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Revisiting the Insider-Outsider Debate: Dismantling a Pseudo-problem in the Study of Religion

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image of Method & Theory in the Study of Religion

In the study of religion, the ‘insider-outsider’ problem seems to remain a stubborn issue. As self-evident and reasonable as that distinction may seem is it theoretically dubious and methodologically worthless. Rudolf Carnap would have dubbed it a ‘pseudo-problem’ that obscures more than it discloses. At most, it demonstrates the plain fact that knowledge is unevenly distributed among subjects. This article argues first, that several topics become mixed up in the ‘insider-outsider’ debate: empathy, the ‘emic-etic’ distinction, cultural essentialism and differences, privileged discourses and epistemologies and second, that there is no theory behind the distinction. Inspirations from Ludwig Wittgenstein and Donald Davidson explain how the ‘insider-outsider’ distinction rests on a ‘myth of the subjective’ and so is no problem.

Affiliations: 1: Department of the Study of Religion, Aarhus University Aarhus Denmark, Email: jsj@teo.au.dk

10.1163/157006811X549689
/content/journals/10.1163/157006811x549689
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/content/journals/10.1163/157006811x549689
2011-01-01
2016-10-01

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