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Method and Theory in Religious Studies IV: Emic and Etic

Session Chair: N.N. | Tuesday, August 25, 9-11 a.m. | Venue

Petra Klug

The Implicit Emic Perspective in the Study of Religion: A Call for a Change in our Understanding of Religion

Our definitions of religion – no matter if functional, substantive, or working with dimensions – usually define the subject exclusively or primarily through its meaning for adherents. What religion might mean for the nonreligious – or for the “rest” of society – is not considered. Even scholars who work with etic definitions (as opposed to the emic definitions practitioners themselves carry) still define religion through the lens of the believer. I refer to this as an ‘implicit emic’ perspective––which means that it is an etic attempt to define what religion is on the emic level of its followers, instead of defining religion in terms of its role in society and culture. As this creates a bias in the broader study of the field and a lack of clarity about what religion is for all members of society – especially when it comes to conflicts – I will propose a new definition of religion.

Jonathan Tuckett

Disputing "Phenomenology" in the study of religion

“Phenomenology of religion” is a title that applies to a broad and diffuse range of scholars engaged in the study of religion. Despite there being widespread inconsistencies regarding who should or should not belong under the rubric, many scholars – both proponents and opponents – refer to the phenomenology of religion as if it were a single monolithic tradition. But to treat the phenomenology of religion in such monolithic terms involves a reification that ignores that many of the scholars covered by the title studied religion from many different, if not contradictory, perspectives. It is the aim of this paper to deconstruct the phenomenology of religion as a singular tradition and suggest that phrase picks out four separate traditions: phenomenology-of-religion, typological phenomenology, phenomenological history-of-religion, and the Phenomenological Movement. In treating these traditions on their own terms we will be better placed to respond to them as proponents or opponents.

Alexander Tokranov

Phenomenology of religion as a methodological reflection on the science of religion

The paper deals with the problem of the crisis and possible perspectives of the phenomenology of religion. Regarding itself in the beginning of its history as a core discipline in the field of religious studies, the phenomenology of religion failed nevertheless to create a description of the objective system of basic structures of meanings of religious consciousness. The paper analyses the sources of the above-mentioned crisis and proposes to regard it as a result of the fact that the epistemological status of the phenomenological methods in the study of religions remained unclear. It is argued that at present, the function of the phenomenology of religion within the structure of the study of religion can be understood rather as an epistemological reflection on the method of the science of religion, than as an attempt to form the ultimate knowledge about the essence of religion.

Håkon Naasen Tandberg

Scholars, too, are agents of (religious) change

This paper discusses the different ways scholars of religion become agents of change in the very phenomena they supposedly only register or narrate, but focuses especially on how the influence of scholarly presence can act as a catalyst for change at the individual level. The roles of scholars in such processes, together with its implications for scholarship, is often noted but rarely investigated-possibly because examples of the phenomena is, without the right methodology, difficult to identify. Because it challenges the traditional notion that scholars are merely observers, it demands more attention. I analyse material from two field trips (2012-2013) among contemporary Zoroastrians in Mumbai, where I had repeated interviews with a group of respondents in and across both trips. This methodological approach enabled me to register both short/long-term religious change, and investigate how the same changes were, in some cases, the result of that same methodology.


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