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The Politics of Religious Repetition

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The Depoliticization of Genealogical Critique

image of Method & Theory in the Study of Religion

Otherwise diverse genealogical critiques of the discursive category “religion” share a concern to highlight the complicity of this category in colonial and neo-imperial projects, which are effected through the depoliticizing of non-Western subject populations. I argue that countering such depoliticization is more difficult than it may appear, and that some such critiques fall into a form of transcendental historicism that, in fact, further depoliticizes the subjects of colonialism and neo-imperialism. I develop this point through a specific consideration of two such studies, suggesting that their failure owes to their adoption of a mimetic understanding of cultural identity. As an alternative, I theorize the global “resurgence of religion” in terms of Jacques Derrida’s notion of “religion without religion,” arguing that such phenomena represent non-identical, as opposed to mimetic, repetitions of religion which disrupt colonial and neo-imperial legacies. This alternative theorization overcomes the depoliticization inherent in genealogically historicist approaches.

Affiliations: 1: Department of Humanities, Landmark CollegePutney, VT


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