Discourse on Civility and Barbarity

Hardcover | December 11, 2007

byTimothy Fitzgerald

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In recent years scholars have begun to question the usefulness of the category of 'religion' to describe a distinctive form of human experience and behavior. In his last book, The Ideology of Religious Studies (OUP 2000), Timothy Fitzgerald argued that 'religion' was not a private area ofhuman existence that could be separated from the public realm and that the study of religion as such was thus impossibility. In this new book he examines a wide range of English language texts to show how religion became transformed from a very specific category indigenous to Christian culture intoa universalist claim about human nature and society. These claims, he shows, are implied by and frequently explicit in theories and methods of comparative religion. But they are also tacitly reproduced throughout the humanities in the relatively indiscriminate use of 'religion' as an a priorivalid cross-cultural analytical concept, for example in historiography, sociology, and social anthropology. Fitzgerald seeks to link the argument about religion to the parallel formation of the 'non-religious' and such dichotomies as church-state, sacred-profane, ecclesiastical-civil,spiritual-temporal, supernatural-natural, and irrational-rational. Part of his argument is that the category 'religion' has a different logic compared to the category 'sacred,' but the two have been consistently confused by major writers, including Durkheim and Eliade. Fitzgerald contends that'religion' imagined as a private belief in the supernatural was a necessary conceptual space for the simultaneous imagining of 'secular' practices and institutions such as politics, economics, and the Nation State. The invention of 'religion' as a universal type of experience, practice, andinstitution was partly the result of sacralizing new concepts of exchange, ownership, and labor practices, applying 'scientific' rationality to human behavior, administering the colonies and classifying native institutions. In contrast, shows Fitzgerald, the sacred-profane dichotomy has adifferent logic of use.

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From the Publisher

In recent years scholars have begun to question the usefulness of the category of ''religion'' to describe a distinctive form of human experience and behavior. In his last book, The Ideology of Religious Studies (OUP 2000), Timothy Fitzgerald argued that ''religion'' was not a private area ofhuman existence that could be separated from...

Timothy Fitzgerald is a Reader in Religion at the University of Stirling in Scotland.
Format:HardcoverDimensions:388 pages, 6.42 × 9.29 × 1.42 inPublished:December 11, 2007Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0195300092

ISBN - 13:9780195300093

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"In this perceptive study, Fitzgerald shows us just how the assumption that religion is essentially about personal belief becomes a crucial step in the construction of 'religion' as the name of a universal human experience. His emphasis is on changing configurations rather than binaries, whichleads him to argue that in taking 'the religious' as the binary opposite of 'the secular' one is subscribing to an ideological enterprise. Discourse on Civility and Barbarity is an important contribution to the growing critical literature on the idea of Religion as an essentialized category."--Talal Asad, Author of Formations of the Secular