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History of Religious Studies

Session Chair: Richard L. Gordon | Friday, August 28, 9-11 a.m. | Venue

Indrek Peedu

What game are we playing? – A new look at the identity and beginning of the study of religion

History of the discipline itself has become a common topic in the study of religion. On the one hand there exists a understanding that the discipline began around the 1870s with Müller and Tiele, yet other scholars have searched for the beginning of the discipline in the intellectual developments of the 17th and 18th century. In my paper I plan to argue that the disagreements between the different approaches have more to do with how the identity of the discipline is understood than with matters of historical development. To make some sense of these problems I intend to draw upon the ideas of Andrew Cunningham, who has very succinctly pointed out that scientific activity can be viewed as a game of specific rules and guidelines. Based on that I am going to discuss how an analogous approach can also help us analyse the history of the study of religion.

Hillary Rodrigues, Chanda Siddoo-Atwal

J. Krishnamurti’s Critique of Religion and Religious Studies

This paper will problematize traditional, dualistic, theoretical and methodological categories in the study of religion, such as “insider/outsider” and “emic/etic,” in relationship to the thought of the influential contemporary religious teacher, J. Krishnamurti. It will consist of two parts. The first offers an “insider/emic” perspective on Krishnamurti’s teachings on religion. The second will offer an “outsider/etic” perspective. However, it will deconstruct both orientations vis a vis Krishnamurti’s approach, which devalues scholarly work and poses a critique of all intellectual categories, including “religion”. As such, the paper will initiate an exploration of the theoretical and methodological challenges posed for the discipline of religious studies, by a body of teachings on religion that appears paradoxically to undercut not only the value of the scholarly study of religion, but its very object of study.

Satoko Fujiwara

Why the concept of ‘world religion’ has survived in Japan: On the Japanese reception of Max Weber’s comparative religion

This paper deals with a hitherto unnoticed fact that the concept of “world religion (in the sense of universal religion as opposed to ethnic religion),” which is outdated in many Western countries, is still popular in the Japanese academia and educational field. Rather than simply arguing that Japanese scholars are “behind,” I will attribute the fact to the academic/educational/social roles of comparative religion in Japan, which are different from those in Western countries, with a special focus upon Weberian legacies.

Johan Strijdom

The senses in religion and religious studies: Assessing David Chidester's use of a critical term

The purpose of this paper is to illustrate and assess Chidester's use of 'the senses' as a critical term in the study of religion. Under 'senses' Chidester includes the five ordinary senses, the visions and dreams of the mystic and shaman, and electronic media. Chidester's analysis of the senses in Medieval and Renaissance European mystic visions on the one hand, and in colonial and postcolonial African religion and imperial religious studies on the other hand will be compared and assessed. Although he does not offer a systematic comparison of these instances, I will argue that his analysis lends itself to an explicit comparison of the senses as material aspects of religion and show how his contextualized and historically sensitive analysis of the senses in religion and religious studies informs a critical study of religion. Since 'critical' assumes judgment, values need to be explicated in terms of critical theories, which in my view need further elaboration.


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