In Religious Affects Donovan O. Schaefer challenges the notion that religion is inextricably linked to language and belief, proposing instead that it is primarily driven by affects. Drawing on affect theory, evolutionary biology, and poststructuralist theory, Schaefer builds on the recent materialist shift in religious studies to relocate religious practices in the affective realm—an insight that helps us better understand how religion is lived in conjunction with systems of power. To demonstrate religion's animality and how it works affectively, Schaefer turns to a series of case studies, including the documentary Jesus Camp and contemporary American Islamophobia. Placing affect theory in conversation with post-Darwinian evolutionary theory, Schaefer explores the extent to which nonhuman animals have the capacity to practice religion, linking human forms of religion and power through a new analysis of the chimpanzee waterfall dance as observed by Jane Goodall. In this compelling case for the use of affect theory in religious studies, Schaefer provides a new model for mapping relations between religion, politics, species, globalization, secularism, race, and ethics.
Introduction. Species, Religious Studies, and the Affective Turn 1
1. Religion, Language, and Affect 19
2. Intransigence: Power, Embodiment, and the Two Types of Affect Theory 36
3. Teaching Religion, Emotion, and Global Cinema 60
4. Compulsion: Affect, Desire, and Materiality 92
5. Savages: Ideology, Primatology, and Islamophobia 120
6. Accident: Animalism, Evolution, and Affective Economies 147
7. A Theory of the Waterfall Dance: On Accident, Language, and Animal Religion 178
Conclusion. Under the Rose 206
"Blending seamlessly the most fecund insights of affect theory, evolutionary biology, and critical animal studies, as well as feminist, queer, and postcolonial theories of materiality and embodiment, this bold and trenchant challenge to the ideology of human exceptionalism and its accompanying linguistic fallacy—the refusal to analyze religion and power outside of language and texts—offers a revolutionary and more capacious approach to religion that recovers its visceral intensity and animal generativity."
Manuel A. Vásquez, author of
More Than Belief: A Materialist Theory of Religion
"Religious Affects represents a challenge to decenter our anthropocentric presuppositions more broadly, and, by appealing to human animality, provides a provocative angle for imagining affect over and above the all-toohuman parameters that usually characterize religious studies.... [M]any scholars will find Schaefer’s animal religion and his strategies for affective readings of religious phenomena both theoretically exciting and critically useful."
Journal of the American Academy of Religion
"Schaefer’s book is fascinating, mind-expanding, and entirely worth a read."
Barbara J. King
"Religious Affects is an original and challenging argument for the discipline, especially to social-constructionist approaches, as it aims to radically reconfigure how we think about religion as a phenomenon grounded in feelings and emotions (affects) that humans share with the animal world."
Religious Studies Review
"For all its breadth in Religious Affects Schaefer develops a well-crafted argument and clarion call:the study of religion must include,at its very core, the study of affect.... Schaefer's project is timely in an urgent sense."
Journal for Cultural and Religious Theory
"Religious Affects offers a new way to use affect theory to understand religion that better accounts for its connections with politics, globalization, and power."
Staci Poston Conner
"Schaefer . . . is blazing a trail in religious studies."
Times Literary Supplement
"Religious Affects is an important book, rendering helpful therapy for some of the myopic methodological tendencies that can afflict the field of religious studies."
Jason N. Blum
"[Schaefer's] approach to reading affect theory through the lens of animality will enrich critical engagement with the concept of religion as a theoretical tool and as a word of power in the world."