A Journey Through Contemporary Pagan Studies

A Journey Through Contemporary Pagan Studies April 6, 2012

While covering last year’s American Academy of Religion’s Annual Meeting in San Francisco one recurring theme I noticed when attending the sessions for Contemporary Pagan Studies, and listening to more informal discussions, was how scholars could better interact and communicate with the Pagan community. Since many Pagan scholars are themselves Pagans, the disconnect between their work and the wider Pagan community, or worse, the misapplication or misunderstanding of their work, has been an ongoing concern. One of the reasons I wanted to start a Wild Hunt podcast was so I could have semi-informal chats with Pagan scholars about their work in order to humanize them, making their research and findings more accessible. Now, a new project seeks to take the wider Pagan community on a journey through the history of Contemporary Pagan Studies using The Pomegranate: The International Journal of Pagan Studies as a guide.

On March 26th, The Pagan Perspective blog announced that it would start doing weekly or biweekly examinations of articles that appeared in The Pomegranate, starting with the first issue published in 1997, and working its way to the present. The series is already underway with in-depth examinations of  Chas Clifton’s article “Aradia and the Revival of Modern Witchcraft” and “From Fact to Fallacy: The Evolution of Margaret Alice Murray’s Witch-Cult” by Catherine Noble. In his introductory post to this ambitious ongoing series, Ben Hoshour, who writes The Pagan Perspective, and is also employed by Cherry Hill Seminary, talks about the goals of this initiative.

“There are several reasons for initiating this coverage of the Pomegranate. First, as we have seen in Catherin Tully’s article, there is a gap bewteen academics and practictioners that sometime results in heated debates and cognitive dissonance. Second, not everyone has access to an academic library or to those academic articles and books that are relevant to Contemporary Paganism.  As a result, I will be reviewing and presenting a synopsis of these articles for practicing Contemporary Pagans – a set of cliff-notes, if you will, that can be read to gain the primary points of the article. It is my hope that these synopses are not only educational, but will stimulate discussion and debate amongst practitioners, which is the fertile soil where great ideas are birthed.”

According to Hoshour, several of the academics he’ll be referencing have agreed to engage in the comments section, so that follow-up questions, clarification, and updates, can be shared.

This should be a great service to the Pagan community, and I’ll hope that many of you decide to head over to The Pagan Perspective, subscribe to its updates, and engage in the conversations that will follow. For my part, I’ll try to remind my readers here of future updates in the series, and look forward to getting feedback from Contemporary Pagan scholars when I attend the 2012 AAR Annual Meeting this November.

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49 responses to “A Journey Through Contemporary Pagan Studies”

  1. I, for one, am enjoying the fact that Contemporary Pagan Studies is a field of study with a peer-reviewed academic journal. That alone is big deal. Pagan-focused scholarship will serve to make the Pagan faiths stronger. In the past ten years, the culture has radically shifted from hoping for the day when we wouldn’t have to hide to being almost mainstream and the rise of Pagan scholarship will give fuel to this wonderful momentum.
    We still have a long way to go, but our momentum is good.

  2. This is excellent news. As a contributor to The Pomegranate I thoroughly hope that this endeavour can play a part in helping to diffuse tensions between those academics and independent scholars involved in Pagan Studies and those practicing Pagans who take issue with such academic interest and its findings.

    My congratulations and best wishes to The Pagan Perspective in this endeavour !

  3. If anyone is interested, I have previously produced a summary of my recent paper in The Pomegranate (12.2) – “The Meaning of ‘Wicca’: A Study in Etymology, History and Pagan Politics” – over on my own blog, Albion Calling. Like the folks over at The Pagan Perspective, I concur that it’s a sad state of affairs when academic publishing charges such high fees that the majority of people, including practicing Pagans, simply can’t realistically afford them, and so I concur with the importance of producing summaries for a wider audience.

    The link can be found here: http://ethandoylewhite.blogspot.co.uk/2012/04/wicca-wica-and-war-of-words.html

  4. In the most recent issue of The Pomegranate please don’t overlook the very interesting article by Carole Cusack: “Pagan Saxon Resistance to Charlemagne’s Mission: ‘Indigenous’ Religion and ‘World’ Religion in the Early Middle Ages.” Cusack has done a great service in focusing attention on the coercive nature of the Christianization of Europe, and of the heroic nature of the determined Saxon resistance thereto.

