“But there is the rhizomatic West, with its Indians without ancestry, its ever-receding limit, its shifting and displaced frontiers. There is a whole American “map” in the West, where even the trees form rhizomes.” --A Thousand Plateaus
For a quarter of a century, I called it home. Now, a displaced westerner living in the south, I call it the subject of my graduate study and one of many homes. I was drawn to the history of religions in the American West in part because my experience of religion in the West was not reflected in the narrative of American religions. I became enamored with it because the multiplicity of encounters naturally challenges what Deleuze and Guattari would characterize as the “tree thinking” of old “master narratives.” Histories of the American West constantly resist categorization. For instance, we have difficulty locating the West. Is it geography? Political boundaries? Climate? An idea? Temporal questions also frame our work. When can we begin a narrative of the American West? Does it begin with the immigration of Native Americans from the south or with the Louisiana Purchase? Whose story do we tell and how do we tell it? The American West persistently confounds categories, not because we have not yet found the right ones, but because “master narratives” have never adequately represented the rich religious history of the Americas.
This group blog is a place to initiate a rhizomatic mapping of religions in the American West. With multiple contributors focusing on a variety of places, times, and points of reference, this blog will aim to capture the diversity of narratives and approaches. Contributors will review books and journal articles, reflect on the rewards and challenges of teaching religion in the American West, share syllabi, comment on current events, point out conference paper calls, share primary source documents, and provide informal reflections on the subfield.
In the coming month, look for posts from James Bennett, Roberto Lint-Sagarena, Laurie Maffly-Kipp, Quincy Newell, Sara Patterson, and Tisa Wenger.