chapter
19 Pages

INTRODUCING RELIGION

A common frustration for scholars of religion concerns the restrictions, often self-restrictions, explicitly invoked or tacitly obeyed by students at all career stages, that are placed on curiosity: the “better not ask” or “better not go there” affective stances that are put down as obstacles to the pursuit of a disciplined drive toward a cogent intelligibility of human practices we have come to call, in virtue of some stipulated markers, “religion” or “religious.” The Pandora of myth is still censured in the academy, it seems, as the archor original sinner, the anti-model of intellection, that evil woman (it would be a woman, of course) whose curiosity released a can of toxic worms that kills cats, rather than as the mythic hero of curiosity as the giver of everything-which is what Pandora means. This restriction of curiosity, especially prevalent in the study of religion, poses an important threat to academic freedom, perhaps the greatest threat, since it does not come from institutional strictures, but from a cultural censure of unbounded curiosity, that might in fact be diagnosed as a gendered anxiety about the corrosive effect of the Pandora complex. Within the study of religion, the Pandora complex is seen as a veritable toxin that might kill the power of the gods. Hence Pandora is a metaphor that chidingly stands as a warning against an anthropocentric scholarly stance and analytic preference in the study of religion. It is this stance, anxieties over it, and resistance to it, about which I want to worry briefly, for it is crucial in introducing religion in the collegiate domain.