What is Religion?

The Unexplained Subject Matter of Religious Studies

in Method & Theory in the Study of Religion
Restricted Access
Get Access to Full Text
Rent on DeepDyve

Have an Access Token?

Enter your access token to activate and access content online.

Please login and go to your personal user account to enter your access token.

Help

 

Have Institutional Access?

Login with your institution. Any other coaching guidance?

Connect

Religious studies cannot agree on a common definition of its subject matter. To break the impasse, important insights from recent discussions about post-foundational political theory might be of some help. However, they can only be of benefit in conversations about “religion” when the previous debate on the subject matter of religious studies is framed slightly differently. This is done in the first part of the article. It is, then, shown on closer inspection of past discussions on “religion” that a consensus-capable, contemporary, everyday understanding of “religion,” here called Religion 2, is assumed, though it remains unexplained and unreflected upon. The second part of the article shows how Religion 2 can be newly conceptualized through the lens of Ernesto Laclau’s political theory, combined with concepts from Judith Butler and Michel Foucault, and how Religion 2 can be established as the historical subject matter of religious studies. Though concrete historical reconstructions of Religion 2 always remain contested, I argue that this does not prevent it from being generally accepted as the subject matter of religious studies. The third part discusses the previous findings in the light of postcolonial concerns about potential Eurocentrism in the concept of “religion.” It is argued that Religion 2 has to be understood in a fully global perspective, and, as a consequence, more research on the global religious history of the 19th and 20th centuries is urgently needed.

Sections
References
  • AsadTalal Formations of the Secular 2003 Stanford Stanford University Press

  • BavajRiccardo Docupedia-Zeitgeschichte Intellectual history Begriffe Methoden und Debatten der zeithistorischen Forschung 2010 21 April 2013 Version 1.0 http://docupedia.de/zg/Intellectual_History

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • BaylyChristopher A. The Birth of the Modern World 2004 Oxford Blackwell 1780-1914

  • BergunderMichael SchweitzerFriedrich “Östliche” Religionen und Gewalt Religion Politik und Gewalt 2006 Gütersloh Gütersloher Verlagshaus 136-157

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • BergunderMichael Art Enzyklopädie der Neuzeit 2009 10 1048 1062 Religion

  • BergunderMichael AndersonAllan The cultural turn [in Pentecostal Studies] Studying Global Pentecostalism 2010a 51 73 Berkeley University of California Press

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • BergunderMichael What is esotericism? cultural studies approaches and the problems of definition in religious studies Method and Theory in the Study of Religion 2010b 22 9 36

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • BergunderMichael Experiments with Theosophical Truth Journal of the American Academy of Religion 2014 82 398 426 Gandhi esotericism and global religious history

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • BernerUlrich LöhrGebhard Die Religionen der Antike und ihre Relevanz für Religionswissenschaft und Theologie Die Identität der Religionswissenschaft 2000 Frankfurt Lang 13 32

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • BevirMark Contextualism Journal of the Philosophy of History 2009 3 211 224 From modernist method to post-analytic historicism?

  • BeyerPeter Religions in Global Society 2006 London Routledge

  • BhabhaHomi K. The Location of Culture 1994 London Routledge

  • BrielerUlrich Die Unerbittlichkeit der Historizität 1998 Köln Böhlau

  • BusseDietrich DuttCarsten Begriffsgeschichte oder Diskursgeschichte? Herausforderungen der Begriffsgeschichte 2003 17 49 Heidelberg Winter

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • ButlerJudith BenhabibSeyla For a careful reading Feminist Contentions 1995 New York Routledge 127 143

  • ButlerJudith Excitable Speech: A Politics of the Performative 1997 New York Routledge

  • ButlerJudith Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity 1999 New York Routledge (1990)

  • ButlerJudith IngramDavid What is critique? The Political 2002 Malden Blackwell 212 226

  • ButlerJudith Bodies That Matter: On the Discursive Limits of “Sex.” 2011 London Routledge (1993)

  • CarretteJeremyKingRichard Selling Spirituality The Silent Takeover of Religion 2005 London Routledge

  • Castro VarelaMaría do MarDhawanNikita Postkoloniale Theorie 2005 Bielefeld Transcript

  • ChakrabartyDipesh Provincializing Europe Postcolonial Thought and Historical Difference 2000 Princeton Princeton University Press

