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A Disorder of Identity: Religious Difference ‘without’ ‘Religion’

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The Deconstruction of ‘Religion(s)’

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Responding to Paul Hedges’ paper earlier in this volume, I discuss the consequences of the deconstruction of ‘religion’ for the ‘interreligious.’ First, I bring Paul Hedges’ ‘soft’ deconstruction into conversation with John Thatamanil’s comparative theology ‘after’ religion. While the former argues that religion, while always contextually situated, clearly still has ‘reality’, Thatamanil rather argues that the social reality of those practices and collectivities dubbed ‘religions’ is much more blurry and difficult than what the discourse on religion assumes. Far from a purely academic endeavour, taking seriously the deconstruction of ‘religion’ means taking seriously the violent history that has taken place under its name. Then I argue, drawing on John Caputo’s ‘religion without religion’, that instead of relying on fictions of solid or ‘pure’ foundations, of ‘religions’ as clearly delineated representative systems, interreligious engagement ought to embrace this blurring of boundaries and the inherent instability of their languages. Finally, however, I propose that Caputo as well as Hedges leave uninterrogated the underlying assumption that ‘religion’ precedes ‘religious difference’. Rather than finding some definition of ‘religion’ to understand or define religious difference, it may be necessary to trace how religious difference is employed to understand and define ‘religions’, most significantly how some collectivities and practices come to be defined as ‘other religions’.

Affiliations: 1: Akademie der Weltreligionen, Hamburg UniversityGermany


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