The Juvenile Instructor has been running a series on Robert Orsi’s newest book, History and Presence. I was privileged to contribute the third entry. You can read it here. And below is an excerpt.
One final thought from the chapter. Robert Orsi concludes this topic by addressing the scholarly (and modern) anxiety to find a purpose in these abundant events that match our own values. When talking with the woman who endured frequent sexual abuse as a child, he caught himself hoping she would say something to imply that religion gave her a way to feel “empowered” against such egregious evil. But that solution he desired was not hers. “One of the things I have found over the years,” he realized, “is that very rarely, if ever, do the people we scholars of religion talk with and write about need our protection, because what we are protecting them from is the judgment and condescension of critical theory. In other words we are protecting them from ourselves” (111). In our attempt to transform the religiosity of nineteenth-century Mormon women into modern-day suffragists, are we forcing them into categories they would reject? Does that matter? How can we better analyze claims of religious experience in their own terms, rather than our own
I strongly recommend the book. I’ve assigned several of his monographs in my classes before, and you can read my thoughts on why his work is relevant for Mormon history here.