  • ChidesterDavid Savage Systems Colonialism and Comparative Religion in Southern Africa 1996 Charlottesville University Press of Virginia

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • ConradSebastianRanderiaShalini ConradSebastianRanderiaShalini Einleitung Jenseits des Eurozentrismus 2002 Frankfurt Campus 9 49

  • CoxJames An Introduction to the Phenomenology of Religion 2010 London Continuum

  • de CerteauMichel The Writing of History 1988 New York Columbia University Press

  • DerridaJacques Writing and Difference 1972 (1967) London Routledge

  • DerridaJacques Margins of Philosophy 1982 Chicago University of Chicago Press

  • DesplandMichel La Religion en Occident : Évolution des Idées et du Vécu 1979 Montreal Les Éditions Fides

  • DistelhorstLars Umkämpfte Differenz 2007 Berlin Parodos

  • DrewsAxelGerhardUte FrühwaldWolfgangJägerGeorg Moderne Kollektivsymbolik Forschungsreferate 1985 Tübingen Niemeyer 256 359

  • DubuissonDaniel The Western Construction of Religion Myths Knowledge and Ideology 2003 Baltimore

  • FeilErnst Religio Die Geschichte eines neuzeitlichen Grundbegriffes vom Frühchristentum bis zur Reformation 1986-2007 Göttingen Vandenheock 4 vols

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • FeilErnst Streitfall Religion: Diskussion zur Bestimmung und Abgrenzung des Religionsbegriffs 2000 Münster Lit

  • FitzgeraldTimothy The Ideology of Religious Studies 2000 New York Oxford University Press

  • FitzgeraldTimothy Discourse on Civility and Barbarity A Critical History of Religion and Related Categories 2007 New York Oxford University Press

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • FloodGavin Beyond Phenomenology Rethinking the Study of Religion 1999 London Cassell

  • FoucaultMichel The Archaeology of Knowledge and the Discourse on Language 1972 New York Pantheon Books

  • FoucaultMichel BouchardDonald F. Nietzsche, genealogy, history Language Counter-Memory Practice 1977 Ithaca Cornell University Press 139 164

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • FoucaultMichel LotringerSylvère What is critique? The Politics of Truth Michel Foucault 2007a Los Angeles Semiotext(e) 41 81 (1990)

  • FoucaultMichel LotringerSylvère What is enlightenment? The Politics of Truth Michel Foucault 2007b Los Angeles Semiotext(e) 97 119 (1984)

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • FrankManfred Was ist Neostrukturalismus? 1983 Frankfurt Suhrkamp

  • GreilArthur L. ClarkePeter B.BeyerPeter Art: Defining religion The World’s Religions 2009 London Routledge 135 149

  • HarrisonPeter “Religion” and Religions in the English Enlightenment 1990 Cambridge Cambridge University Press

  • HaußigHans-MichaelSchererBernd M. Religion—eine europäisch-christliche Erfindung? 2003 Berlin Philo

  • HausteinJörg Writing Religious History The Historiography of Ethiopian Pentecostalism 2011 Wiesbaden Harrassowitz

  • HemmingerAndrea Kritik und Geschichte Foucault—ein Erbe Kants? 2004 Berlin Philo

  • HoelscherLucian KoselleckReinhart Zeit und Diskurs in der Lexikographie der frühen Neuzeit Historische Semantik und Begriffsgeschichte 1979 Stuttgart Klett-Cotta 327 342

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • JamesWilliam The Varieties of Religious Experience 1922 New York Longmans (1902)

  • JosephsonJason Ananda The Invention of Religion in Japan 2012 Chicago University of Chicago Press

  • KantImmanuel Kritik der reinen Vernunft 1979 5th edition Leipzig Reclam

  • KingRichard Cartographies of the imagination, legacies of colonialism Evam 2004 3 1-2 245 262 The discourse of religion and the mapping of Indic traditions

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • KingRichard The copernican turn in the study of religion Method and Theory in the Study of Religion 2013 25 (forthcoming)

  • KippenbergHans G. GladigowBurkhardKippenbergHans G. Diskursive Religionswissenschaft Neue Ansätze in der Religionswissenschaft 1983 München Kösel 9 28

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • KleineChristoph Wozu außereuropäische religionsgeschichte? Zeitschrift für Religionswissenschaft 2010 18 3 38

  • KohenAsherSusserBernard Israel and the Politics of Jewish Identity 2000 Baltimore Johns Hopkins University Press

