Modern Religion, Modern Race

Religion is a racialized category, even when race is not explicitly mentioned. Theodore Vial calls religion and race “conjoined twins” in the first line of his recent book, Modern Religion, Modern Race. These two concepts were born together and became key conceptual categories that have shaped the modern world. In the past, scholars charting the intellectual genealogies of the ideas of race and religion have often stopped at the enlightenment, but Vial persuasively argues that to fully understand the development of both concepts, post-enlightenment Germany needs to be considered as well. The book offers new perspectives on the writings and thoughts of a number of nineteenth-century thinkers, including Immanuel Kant, Johann Gottfield Herder, Friedrich Schleiermacher and Max Müller.

Ultimately, Vial concludes that race cannot be disentangled from the study of religion. And although it may not be time to abandon the category of religion, with all its attendant baggage, Modern Religion, Modern Race calls for us to examine that baggage critically, and to be fully conscious of the ways in which religion always carries with it dangerous ideas of race.

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Modern Religion, Modern Race by Theodore Vial, Oxford University Press, July 2016. ISBN: 9780190212551

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