    Personally I have a problem with Cusack’s framing of the conflict as one between “universalist” Christianity and “ethnic” Paganism. For one thing, the Carolingians were actually the ones who really turned Christianity into a truly ethnic religion: the religion of white Europeans (something Christianity had never been before). On the other hand, Paganism has always been “universalist” in the genuine sense of the term, as captured nicely by the ancient Arabic polytheist saying: “When you enter a village, swear by its Gods.”

    Pagan universalism occurs naturally, since it is second nature to polytheists to give honor to all Gods. Christian “universalism” is achieved by the sword, the rack, the stake, and the mob.

    Here’s a direct link to her article. It’s not free, but in my opinion it is definitely worth ~$20.

  5.  Because of academics’ attitudes of superiority possibly?  Because they scoff at the wisdom of people who learned by experience, rather than book-learning?  Because they read a study and think they know everything about a subject, perhaps?  Because they make statements unequivocably, then reverse their argument when new “evidence” presents itself, rather than listening to people who knew all along?  Because they make assumptions about things, rather than asking people who are less formally educated than themselves?  Because they sit in classrooms rather than participating in various activities, and thus disconnect themselves from the “great unwashed”?  Because if someone disagrees with an academic’s views, the scholar often insults them, and when the academic is proved wrong, never apologizes?

    Jason stated, “Since many Pagan scholars are themselves Pagans, the disconnect between
    their work and the wider Pagan community, or worse, the misapplication
    or misunderstanding of their work, has been an ongoing concern. One of
    the reasons I wanted to start a Wild Hunt podcast
    was so I could have semi-informal chats with Pagan scholars about their
    work in order to humanize them, making their research and findings more
    accessible.”  Good luck with this project, I sincerely hope you can do so… however, the fact that you need to “humanize” scholars shows that they’ve deliberately distanced themselves from people who are actually practicing magick, witchcraft, polytheism and Paganism, particularly oldline traditions, which they continually tend to discount or outright deny.

  6.  And to be fair, sometimes there’s a disconnect between academics and practitioners because people believe things like: “Nine million Wiccans were killed by Christians during the Burning Times” or “The ancient Celts celebrated Oestara” (yes they had farming games and feasting around the equinox, no they didn’t call it Oestara) or “Witchcraft was a widespread matriarchal movement in the Stone Age”. 

    However, these myths were themselves created by “scholars”, and if the practitioners that believed such things actually listened to oldline Pagans / polytheists / Witches / whatever the current most popular label, the practitioners would’ve have learned more from them than the academics in the first place…

  7. AC, I think that’s an incredibly one-sided and unfair description of Pagan scholars.  The majority of your complaints are simply the result of disparate standards of evidence between the academic and religious communities to which Pagan scholars belong.  Like it or not, oral tradition among initiates does not meet the standard of evidence for a historical argument in academia.  That’s not a commentary on the truth of the oral tradition – it’s a statement of where the discipline draws its boundaries.  Academic rules for evidence are intentionally stringent: it’s safer to risk excluding some legitimate evidence than it is to allow less-well-supported evidence, since it reduces the chance that a working hypothesis will be invalidated by the appearance of stronger evidence later (which, as you you noted, does happen with some frequency).  The effect is that scholars are less likely to ever have the whole picture of the area they study, but more confident in the correspondence between their working models and the objective reality.  Reconstructionists in the Pagan community do something similar by distinguishing between UPG, SG, and the documented lore: they impose standards of evidence under which one can make “objective” statements about the nature of the Gods.  This standard doesn’t prevent any individual or group from building a meaningful practice based on UPG that differs wildly from the community’s understanding of a particular God.

    The need to “humanize” Pagan scholars, I would submit, is due to the tendency of some practitioners to negatively stereotype *all* Pagan academics (possibly based on negative experiences with *particular* scholars), as many of your statements do, at least as much as it’s due to any actual distancing on the part of some academics.

