Timothy Fitzgerald and the Revival of Religious Studies


  • Naomi Goldenberg University of Ottawa




critical religion, politics, deconstruction, feminism, religious studies


The Ideology of Religious Studies is described as foundational for the developing sub-field of "critical religion." Central tenets of Fitzgerald's work are highlighted as challenges to conventional assumptions and oft-repeated bromides that characterize religious studies as a discipline. Fitzgerald's current work that aims beyond "religion" to deconstruct other terms and paradigms of Western thought is gently critiqued - especially in regard to his rejection of politics as a meaningful category. In fact, it is suggested that Fitzgerald enlarges religious studies and shows its relevance to other fields by uncovering political contingencies behind the reification of "religion" and its attendant vocabulary.


Arnal, William E. and Russell T. McCutcheon. 2013. The Sacred is Profane: The Political Nature of Religion. Oxford: Oxford University Press. https://doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199757114.001.0001

Baird, Robert J. 2000. “Late Secularism.” Social Text 18(3): 123–136. https://doi.org/10.1215/01642472-18-3_64-123

———. 2001. “Religious History and the Construction of Modernity.” Panel presentation at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Religion. 20 November. Denver, Colorado.

Balagangadhara, S.N. 1994. The Heathen in His Blindness: Asia, the West and the Dynamic of Religion. Leiden: Brill. https://doi.org/10.1163/9789004378865

Barthes, Roland. 1972 [1957]. Mythologies. Trans. Annette Lavers. New York: Hill and Wang.

Department of Classics and Religious Studies, University of Ottawa. 2017. “Why Religious Studies – What is Religious Studies?” https://arts.uottawa.ca/ cl-srs

———. 2020. “Major in Religious Studies.” https://arts.uottawa.ca/ca-srs/en/undergrad/major-religious-studies/

Fitzgerald, Timothy. 2000. The Ideology of Religious Studies. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

———. 2007a. Discourse on Civility and Barbarity: A Critical History of Religion and Related Categories. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

———, ed. 2007b. Religion and the Secular: Historical and Colonial Formations. Sheffield: Equinox.

———. 2011. Religion and Politics in International Relations: The Modern Myth. New York: Continuum.

Goldenberg, Naomi R. 2013a. “Demythologizing Gender and Religion within Nation-states: Toward a Politics of Disbelief.” In Religion, Gender and the Public Sphere, edited by Niamh Reilly and Stacey Scriver, 248–256. Abingdon: Routledge.

———. 2013b. “Theorizing Religions as Vestigial States in Relation to Gender and Law: Three Cases.” Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion 29(1): 38–50. https://doi.org/10.2979/jfemistudreli.29.1.39

———. 2015. “The Category of Religion in the Technology of Governance: An Argument for Understanding Religions as Vestigial States.” In Religion as a Category of Governance and Sovereignty, edited by Trevor Stack, Naomi Goldenberg, and Timothy Fitzgerald, 280–292. Leiden: Brill. https://doi.org/10.1163/9789004290594_013

———. 2017. “Queer Theory Meets Critical Religion: Are We Starting to Think Yet?” In Religion, Theory, Critique: Classic and Contemporary Approaches, edited by Richard King, 531–543. New York: Columbia University Press.

———. 2018. “Forget About Defining ‘It’: Reflections on Thinking Differently in Religious Studies.” In Method Today: Redescribing Approaches to the Study of Religion, edited by Brad Stoddard, 79–95. Sheffield: Equinox.

———. 2019a. “There is No Religion in the Bible.” Implicit Religion 21(4): 13–29. https://doi.org/10.1558/imre.39758

———. 2019b. “ ‘Religion’ and Its Limits: Reflections on Discursive Borders and Boundaries.” Journal of the Irish Society for the Academic Study of Religions 7: 1–15.

———. 2020. “Toward a Critique of Postsecular Rhetoric.” Accepted for publication in Hijacked! A Critical Treatment of “Good” and “Bad” Religion, edited by Leslie Dorrough Smith, Steffen Führding and Adrian Hermann, 41–47. Sheffield: Equinox.

———. 2021. “The Religious is Political.” Accepted for publication in The End of Religion: Feminist Reappraisals of the State, edited by Naomi Goldenberg and Kathleen McPhillips. Abingdon: Routledge.

Lorde, Audre. 1984. “The Master’s Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master’s House.” Sister/Outsider: Essays and Speeches, 110–114. Berkeley, CA: Crossing.

McCutcheon, Russell T. 1997. Manufacturing Religion: The Discourse on Sui Generis Religion and the Politics of Nostalgia. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

———. 2001. Critics Not Caretakers: Redescribing the Public Study of Religion. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.

———. 2018a. “Religion” in Theory and Practice: Demystifying the Field for Burgeoning Academics. Sheffield, UK: Equinox.

———. 2018b. Fabricating Religion: Fanfare for the Common E.G. Berlin: de Gruyter.

McCutcheon, Russell T. 2021. “The Enduring Presence of Our Pre-Critical Past: Or, Same as It Was, Same as it Ever Was.” Accepted for publication in On the Subject of Religion: Charting the Fault Lines of a Field of Study, edited by James Dennis LoRusso. Sheffield: Equinox.

Tadros, Maria, Ayesha Khan and Jenny Edwards, eds. 2018. Feminist Dissent – Special Issue on Challenging Binaries to Promote Women’s Equality. Issue 3. https://doi.org/10.31273/fd.n3.2018.298



How to Cite

Goldenberg, N. (2020). Timothy Fitzgerald and the Revival of Religious Studies. Implicit Religion, 22(3-4), 309–318. https://doi.org/10.1558/imre.40964