As the first invitee to this portrait section trained as a scholar of religion and situated in a department of religious studies, I was interested to see how previous scholars trained in anthropology and sociology positioned themselves in relation to ‘religion’ as an object of study. It seems we all do so gingerly. Although my graduate work was in the history of Christianity with a focus on American religious history, since the early 1990s I have self-consciously positioned my historical research in an interdisciplinary space between psychiatry, anthropology, and religious studies in order to explore the contestations surrounding unusual experiences. During the last decade, I have been identifying myself less as a historian and more as an interdisciplinary scholar attempting to bring both humanistic and cognitive social scientific methods to the study of historical experiences and events. From this vantage point, I would argue, as Maurice Bloch (2010) did in the first volume of this journal, that ‘religion’ is not a natural kind but a complex cultural concept and that a theory of religion per se is impossible.