I am lucky to work in a good and productive school with wonderful colleagues and students. If you think that my research interests, as described below, might interest you, please email me for a discussion using the form at the bottom of this page.
I came to Stirling in 2001 after teaching for several years in Japan. My children are bilingual. I am trained in religious studies, philosophy and anthropology. My principal theoretical pursuit is ‘critical religion’, by which I mean the critical deconstruction of religion as a powerful discourse and its parasitic relation to ‘secular’ categories such as politics and economics. Religion is not a stand-alone category.
The most important influence in my life is Jiddu Krishnamurti and his teaching on meditation, love and the ending of time. In one conversation (which can be found on YouTube) the Sinhalese Buddhist monk Walpola Rahula likened Krishnamurti to Gotama Buddha. K asked “Why compare?”
But there are many orthodox intellectual influences, such as Kant, Marx, Durkheim, Gramsci, Dumont, Said, and others.
To deconstruct religion is not to be anti-religious; it is to ask what people mean when they talk about religion as though it picks out some obvious kind of practice. It is to question why some practices and values are classified as religious and others as secular. Such diverse ideologies as Nationalism and Liberal Economics seem to me to share many family resemblances to what are typically classified as ‘religions’, yet they are typically classified as ‘secular’. On the other hand, practices such as meditation and yoga have family resemblances with scientific empirical observation but they are usually classified as ‘religion’. How can we account for these classificatory practices? I argue that ‘religions’ are modern inventions which are made to appear ubiquitous and, by being removed to a marginal, privatised domain, serve to mystify the supposed natural rationality of the secular state and capital. Feminist deconstruction of gender categories shows how power constructions which serve male interests come to appear as natural and inevitable. This insight provides a powerful analogy to the mystification of power relations by the modern invention of religious and secular domains. The secular nation state and capital appear as natural and unavoidable, ‘in the nature of things’. In some ways analogous to feminist critical deconstruction of gender categories, I strive to demystify the category religion and its ideological deployments in the making of capitalist ‘reality’.
Summary of research interests:
- the constructions of ‘religion’ and related categories such as ‘secular’, ‘politics’ and ‘economics’ in historical and colonial contexts;
- Caste, Buddhism and Dalits (untouchables) in India; more recently Bahujan Samaj discourse;
- religion as ritual order in Japan;
- critique of theory and method in the humanities and social sciences.
I am interested in supervising students in any of these areas – please contact me.
Current PhD supervision areas either as Principal supervisor or second supervisor:
- Jonathan Tuckett, A Phenomenological Critique of the Idea of a Social Science
- Shani Zour, HIV Aids, NGO’s, Pentecostalism and Development in Malawi
To see all my blog postings on the Critical Religion website, click here.