Worlds Apart

The Essentials of Critical Thinking


  • K. Merinda Simmons University of Alabama



Caroline Schaffalitzky de Muckadell, essentialism, definitions, methodology


In this essay, I consider what the publication of Schaffalitzky de Muckadell’s essay “On Essentialism and Real Definitions of Religion” in the JAAR reflects about the state of religious studies as a discipline, arguing that there appears increasing room for overt essentialism in the name of liberal humanism and progressive politics. Reflecting on this unfortunate trend in the academic study of religion, I ask that scholars clarify two things when engaging in critical thinking: the claims embedded in their own identifications and the audience with and to whom they aim to speak.

Author Biography

K. Merinda Simmons, University of Alabama

K. Merinda Simmons (Ph.D., University of Alabama) is an Associate Professor of Religious Studies at The University of Alabama. She is the author of Changing the Subject: Writing Women across the African Diaspora (Ohio State UP, 2014). Her other books include The Trouble with Post-Blackness, co-edited with Houston A. Baker, Jr. (Columbia UP, 2015); Race and Displacement, co-edited with Maha Marouan (The U of Alabama P, 2013); and Codes of Conduct: Code Switching and The Everyday Performance of Identity, co-edited with Monica Miller (forthcoming from Equinox Publishing).


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Schaffalitzky de Muckadell, Caroline. 2014. “On Essentialism and Real Definitions of Religion.” Journal of the American Academy of Religion 82 (2): 495–520.

Simmons, K. Merinda. 2012. “The Experiential Elephant and the Pursuit of Interdisciplinarity.” Bulletin for the Study of Religion. 41 (3): 2–6.

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How to Cite

Simmons, K. M. (2016). Worlds Apart: The Essentials of Critical Thinking. Bulletin for the Study of Religion, 44(4), 27–33.