Relating Religion

Essays in the study of religion

JONATHAN Z. SMITH, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2004


One of the most influential theorists of religion, Jonathan Z. Smith is best known for his analyses of religious studies as a discipline and for his advocacy and refinement of comparison as the basis for the history of religions. Relating Religion gathers seventeen essays—four of them never before published—that together provide the first broad overview of Smith’s thinking since his seminal 1982 book, Imagining Religion. Smith first explains how he was drawn to the study of religion, outlines his own theoretical commitments, and draws the connections between his thinking and his concerns for general education. He then engages several figures and traditions that serve to define his interests within the larger setting of the discipline. The essays that follow consider the role of taxonomy and classification in the study of religion, the construction of difference, and the procedures of generalization and redescription that Smith takes to be key to the comparative enterprise. The final essays deploy features of Smith’s most recent work, especially the notion of translation. Heady, original, and provocative, Relating Religion is certain to be hailed as a landmark in the academic study and critical theory of religion.

(Text from the publisher)

Table of contents

  1. When the chips are down
    2. Acknowledgments : morphology and history in Mircea : Eliade’s Patterns in comparative religion (1949-1999), part 1 : the work and its contexts
    3. Acknowledgments : morphology and history in Mircea : Eliade’s Patterns in comparative religion (1949-1999), part 2 : the texture of the work
    4. The topography of the sacred
    5. Manna, mana everywhere and [actual symbol not reproducible]
    6. The domestication of sacrifice
    7. A matter of class : taxonomies of religion
    8. Religion, religions, religious
    9. Bible and religion
    10. Trading places
    11. Differential equations : on constructing the other
    12. What a difference a difference makes
    13. Close encounters of diverse kinds
    14. Here, there, and anywhere
    15. Re : Corinthians
    16. A twice-told tale : the history of the history of religions’ history
    17. God save this honourable court : religion and civic discourse
    App. Jonathan Z. Smith : publications, 1966-2003


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