    It’s great that there is an effort
    making current academic pagan research available to the general
    public. I realize everyone has to make a buck.
    But keeping such material behind a pay-wall, then accusing well
    meaning critics of being misinformed, is a cheap shot. It’s crippling
    to do so. The early Xtians did much to spread their religion.
    They did not keep their creed behind a pay-wall, they ‘copied out’
    their religion and spread it to all corners of the known world.
    Where communities were re illiterate, they sent converts to teach

  9. Except that academic pagan research is, first and foremost, *academic* discourse, and therefore has to work in the world of academic discourse.  At the moment, that means publication in scholarly journals, which are either by-subscription, where readers pay for access, or open-access supported by author fees, which means that academics, who contrary to popular belief are not getting rich from their work, pay $500 or more out of their own pockets for to cover the journal’s publication costs; this happens after the article has been peer-reviewed and accepted for publication, so it’s not a vanity-press pay-to-publish situation.  Academics can’t publish their work outside this system without undermining their own careers, since publication in peer-reviewed journals is a prerequisite for (a) other scholars and (b) hiring and tenure/promotion committees at current or potential employers viewing their work as legitimate.

    It would be great if we lived in a world where this didn’t happen, and scholars could all publish their work in a free-to-access environment.  There are lots of people working to make that world a reality.  We’re not there yet.  In the meantime, there are still plenty of opportunities for non-academics to get access to scholarly publications via local public and university libraries, though you’ll have to walk away from your computer and actually visit a library to get that access.

    Since this is *academic* discourse and not *religious* discourse, I’m not sure why the example of Christianity has anything to do with this issue.  Under that model, you should be criticizing people who write for-profit books about pagan beliefs and practices for not giving away information about their religion.  I suspect that this doesn’t happen because lots of pagan practitioners think that they might write books for this market someday, whereas fairly few of them aspire to be academics or have any understanding of how scholarly publishing works.

  10. Have any of these so-called “Pagan scholars” yet taken up the job of responding to Alan Cameron’s modern-day version of Christian triumphalism that is being passed off as genuine classical scholarship?

  11.  I’ve given up on replying AC since she stated in an essay she wrote that she refuse to give citations for her work, BECAUSE she fears lawsuits.:
    “Several people wanted to learn my sources, or gain additional
    material on the subject matter. Well, I’m sorry, but in the interest of
    not being sued for unintentional copyright infringement, I leave it up
    to the reader to discover my sources for him or herself. There are
    pointers about how to do this, listed below. Other readers requested
    that I rate the accuracy of some of the references I used. This also
    seems to be begging for trouble. Because I’m just one amateur historian,
    who is not backed by a university with deep pockets (financed by
    taxpayers’ money!) , then I can’t afford to cite a source who might feel
    that I used their material illegally. Or drag me into court for
    defamation of character, if I think their pet theory might not hold

  12. Maybe nobody else agrees with your assessment of the alleged problem.  If you can see a clear need for better scholarship, why are you not publishing in that area yourself?  (Apart from your blog, of course, where you are conveniently free of extraneous scholarly apparatus like peer review.)

    As I have been a co-author on
    scientific papers published in peer-reviewed journals, I’m no
    stranger to the problems of academic publishing. In addition, as a HP
    in a coven in my area, I have paid the piper (thru the paywall) to
    get information. I support as many Pagan endevours and projects as
    I can a afford to.

    You said: “Since this is *academic*
    discourse and not *religious* discourse, I’m not sure why the example
    of Christianity has anything to do with this issue.” Oh, thanx for
    clearing that up. I did not realized “academic” Pagans were only
    interested in advancing their own carriers, and don’t care about
    “religion”. That explains much, but is completely contradictory
    (at least in my reading) to some resently published work (Tully, CJ:
    Researching the Past is a Foreign Country: Cognitive Dissonance as a
    Response by Practitioner Pagans to Academic Research on the History
    of Pagan Religions.).

  14. Apuleius, you seem happy to refer to those academically involved in the field of Pagan Studies as “so-called “Pagan scholars””, irrespective of either accuracy or the offence that this might cause. As a Pagan Studies scholar who has been published in an academically peer-reviewed journal, I must say that I emphatically object to such statements as anti-intellectual and degrading. I would never dream or referring to yourself or others as “so-called Pagans”, and I am confident that others involved in the field would concur with me. Such utter negative stereotyping and generalization is a retrograde step for the Pagan community, only serving to damage the relations between Pagans and those who study them.