  • KoselleckReinhart KoselleckReinhart Begriffsgeschichte und sozialgeschichte Vergangene Zukunft 1989 Frankfurt Suhrkamp 107 129 (1972)

  • KraemerHendrik The Christian Message in a Non-Christian World 1947 New York Harper (1938)

  • KrämerSybille Sprache Sprechakt Kommunikation 2001 Frankfurt Suhrkamp

  • LaclauErnesto New Reflections on the Revolution of Our Time 1990 London Verso

  • LaclauErnesto WeeksJeffey Why do empty signifiers matter to politics The Lesser Evil and the Greater Good 1994 London Rivers Oram Press 167 178

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • LaclauErnesto Emancipation(s) 1996 London Verso

  • LaclauErnesto On Populist Reason 2005 London Verso

  • LaclauErnesto Ideology and post-Marxism Journal of Political Ideologies 2006 11 2 103 114

  • LaclauErnestoMouffeChantal Hegemony and Socialist Strategy: Towards a Radical Democratic Politics 2001 London Verso (1985)

  • LagemannJörg Signifikantenpraxis Die Einklammerung des Signifikats im Werk von Jacques Derrida 2001 (Ph. D. University of Oldenburg) Oldenburg

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • LaneMelissa Doing our own thinking for ourselves Journal of the History of Ideas 2012 73 71 82 On Quentin Skinner”s genealogical turn

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • LeaseGary The definition of religion Method and Theory in the Study of Religion 2000 12 287 293 An analytical or hermeneutical task?

  • LeubaJames H. A Psychological Study of Religion 1912 New York Macmillan

  • MarchartOliver NonhoffMartin Politik und ontologische differenz Diskurs—radikale Demokratie—Hegemonie 2007 Bielefeld Transcript 103 121 Zum “streng philosophischen” am Werk Ernesto Laclaus

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • MarchartOliver Die politische Differenz Zum Denken des Politischen bei Nancy Lefort Badiou Laclau und Agamben 2010 Frankfurt Suhrkamp

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • MarchartOliver Das Undarstellbare der Politik Zur Hegemonietheorie Ernesto Laclaus 1998 Wien Turia und Kant

  • MartinLuther H.WiebeDonald Religious studies as a scientific discipline Journal of the American Academy of Religion 2012 80 587 597 The persistence of a delusion

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • MasRuth Why critique? Method and Theory in the Study of Religion 2012 24 389 407

  • MasetMichael Diskurs, Macht und Geschichte Foucaults Analysetechniken und die historische Forschung 2002 Frankfurt Campus Verlag

  • MasuzawaTomoko The Invention of World Religions Or How European Universalism Was Preserved in the Language of Pluralism 2005 Chicago University of Chicago Press

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • McCutcheonRussell T. Manufacturing Religion The Discourse on Sui Generis Religion and the Politics of Nostalgia 1997 New York Oxford University Press

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • McCutcheonRussell T. Taming ethnocentrism and transcultural understandings Method and Theory in the Study of Religion 2000 12 294 306

  • McCutcheonRussell T. Critics not Caretakers: Rediscribing the Public Study of Religion 2001 Albany State University of New York Press

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • McCutcheonRussell T. Studying Religion An Introduction 2007a Sheffield Equinox

  • McCutcheonRussell T. Words, words, words (Review Essay) Journal of the American Academy of Religion 2007b 75 952 987

  • McMahanDavid L. The Making of Buddhist Modernism 2009 Oxford Oxford University Press

  • MeierHelmut Günter Art Historisches Wörterbuch der Philosophie 1971 1 788 808 Begriffsgeschichte

  • MeyerBirgit Mediation and the Genesis of Presence Towards a Material Approach to Religion 2012 Utrecht Faculteit Geesteswetenschappen, Universiteit Utrecht

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • NeedhamRodney Polythetic classification Convergence and Consequences Man 1975 10 349 369

  • NehringAndreas SchweitzerFriedrich Religion und gewalt—ein leerer signifikant in der religionsbeschreibung Religion Politik und Gewalt 2006 Gütersloh Gütersloher Verlagshaus 809 821

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • NongbriBrent Dislodging “embedded” religion Numen 2008 55 440 460 A brief note on a scholarly trope

  • NonhoffMartin Diskurs—radikale Demokratie—Hegemonie 2007 Bielefeld Transcript

  • OsterhammelJürgen Die Verwandlung der Welt Eine Geschichte des 19. Jahrhunderts 2009 München Beck

  • PadenWilliam E. Prototypes Method and Theory in the Study of Religion 2000 12 307 313 Western or cross-cultural?

