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Method and Theory in Religious Studies I: Genealogies

Session Chair: N.N. | Monday, August 24, 9-11 a.m. | Venue

Knut Melvær

A Conceptual History of Spirituality: Emerging Methodologies and Theoretical Implications for the Study of Religion\s

This paper explores the methodological possibilities within Digital Humanities and conceptual history for researching key concepts within the Study of Religion\s. It presents a case study of the concept of spirituality, and how it has changed within the Norwegian public discourse since the 1800s. In tracing this history, it argues the feasability of certain methodological approaches that have become possible only within the last few years. Is it possible to get a bird’s eye on the complexity of a vernacular concept through history? I argue that we indeed can get a good idea of how such conceptual complexities emerge. I also propose that they helps us solve a key challenge when it comes to defining spirituality. It enables us to concretly assess the relationship between academic and non-academic understandings of spirituality. This is crucial to operationalizations in surveys and interviews, but also to hermeneutics and dissemination of research.

Liam Sutherland

Tylor and Neo-Tylorian Approaches to the Study of Religion

In this paper I will argue that Sir E.B. Tylor, the father of Social Anthropology continues to be of vital importance for theoretical debates in the field. While Tylor's seminal 1871 "Primitive Culture" carries with it strong historical biases, it has a lasting influence on the ways in which 'religion' is defined, modelled and approached. Tylor moved the study of indigenous religions from the fringes of the field to its heart, coining the term 'animism' - the utility of which still being hotly debated. His modelling of religion as an ingrained explanatory framework, especially one which centres on human-like agents continues to influence many cognitive approaches. Furthermore I will argue that his use of a minimal, etic definition of religion wedded to a vision of a comparative science, can still provide a useful, cross-cultural yet restricted means of delimiting our area of study.

Henryk Hoffmann, Katarina Novikova

Question of the Term of Religious Studies (Religionswissenschaft) in the Context of its Development and New Challenges

The science of world religion has its 140 years long tradition since. However during this period, the question of religious studies terminology was differently understood. It was reviewed many times in individual countries and on the international level. From the very beginning of the religious studies it was important to define clear demarcation lines between religious studies and other spheres of sciences, for which the religion is the main research object. First of all, this concerns theology and philosophy of religion. The problem is that in the second half of XIX century the religious studies developed from the theology and Religionsphilosophie of that time, which was understood as speculative science. We should remember that main part of supporters of the separation of the religion from the theology was theologicians. In the process of the development of religious studies religious studies were influenced by modern philosophical trends.

Renat Bekkin

The Islamic Studies Department of Petrograd State University (1918-1919)

The paper is devoted to the history of the Department of Islamic Studies at the Petrograd University in November 1918.The author considers the scientific and organizational activities of A.E. Schmidt in the Central Asian State University (CASU).


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