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Theory, Method, and Madness in Religious Studies

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image of Method & Theory in the Study of Religion

In the academic study of religion, the words “method” and “theory” possess an immutable, authoritative aura and typically function to amplify the legitimacy of any given study. What is more ambiguous, however, is whether those of us engaged in the study of religion actually have a shared understanding of these terms, and whether we are sufficiently attentive to the way in which we use them. Given this ambiguity, and given how pervasive “method” and “theory” are in our field, scholars of religion should be (in the words of J.Z. Smith) “relentlessly self-conscious” and give some consideration to how our discipline has appropriated these terms. Ultimately, I argue that attention to their genealogy can help us better orient ourselves when it comes to deploying “method” and “theory” in our studies.

Affiliations: 1: University of Alberta pathart@ualberta.ca

10.1163/15700682-12341346
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2016-12-02
2018-04-21

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