  • PenningtonBrian K. Was Hinduism Invented? Britons Indians and the Colonial Construction of Religion 2005 New York Oxford University Press

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • PetersonDerek R.WalhofDarren R. The Invention of Religion Rethinking Belief in Politics and History 2002 New Brunswick Rutgers University Press

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • PosseltGerald Katachrese Rhetorik des Performativen 2005 München Wilhelm Fink

  • QutbSayyid Milestones 1981 Delhi Markazi Maktaba Islami (1964)

  • RiesebrodtMartin Cultus und Heilsversprechen Eine Theorie der Religionen 2007 München Beck

  • RolfEckkard Der Andere Austin 2009 Bielefeld Transcript

  • RüpkeJörg Die Religion der Römer 2001 München Beck

  • RüpkeJörg Historische Religionswissenschaft 2007 Stuttgart Kohlhammer

  • SabatucciDario La Prospettiva Storico-Religiosa 2000 Formello Edizioni SEAM

  • SaidEdward W. Orientalism 1994 (1978) New York Vintage Books

  • SalerBenson Conceptualizing Religion Immanent Anthropologists Transcendent Natives and Unbounded Categories 2000a (1993) New York Berghahn

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • SalerBenson Conceptualizing religion Method and Theory in the Study of Religion 2000b 12 323 338 Responses

  • SalerBenson Conceptualizing religion Religion 2008 38 219 225 Some recent reflections

  • SarasinPhilipp Geschichtswissenschaft und Diskursanalyse 2003 Frankfurt Suhrkamp

  • SaussureFerdinand de Cours de Linguistique Générale 1995 Paris Payot (1931)

  • SchöttlerPeter FohrmannJürgenMüllerHarro Sozialgeschichtliches Paradigma und historische Diskursanalyse Diskurstheorien und Literaturwissenschaft 1988 Frankfurt Suhrkamp 159 199

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • SmithJonathan Z. Imagining Religion From Babylon to Jonestown 1982 Chicago University of Chicago Press

  • SmithWilfred Cantwell The Meaning and End of Religion 1963 New York Macmillan

  • SnoekJan A.M. PlatvoetJan G.MolendijkArie L. Defining “religions” and the domain of study of the empirical sciences of religions The Pragmatics of Defining Religion 1999 Leiden Brill 313 333

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • SouthwoldMartin Buddhism and the definition of religion Man 1978 13 362 379

  • SpivakGayatri Chakravorty WilliamsPatrickChrismanLaura Can the subaltern speak? Colonial Discourse and Post-Colonial Theory. A Reader 1994 (1988) 66 111 New York Columbia University Press

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • StavrakakisYannis The Lacanian Left Psychoanalysis Theory Politics 2007 Albany State University of New York Press

  • StroumsaGuy A New Science The Discovery of Religion in the Age of Reason 2010 Cambridge Harvard University Press

  • SundermeierTheo Was ist Religion? 1999 Gütersloh Chr. Kaiser

  • TweedThomas A. Crossing and Dwelling. A Theory of Religion 2006 Cambridge Harvard University Press

  • WagnerFalk Was ist Religion? Studien zu ihrem Begriff und Thema in Geschichte und Gegenwart 1991 Gütersloh Mohn (1986)

  • WiebeDonald Problems with the family resemblance approach to conceptualizing religion Method and Theory in the Study of Religion 2000 12 314 322

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • WilsonBrian C. IdinopulosThomas A.WilsonBrian C. From the lexical to the polythetic What is Religion? Origins Definitions and Explanations 1998 Leiden Brill 141 162

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • WorshamLynnOlsonGrary S. Hegemony and the future of democracy Journal of Rhetoric Writing Culture and Politics 19 1999 1 34 Ernesto Laclau’s political philosophy. JAC

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • YoungRobert J.C. Postcolonialism An Historical Introduction 2001 London Blackwell

  • ŽižekSlavoj The Sublime Object of Ideology 2008 (1989) London Verso

Index Card
Content Metrics

Content Metrics

All Time Past Year Past 30 Days
Abstract Views 4438 4434 1248
Full Text Views 314 314 22
PDF Downloads 80 80 8
EPUB Downloads 1 1 0