  15. I think you missed my point.  Your original post said: “The early Xtians did much to spread their religion.
    They did not keep
    their creed behind a pay-wall, they ‘copied out’ their religion and
    spread it to all corners of the known world.”  This is not in any way equivalent to the situation of Pagan scholars: they’re writing academic papers making academic arguments for an academic audience (into which Pagan practitioners often insert themselves as interested non-academics).  Early (and modern) Christians were attempting to convert people to their religious beliefs.  My point was that people like Chris Penczak and Silver Ravenwolf, who publish books about *how to do* Paganism, are much better analogues to those early Christians than Pagan scholars who are publishing works *describing and analyzing Paganism*, but nobody faults Penczak and Ravenwolf for selling books instead of giving them away. (Nor should they – they work hard and deserve some reward for their efforts.)  Singling out Pagan scholars for criticism here is arbitrary.

    I never said that Pagan scholars “were only
    interested in advancing their own carriers [did you mean “careers”?], and don’t care
    about ‘religion’.”  I said that Pagan scholars have to work within the constraints of academia if they want to keep doing scholarship – and since they’ve generally spent years of their lives and thousands of dollars in the pursuit of their educational credentials, in order to be able to make a living doing scholarship, I think they’re justified in not wanting to actively undermine their careers.

  16. A number of very good scholars have produced a significant body of work over the last several decades that paints a very different picture from Alan Cameron’s Christian triumphalist narrative. My complaint is not that such scholarship doesn’t exist, but only that it is such a shame that so little, or quite possibly none, of it comes from so-called “Pagan scholars”.

  17.  Convert people? No. But to help it spread and thrive? Yes.

    Most academics I know are struggling just like anyone else. It is good to keep in mind (as you have implied) that a  great deal of sacrifice goes into pursuing an academic career. Getting published in peer-reviewed journal is a major accomplishment (in fact, getting published in a legitimate publication of any sort is an accomplishment). “Peer-review” has it’s own set of problems. (Nothing beats finding out your paper was rejected by one reviewer simply because you neglected to reference that review’s obscure publication).

    However, my understanding is that a significant part of academic paganism involves studying Pagans today. Should Pagans pay to find out about that research? Let’s take for example the early Xtains (which you seem to think have no relevance to this discussion). They paid for early research and supported (financially) early academics. They set up a system of donations which were funneled back to the Holy Land, in order to support their own. I think a study of early Christianity would be very interesting for you.  I see that history as having direct bearing on our religion today. You don’t see that, but that’s OK.

  18. Two points here.  First, since Cameron is a classicist, I would expect substantive criticism of his interpretation to come from other classicists.  The Pagan scholars that have been discussed here and in other venues recently are almost without exception Pagan scholars studying *modern Paganism* – specifically, they are scholars of Pagan Studies who happen to also be Pagan in their personal beliefs – and as such are presumably not sufficiently well-read in the specialist classics literature to make the argument against Cameron that you would like to see advanced.  Their failure to do so should not therefore be read as a failure to be sufficiently Pagan, as you seem to be implying.

    Second, while I’ve not read Cameron’s work in any depth, a first-pass glance at his argument makes me deeply suspicious of your characterization of it as “Christian triumphalism” when, as far as I can tell, his argument relies on the position that the contemporary documents supporting a strong Pagan religious opposition to Christianity in the late Empire are suspect *precisely because* they were written by Christians and therefore had an agenda to advance.  It seems of a piece, however, with your general hostility towards Christianity and other monotheisms.

  19. It is true that the modern “Pagan scholars” discussed here are for the most part untutored concerning ancient Paganism. But this means that these so-called “Pagan scholars” are uninformed when it comes to history of the religion they purport to “study”. Imagine a “Christian scholar” without a solid grounding in the history of Christianity! I imagine that such poor creatures exist, given the hyper-specialization of modern academia, but how could such persons ever be taken seriously if they dared to put forward theories about how modern Christianity is, or is not, connected to early Christianity!

  20. Don’t hold your breath, Apuleius. I don’t think you’ll see too many “academic pagans” taking on Cameron. They know they’d have their legs cut out from under them. (By the way, I’d be happy to be proved wrong on that point.) However, small fry scholars (especially self-taught ones) are much easier prey.

  21.  In other words, “Look it up your ownself, instead of expecting me to spoon-feed it to you”.

  22. So anyone who wants to follow up on your work should have to re-do all of your research from scratch, and hope that they identified your sources accurately?  That’s some great community spirit.

  23. Your reply assumes that ancient Paganism and modern Paganism are in fact the same religion.  This point is obviously contested, as our discussions over the last weeks and months indicate.  Moreover, I think you assume far too much if you think that a modern sociologist of Christianity could make the sort of detailed argument about sources for fifth-century Christian history that you expect modern Pagan studies scholars to make about fifth-century Roman Paganism.

