In their Introduction (p. 1), editors Lene Kühle and William Hoverd quote Robert Wuthnow, former president of the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion (issr) who (2004, 161) in a 2003 presidential address said:
[...] heightened religious diversity [in the United States] [...] posed a significant challenge to ways in which we, as ordinary citizens, think about religion or, as scholars, teach about it and could research about it.
The editors, who represent the steering group of a Danish research project ‘The Critical Analysis of Religious Diversity’ (card), position their research project and this book in line with the challenge posed in this quote, and in conjunction with another one taken from a 2008 publication by Lori Beaman and Peter Beyer:
…the meaning and implications of the term diversity are contested. By this we mean that there is no single way to conceptualize diversity, and further, that there are consequences to naming diversity as something to be studiedbeaman and beyer 2008, 2
The card project and its outcomes, as represented and exemplified in this book, follow the recent decades of scholarly interest: an interest not just in religion ‘as such’ or ‘out there’ but an interest in the popular conceptualisations as well as the scholarly notion(s) of religion (‘religion’), an interest in what these notion(s) and categories of religion do to the study of ‘it’ as well as to the political, cultural, societal ways of seeing and handling ‘religion’ and religion(s).
It is the critical analyses of the way(s) that scholars and others (media, politicians, states, etc) conceive of, think of, deal with, regulate, and control religion(s), religious pluralisms and diversities that constitutes the core research interest of this volume.
This, however, does not mean that the volume is just a (‘highbrow’, abstract, ivory-tower) academic exercise in theoretical or methodological critical self-reflections on the analytical (and political) category and categorization of ‘religious diversity’. It is, of course, a book in which the editors and the authors also describe, analyse, and discuss the actual and factual consequences of the various conceptualisations and categorisations of religious diversity evident in their case-studies. It is, thus, not just the general, scholarly discussions but equally much the specific empirical cases, the instances or cases of ‘religious diversity’ and religious- diversity-handling that make the volume worthwhile reading for scholars, as well as, for a broader audience.
‘The Critical Analysis of Religious Diversity’, (card) research project funded by the Danish Research Council, will thus hopefully, not least by way of this volume, contribute to, influence, and further qualify Danish as well as international scholarship and scientific progress. Hopefully, however, it will, thus, also influence and qualify non-scholarly, political, cultural and societal, discourses about and conceptualisations of religious diversity. Discourses which – just like the academic ones – often have an impact on religion and religious diversity and the handling of it, ‘out there’, outside the ‘ivory tower’ of academia.
The volume at hand, I think, for these very reasons, is a good example of how the intrinsic scientific values may, in implicit and explicit ways, be linked to and even produce extra-scientific values in a manner that does not jeopardize the reputation of scientific research, – neither among scientist nor among politicians. On the contrary: this volume demonstrates the degree to which research can be ‘relevant’ without entering into any kind of shady compromise with its strict scientific standards and aims.
Tim Jensen, President of the iahr, The International Association for The History of Religions