Celebrity Studies: Book Review – The Bloomsbury handbook of religion and popular music

The Bloomsbury handbook of religion and popular music, edited by Christopher
Partridge and Marcus Moberg, London, Bloomsbury Academic, 2017, 440 pp.,
£130.00 (hardback), ISBN 978-1-47-423733-8

Religion has long been a spectre haunting celebrity studies. Chris Rojek’s essential Celebrity (2001, p. 99) drew parallels between religious worship and the deification of stars, arguing that in a secularising world ‘celebrity culture has emerged as one of the replacement strategies that promotes new orders of meaning and solidarity’. How useful a category ‘religion’ is for understanding celebrity has been an enduring question which this wide ranging volume speaks to implicitly yet powerfully. The Bloomsbury Handbook of Religion and Popular Music is an introductory text which aims to ‘indicate the significance of “the sacred” in the cultural work of popular musicians, their listeners and the recording industry’ (p. 9), the volume’s contributors ranging from theologians to musicologists, covering no fewer than 10 faiths and 12 musical genres. What emerges is a recurring interest in blurred boundaries, and the contributions repeatedly disrupt Durkheim’s (1912) sacred–profane dichotomy, showing that the functions of religious culture can exist in seemingly secular contexts, with many possible implications for celebrity studies…

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