Matthew Milliner argues on his blog that academia is now embracing religion as a valid hermeneutic–even as a field of study. It’s an argument he’s articulated previously, but one worth tracking closely. Quite forthrightly, he asserts that:
If you don’t think academia has gone religious you either 1) haven’t been there in a while, 2) are pretending to ignore such an obvious development or 3) are part of a religious subculture invested in the notion of “secular academia” as a foil that galvanizes institutional identity, justifies a lack of engagement, and rallies donors who don’t know better. [...]
Graduate methodology courses in humanities used to triumphantly culminate with gender, sexuality, and race. But the religious turn renders this crescendo penultimate, especially considering that feminism and multiculturalism have found a new – and arguably more lasting – warrant under religious sponsorship. As I suggested, all of this is especially inconvenient for the remaining secularists and, strangely enough, for religious folk committed to the old arrangement as well. Academia going religious means that we religious people might no longer be able to justify ignoring it. And yet, the “emic” (as opposed to “etic“) approach from actual believers – and the debates that such approaches generate – can help ensure that this recent turn of academic fashion remains interesting enough to last.
What’s interesting about today’s “religious turn” in academia, Milliner notes, is that it isn’t simply a ‘return to the old ways.’ It poses problems for both the secular, deconstructionist establishment and traditionalists who’d prefer to flip back a few decades, to more classic ways of treating texts.
Decide for yourself whether he’s on to something here.