  24. But that doesn’t work when you are having a serious discussion.  Academics have to work with facts, with real historical evidence, not just hearsay.  It’s all well and good to say “my tradition is 1000 years old,” but if you can’t prove it, it’s just a statement that anyone can make.  If you are going to engage in discussion about the origins of Contemporary Paganism and want to be taken seriously while doing it, you have to provide sources.  

    The conclusions drawn by scholars like Ronald Hutton are the direct result of documented sources.  Yes, it’s far more romantic to think of Witches practicing in secret for 500 years, or that every little peculiar naturey thing is “Pagan,” but without evidence you can’t really say that and be taken seriously.  

  25. Contemporary Paganism is a different animal than the pagan religions of antiquity.  To claim otherwise is mind boggling.  Most Christian scholars specialize in a particular period of the Church’s history.  There are scholars who study the religions of ancient Greece, Rome, etc., but they aren’t the kind of scholars generally being published in the Pomegranate.  It’s an entirely different discipline.  

    I personally know a lot of Pagan scholars, have camped with them, done ritual with them, etc.  Away from their journals they are just like regular Pagans.  To see them ridiculed in quotes and belittled as human beings is hurtful.  The Pagan Scholars I know are hard working individuals trying to further the pursuit of knowledge, there’s not some crazy agenda.  (Apuleius, this last paragraph is not necessarily all directed at you.)   

  26. Scott: “Your reply assumes that ancient Paganism and modern Paganism are in fact the same religion.”

    No, my reply assumes that for a person to have an informed (let alone a “scholarly”) opinion concerning the relationship between modern and ancient Paganism, that person must know something about ancient Paganism. Which should be, but apparently is not, rather obvious.

  27. Jason Mankey: “Contemporary Paganism is a different animal than the pagan religions of antiquity.  To claim otherwise is mind boggling.”

    For over 20 years, Ronald Hutton has consistently acknowledged siginificant similarities between modern Paganism and ancient Paganism, going back to his 1991 book “Pagan Religions of the Ancient British Isles.”

    For all the talk one hears about Hutton, it’s surprising how few people have any idea what the man has actually written and said. Just recently, Hutton himself complained about the way he is misunderstood, when Caroline Tully asked him: “how do you reply to those who believe that you argue that there is no direct and consistent connection between ancient and modern Paganism?”

    Hutton replied that “I can offer no less than three, quite different but equally important, replies. The first is that ever since I first began to write about paganism, in my Pagan Religions book, I have emphasised that there is a direct line of transmission between the ancient and modern kinds, though the medium of ritual magic.”

    Hutton also added that the relationship between at least some forms of ancient Paganism and modern Paganism “represent[s] a demonstrable continuity, text to text and person to person, across the centuries.”

