect of a much larger history of the ways in which societies have organized and regulated practices of reading and writing…”

John Guillory “Canon” in Lentrichia and McLaughlin, Critical Terms for Literary Study, 239, Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 1990 (1995).

In canon, the canon would limit me. We students are the laboratory of canon, the experimental space of working on, working out, and augmenting what it is. In metaphor canon is a limitless language I use, whose origins are my origins. To paraphrase Baruch Spinoza, nothing is canonical in an absolute sense apart from the mind. A canon is an act of the mind. It is a metaphor. The aporia, the opportunity, is the question of the relationship of the two metaphors of laboratory and canon; the relationship, further, of the two canons of laboratory and metaphor. Course, canon, introduction: In what sense am I bound? And to what?

Nancy Levene, “Courses and Canons in the Study of Religion (With Continual
 Reference to Jonathan Z. Smith)” JAAR, December 2012, 1001-02. Emphasis ours.

In year five, SORAAAD will focus on the role of canon. Twenty-five years after Guillory, what does canon mean as a conceptual valence of research design? How is canon – its creation, imposition, and contestation – meaningful for those we study We will look at the implied and overt canons we deploy in designing qualitative research, the canons deployed by the subjects of our research, and the politics of representation and classification. Karen King, Jennifer Knust Kecia Ali Terje Stordalen, Karen Fields, Rudy Busto, Laura Ammon, and Doug Cowan will speak. Topics will include canon and canon-making in the study of Early Christianity; Gender and Islam; Race; and Science Fiction. more

Registration: Please send an email to Place “registration” in the subject line, and include your name, indication of rank (independent scholar, graduate student, professor etc.) and institution, if applicable, in the body of the email. 

Registration is free.

Registration Limit: 55

You might wish to review the SORAAAD Workshop Ethos.

The SORAAAD workshop is sponsored by: the AAR’s Critical Theories and Discourses on Religion Group, the AAR’s Cultural History of the Study of Religion Group, the SBL’s Metacriticisms of Biblical Scholarship Group, and the SBL’s Redescribing Early Christianity Group

The SORAAAD workshop and break has been underwritten by the University of Regina Religious Studies Department, whom we thank for its ongoing support and the support of William Arnal, Head of Department.

SORAAAD's committee would like to thank Monique Moultrie and the Religious Studies Department at Georgia State University for supporting SORAAAD 2015. 

SORAAAD’s committee would like to thank Matt Sheedy and The Bulletin for the Study of Religion blog for their ongoing support of the workshop.

One aspect of Weber’s comparative project that I have found puzzling, however, is the absence of any theorization on his part of the comparative method itself, its historical ontology, its logic, even its purposes…….Wolfgang Schluchter, one of the great Weber scholars of our time and an editor of the Gesamtausgabe, assured me that the fault lay not with me, and at the same time sought to provide the methodological gloss that Weber himself did not: “Indeed, you are looking in vain. There is no essay on the comparative method written by Weber. He practiced it, with the self-imposed qualification that only dilettantes compare (a famous statement in a letter to von Below written in 1914). He practiced it in order to identify the distinctive features of a phenomenon, not to explain it. For explanation, we need nomological knowledge, not only in sociology, but also in historiography.

                          Sheldon Pollock, “Comparison without Hegemony” (2011, emphasis ours)

In its fourth year, toward better design and deployment of comparative work in studies of religion, the SORAAAD workshop will focus on the act of comparison itself. How has comparison served as a method in the study of religion? How do we design research projects wherein data vary across space, time, or conceptual valence? How do we structure comparative studies in order to identify and mitigate hegemonic assumptions? How do we relate deep studies of small populations to larger populations and discourses? How transferable are the insights and mechanics developed within different settings? Addressing these and related questions, SORAAAD seeks not only to recover subfields from essentialism, but also to foster new inter- and intra-disciplinary development.

The SORAAAD workshop will be of interest to scholars who already enact social science and critical humanities research methodologies; to those interested in research design wherein comparison is a critical component; and to anyone who wants to rethink how comparison itself shapes and frames the study of religion.   

Registration is free, thanks to sponsorship by the University of Regina Department of Religion.  Registration Limit: 70 people.

To Register: please place  "SORAAAD -  2014 - Registration"   in the subject line of an email to In the body of the email, please place your full name, institutional affiliation and some indication of academic status (graduate student, an adjunct instructor, independent scholar or professor etc.) . The location in San Diego's Gas Lamp District will be disclosed to registrants.  

The full program is available as a PDF.

Introduction: “SORAAAD Workshop Year Four, ‘Comparison and the Analytical Study of Religion.’"

