2020-05-29Teil eines Buches DOI: 10.18452/22963
Beyond the Insider—Outsider Perspective: The Study of Religion as a Study of Discourse Construction
This essay reflects on contemporary theorizing of religion which embodies an explicit critique of the imperial project, seeing that by most common consent the scholarly disciplinary field of religious studies (history of religion, phenomenology of religion, Religionswissenschaft) is a late nineteenth century invention that coincides with the emergence of anthropology and ethnography as epiphenomena of the colonial project (whether as Orientalism or as exoticism the Other is rendered manageable subjects). The scholarly study of religion is, therefore, simultaneously a study of the history of theory and concept formation, and the social, cultural, and political work performed by such study and theorizing. The metatheory of the study of religion is a main focus of the essay. Alongside that, the essay focuses more pointedly on the concept of discourse, and considers the extraordinary situation where the same methodological vocabulary that functions in religious studies also functions in critical theological studies, which relativizes the division of ‘insider’ and ‘outsider’ perspectives. Yet both are conventionally practised either in isolation from each other as distinct theoretical and disciplinary bounded/defined study fields, or—the other and almost direct opposite—religious studies being performed in the context of theological study, situated in and offered by theological faculties. An overview of recent debates in the field of religious studies serves to highlight the continued struggle to demarcate the boundaries between the study of religion and the study of theology—in some of the recent, very strident debates mainstream religious studies is labelled as nothing more than theology. This contribution, then, aims at a kind of metatheoretical reflection on the study of religion and theology both as discourses that serve mythmaking, identity formation, culturally strategic purposes. That is, from the discourse perspective that is proposed here, it is possible to move beyond the definitional divide between religious studies and theology—even beyond ‘religion’ itself—to focus on the mundanely material practices that constitute that which is called religion. In the way in which the terms are used it is clear that the terminologies themselves bear the imprint of historical social discourses that occasioned the rise of their use. This essay, then, is something of a metacritique of the language of the study of religion—beyond religion, and beyond the study of religion and theology.
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Final version published as: Gerhard van den Heever: “Beyond the Insider—Outsider Perspective: The Study of Religion as a Study of Discourse Construction”. In: Religion in Motion: Rethinking Religion, Knowledge and Discourse in a Globalizing World. Edited by Julian Hensold, Jordan Kynes, Philipp Öhlmann, Vanessa Rau, Rosa Coco Schinagl, Adela Taleb. Cham: Springer, 2020, pages 141–164. DOI: 10.1007/978-3-030-41388-0_9