Editor’s Corner: Critics or Caretakers?

It’s All in the Mapping


  • Philip L. Tite University of Washington




religious studies, caretakers, critics, progressivism, Russell McCutcheon, Religious Studies Project


A short essay, in responding to an online roundtable (the Religious Studies Project), explores the role of progressive ideology in the academic study of religion, specifically with a focus on debates over Russell McCutcheon's distinction between scholars functioning as cultural critics or caretakers of religious traditions. This short piece is part of the "Editor's Corner" (an occasional section of the Bulletin where the editors offer provocative musings on theoretical challenges facing the discipline).

Author Biography

Philip L. Tite, University of Washington

Philip L. Tite is an Affiliate Lecturer at the University of Washington and an adjunct instructor at Seattle University in Seattle WA USA. He holds a PhD degree from McGill University (2005) and has authored several books and articles. His most recent books include The Apocryphal Epistle to the Laodiceans: An Epistolary and Rhetorical Analysis (TENT, 7; Leiden: Brill Academic Publishers, 2012) and Valentinian Ethics and Paraenetic Discourse: Determining the Social Function of Moral Exhortation in Valentinian Christianity (NHMS, 67; Leiden: Brill Academic Publishers, 2009). As a specialist in the study of early Christianity, in particular Valentinian Gnosticism, Tite has strong interests in elucidating social processes at work in the study of religious phenomena. He also has strong interests in method and theory, religion and violence, and pedagogical issues in the academic study of religion.


Arnal, William E. 1998. “What If I Don’t Want to Play Tennis? A Rejoinder to Russell McCutcheon on Postmodernism and Theory of Religion.” Studies in Religion/Sciences Religieuses 27.1: 61-66.

Harré, Rom and Luk van Langenhove, eds. 1999. Positioning Theory: Moral Contexts of Intentional Action. Oxford: Blackwell.

McCutcheon, Russell T. 2001. Critics Not Caretakers: Redescribing the Public Study of Religion. Albany, NY: SUNY Press.

______. 1998. “Returning the Volley to William E. Arnal.” Studies in Religion/Sciences Religieuses 27.1: 67-68.

______. 1997a. “A Default of Critical Intelligence? The Scholar of Religion as Public Intellectual.” Journal of the American Academy of Religion 65.2 (1997): 443-68.

______. 1997b. “ ‘My Theory of the Brontosaurus’: Postmodernism and “Theory” of Religion.” Studies in Religion/Sciences Religieuses 26.1: 3-23.



How to Cite

Tite, P. (2015). Editor’s Corner: Critics or Caretakers? It’s All in the Mapping. Bulletin for the Study of Religion, 44(3), 38–39. https://doi.org/10.1558/bsor.v44i3.26866