201 Toolkit: Roy Rappaport

Roy Rappaport's Ritual and Religion in the Making of Humanity is the silver hammer in my theory and method toolkit. The year I took Religion 201 it was the last book on the syllabus, the final addition to our already extensive set of theoretical lenses. However, having only a week to read through almost the entire book (the last handful of chapters were not assigned, and I only read them later on my second pass through the book), and given the complexity of Rappaport's many arguments as well as the sheer density of his writing (which is excellent and eloquent), much of it simply went over my head. It wasn't until I was re-reading the 201 syllabus a year later in preparation for my junior qualifying examination that I revisited Rappaport and had a chance to not only read the entire work, but go over it much more carefully.

Religion 201

Most of the analytical tools at my disposal to study religions were given to me in a course called Religion 201: Theory and Method in Religious Studies. A core departmental requirement, the semester-long class basically read a book per week, each one meant to be a lens through which one could examine subject matter. Our set of lenses came from several disciplines, including psychology, sociology, and anthropology. Prominent authors on the syllabus the year I took the course included William James, Emile Durkheim, Catherine Bell, and Clifford Geertz.

More than just publishing my own blabberings, I would like to share some of the tools I use with others, so you, dear reader, can see the oddities I see through the theoretical and methodological lenses with which I was equipped as a religion major. Accordingly, from time to time I will post a brief overview of some element of my own training in theory and method, a screwdriver or a chisel or a drill from my own religious studies toolbox. In honor of my old theory and method course, this series of posts shall lovingly be dubbed "201 Toolkit."