  28. Personally, I was deeply offended by Tully’s article; not on principle by by it’s sweeping and gross over generalizations.  Her argument was that Pagans, in general, were ill-equipped to deal with academia and ought to simply leave it to the “real scholars”.  Also, according to her statements during her interview on the WH podcast, she came across a an Oxbrudge snob who was unwilling to question authority or to call out Logical Fallacies and gross academic impropriety when it can be observed in black and white such as Ben Whitmore was able to document.  One simply cannot excuse that sort of behavior under alleged “academic protocol”.  Sadly, Tully seems to dismiss this as utterly irrelevant and bases it on her presumption that non-scholar Pagans are simply rubes that must be educated or talked down to.  While it is true that SOME Pagans are ill-equipped to understand academia (especially source material, as I can speak about…having observed this myself!), one certainly cannot out forth their mere opinion and pass off a “google search result” as actual academia which is utterly unscientific!Tully also insists in a Wild Hunt interview recently that if Hutton was guilty of any academic impropriety (and she clearly doesn’t believe he is!) that his scholastic colleagues would have given him am academic bitch-slapping! While I tend to agree, in general, this cannot be trusted as the ultimate litmus test. How can it be when the appropriate scholars involved who are intimately acquainted with such works are largely unfamiliar with Hutton’s polemics, especially “Triumph” which he has variously admitted was a lonely book to write because he was combining multiple disciplines and despite many contacts with specialist scholars in these subjects none could be bothered (apparently) to involve themselves in his research, perhaps in fear of their reputation. So, how can scholars with no interest in a work censure an author for misrepresenting their work unless someone else otherwise brigs it to their attention? Here, she seems to infer that academia is, to some degree, omniscient, when it’s clearly not. Then there is the case of Norman Cohn whom, in many cases, misrepresented Margeret Murray’s writings insisting she omitted data that would have disproving her when she actually included such inconvenient data and examined it in great detail. To date, most scholars (especially Hutton) unequivocally endorse Cohn’s mischaracterization of Murray even though one can compare Murray’s writing’s with Cohn to see that he was unjustly discrediting her (not that I agree with all of her suggestions, mind you); I believe in credit where credit is due and the thought of someoe misrepresenting one’s work to such a degree troubles me to my core. I wouldn’t want it to happen to me, so at the very least we owe it to Murray’s life to admit to this injustice. Sadly, when this was brought to Hutton’s attention by an investigative freelance journalist in The Cauldron, his ultimate meme was that regardless of how Cohn mischaracterized Murray’s reputation to discredit her, that it was inconsequential. So, sometimes scholars are uninterested in censuring academic misappropriation when it doesn’t serve their agenda. It is also note-worthy that Prof. Carlo Ginzburg has also charged Cohn with the same mendacity against his own research that Cohn engaged in against Murray. Max Dashu has even found that Cynthia Eller demonstrably misquoted JP Mallory’s work “In Search of the Indo-Europeans” to make an argument, yet I am unaware of any negative academic press this particularly egregious polemic has received, considering this and other troubling anomalies.

  29. “Such utter negative stereotyping and generalization is a retrograde step for the Pagan community, only serving to damage the relations between Pagans and those who study them.”
    ah, you mean like Caroline Tully’s recent submission to The Pomegranate?

  30. When using the phrase “cognitive dissonance” it is important to realize that the very last thing that this phrase is intended to accomplish is the fostering constructive dialogue with the people who are characterized as suffering from “cognitive dissonance”. (That is, unless the phrase is being used by someone who has no idea what it actually means.)

  31.  > Except that academic pagan research is, first and foremost, *academic* discourse

    Oh yay. Yet another academic discipline in which real people are analyzed and classified without actual participation by the objects of study.

    Welcome to my world. Again.

  32. Ramsay MacMullen and Peter Brown, hardly small fries, have consistently portrayed Paganism and Christianity during late antiquity (a term that Peter Brown is generally credited with popularizing in the English language) in a way starkly at odds with Cameron’s transparently apologetic narrative. Anyone with even the slightest familiarity with this period of history is aware of this.

    Brown, for example, made the real threat posed by the intransigent Pagans in the fifth century (well after the defeat of Arbogast) a major theme of his biography of Augustine. Indeed, Brown frames the writing of Augustine’s seminal work, “City of God: Against the Pagans”, in terms of this threat.

    MacMullen, for his part, made the  continued vitality of Paganism in late antiquity a central theme of three of his major books.

    There are many other non-small-fry historians that one could name. Here are a few: James B. Rives, Charles W. Hedrick (Jr), Dorothy Watts, Jan Assmann, David Frankfurter, and Robin Lane Fox, for examples. Most of these authors do not engage in direct polemics contra-Cameron (although Hedrick does so, and quite nicely), but many of them portray late antique Paganism as robust and putting up a fight against Christianization and explicitly denying that late antique Paganism was moribund (especially Watts and Fox), while others focus on an analysis of classical and late antique Paganism that focuses on its intrinsic vitality and diversity and adaptability in a way that starkly contrasts with Cameron’s view of Paganism (Rives, Assmann, Frankfurter).

    Dorothy Watts is worth a special mention, because her focus is on Britain and she has written about the dramatic effects there of the Pagan resurgence of the late fourth century, a resurgence the existence of which is flatly denied by Cameron.

  33. I am very much in favor of scholars crossing disciplinary boundaries, and I think that much of the best scholarship is done by those who manage to pull that off. There is no particular reason why historians and archaeologists can’t make use of ideas, terms, etc, from social psychology.  But Tully’s adoption of the term “cognitive dissonance” shows both ignorance of the meaning and proper usage of the term, and also egregiously unscholarly bias against those she so labels. However, anyone familiar with the ideological polemics that pass for “scholarly discussions” among archaeologists can hardly be surprised at Tully’s rantings. Although it is rather rich for her to engage in that kind of transparently hostile discourse while claiming to be a voice for reconciliation and improved communication.