Ipsita Chatterjea

Part One: Comparison in the Study of Religion in Mediterranean Late Antiquity

John Kloppenborg and David FrankfurterWilliam Arnal, moderator

Part Two: Comparison and Reconceptualizing ‘Black Atlantic Religions’ 

Paul Christopher JohnsonKathryn Lofton, respondent

Workshop Break

Part Three: Comparison and the Analysis of Religion and Violence.

Jamel Velji and Margo Kitts. Ipsita Chatterjea, moderator 

Part Four: Comparison and the Analysis of Religion and Ritual.

Jens Kreinath and Michael Houseman. David Walker, moderator

The SORAAAD workshop is co-sponsored by:

The SBL's Redescribing Christian Origins Group and Metacriticism of Biblical Scholarship Consultation; and the AAR's Critical Theories and Discourses on Religion Group, Cultural History of the Study of Religion Group, and Sociology of Religion Group 

For more information about the workshop, please read the SORAAAD Workshop Ethos 

You can also link to Study of  Religion as an Analytical Discipline or SORAAAD as a research interest on and follow us on  Facebook.

SBL/AAR 2013

Study of Religion as an Analytical Discipline (SORAAAD) Pre Conference Workshop

Friday, November 22, 2013 1:00 -5:00 p.m.

Methodologies and the Analytical Study of Religion

For 2013, SORAAAD will focus on the selection, design, and implementation of qualitative and quantitative research methodologies, as well as responsible ways to use quantitative and qualitative research generated by other scholars outside of the study of religion.

SORAAAD’s Methodologies and the Analytical Study of Religion will be of particular interest for graduate students and established scholars who already enact social science and critical humanities research methodologies,who want to implement newer or different methodologies, or who need to integrate existing social science and critical humanities research outside of religion (Sociology, Anthropology, Cognitive Science, Critical and Social Theories) into their research design, data acquisition and analysis. 

Announcement:  November 12, 2013 - Bron Taylor will speak on Ethnography in place of Jens Kreinath.

The revised full program with the list of suggested readings that will ground discussions for the workshop is available as a PDF

Part One: Methodologies and the Study of Religion

Speakers: (Final order to be determined) 

Steven Engler, Mount Royal University, on Grounded Theory

Bron Taylor, University of Florida, on Ethnography

Michael Stausberg, University of Bergen, on Free Listing and Structured Observation.

Kocku von Stuckrad, University of Groeningen, on Discourse Analysis.

Part Two:  Interdisciplinary Religious Research: Design, Implementation, and Collaboration

Introductory Remarks -  Ann Taves.  University of California  - Santa Barbara (UCSB) and  the UCSB  Religion, Experience, and Mind Lab Group.


Michael Kinsella, UCSB, on his ethnography of a near-death experience movement.

Philip Deslippe, UCSB, on his deployment of GIS and the quantification of vague concepts to study yoga.

John Thibdeau, University of Colorado - Boulder, on his deployment of social psychology, cognitive ethnography and videography to study Sufi Sema and Dhikr

Registration Is Free 

To Register, please place  "SORAAAD -  2013 - Registration"   in the subject line of an email to

In the body of the email, please place your full name, institutional affiliation and some indication of academic status (graduate student, an adjunct instructor, independent scholar or professor etc.)  

Registration Limit: 45 people. 

The SORAAAD workshop is co-sponsored by:

The SBL's Ideological Criticisms of the Bible Group, the Bible and Cultural Studies Section, the Metacriticism of Biblical Scholarship Consultation and

The AAR's Critical Theories and Discourses on Religion Group, Cultural History of the Study of Religion Group and the Sociology of Religion Group.

The SBL/AAR Study of Religion as an Analytical Discipline Workshop 2012

Analysis of academic norms for the study of religion focuses on construction of a secondary discourse that accomplishes the following: (a) treats all religious phenomena as primary sources, i.e. the object of study; (b) adheres to common academic practices in the humanities and social sciences, as appropriate for the research question under investigation; and (c) incorporates self-critical reflection on the problematic of scholarly, secondary discourse vis-a-vis the primary, intramural discourse of the people and practices studied. These three goals are necessary to adequately formulate the study of religion as a discipline of scholarship in alignment with the Humanities, Social Sciences and Sciences.

Theme:  The Analytical Handling of Norms and Values in the Study of Religion

The 2012 Program remains available for download.

Issue One: The Problem of “Genuine Religion” and Dominant Normative Claims 

Speakers: Sean McCloud and Katja Rakow

Issue Two: Analytical Research in the Eye of a Normative Claims Storm 

Speakers: Randall Styers and Monica Miller

Issue Three: Human Rights and Researcher Responsibilities toward Threatened or Minority Populations

Speakers: Robert Baum and Jorunn Buckley

Issue Four: Falsifiability, Method, Theory and Norms

Speakers: Ipsita Chatterjea and K. Merinda Simmons

Issue Five: A Research Ethics Policy in the Analytical Study of Religion