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What is Wrong with Pagan Studies?

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image of Method & Theory in the Study of Religion

Abstract This review essay takes a critical look at the new field of “pagan studies” by examining the Handbook of Contemporary Paganism. It demonstrates that pagan studies is dominated by the methodological principles of essentialism, exclusivism, loyalism and supernaturalism, and shows how these principles promote normative constructions of ‘pure’ paganism, insider interpretations of the data, and theological speculations about gods, powers, and a special “magical consciousness.” It seems thus that the methodological discussions in MTSR have little effect on pagan scholars. In the concluding discussion, I raise the questions why this is so, and how we might do better in promoting a naturalist and theoretically oriented approach to studying religion.

Affiliations: 1: University of Aarhus Denmark University of Leiden Netherlands


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