  34. I’m also in favor of cross discipline study. My own field of historic preservation requires it.
    There was a comment made further down, in regards to your post about engaging Cameron, about not being sufficiently well read in a field to advance an alternate theory, implying that scholars don’t delve into fields they’re not proficient in.
    Perhaps I am mistaken but Caroline Tully’s article read to me as an Historian and Archaelogist advancing a theory in the Social Psychology field, which evidently as you point out, shows her not being sufficiently well read in that subject to do so.
    Among all the ‘fouls’ being called out, it’s a legitimate one to be mentioned.

  35. To be perfectly honest, I don’t believe that Tully makes the slightest effort in her article to put forth any justification, whatsoever, for applying the “cognitive dissonance” label. She does not, for instance, tell us what measures of cognitive dissonance she used to determine that this label is appropriate. Of course for that matter she does not describe, except in the vaguest of generalities, who it is she is applying the label to. Nor does she give any indication of alternative explanations for whatever it is that she thinks she has observed. Is cognitive dissonance the only possible explanation? Since Tully describes cognitive dissonance as the “idea that human beings do not like inconsistency,” might one not just as well explain the phenomena that Tully’s “research” has unearthed by stating that “human beings often disagree with each other, especially on teh internets”?

  36.  Wow…I can see where the amateur  comes into play in terms of your scholarship.  As others have said…I think you suffer from a gross misunderstanding of academia, the academic process, and research as a whole.

    I guess we’ll add this to the growing list of things you are ignorant about but are thrilled to share anyway.

  37. perhaps another reason might be that practitioners are not so ‘rigor dumb’, and due to the ‘internets’, we do have access to some of the primary and secondary sources, and are aware of some of the “cherry picking” which is often done to support hypothesis and theory. Sometimes ‘fudging’ the data in the haste to publish due to the competitiveness in the rush for ‘laurels’. Which to be fair isn’t limited to contemporary pagan studies.

  38. AP, how many of the classicists you cite are characterizing Cameron’s views as “Christian triumphalism”?  Or is that just your position?  It seems to me that the argument that there was not a stiff pagan resistance to Christianity in late antiquity is the *opposite* of Christian triumphalism, insofar as it deprives the Christian-pagan oppositional narrative of an actual fight.  A quick Google search for “cameron christian triumphalism” doesn’t turn up anything approximating your argument; in fact, the most applicable passage seems to come from Averil Cameron’s *Christianity and the Rhetoric of Empire*, where she argues that a simple pagan-Christian binary opposition “if it does not stem from a Christian triumphalism it is very likely to lead to it” (p. 21), which again seems the *opposite* of your position.

  39. Scott, for the most part scholars only operate in one of two polemical modes. Either they politely talk around areas of disagreement in kabuki-esque circumlocutions, or they hurl ideological insults at each other in variations on the themes of fascism, racism, colonialism, stalinism, etc. It is especially rare for one scholar to point out that another scholar’s Christianity is showing, but it does happen. Such a tussle did occur between F.M. Cornford and A.E. Tayler (whom Cornford very gently accused of Christianizing bias in his interpretation of the Timaeus) back during the Late Middle Ages (also known as the early-mid 20th century).

    The most plainly spoken attack on Cameron’s revisionism is to be found in the Charles W. Hedrick’s “History and Silence”, in which the entire fourth chapter is devoted to the debate that has been going on ever since Cameron’s 1966 redating of Macrobius’ Saturnalia. A bird’s eye view of Hedrick on Cameron can be found in Dennis Trout’s BMCR review of Hedrick’s book here: http://bmcr.brynmawr.edu/2000/2000-07-11.html.

    Interest in Hedrick’s book, btw, has been sufficient for it to be reissued in a less expensive paperback edition in 2010, ten years after its initial hardback publication, which is pretty good for a book with a subtitle like “Purge and Rehabilitation of Memory in Late Antiquity’ and whose primary focus is on an obscure text usually referred to only as CIL 6.1783. So, despite the fact that I have never once heard a single so-called “Pagan scholar” ever make a reference to Hedrick’s invaluable contribution to our understanding of the struggle between Paganism and Christianity in late antiquity (and if anyone knows of such a reference, I would be very happy to be proved wrong), there are, fortunately, others who recognize its importance.

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