ACADEMIC NOMADISM: THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN SOCIAL ANTHROPOLOGY AND HISTORY OF RELIGION

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Abstract

Through a narrative of the author's personal academic nomadism, the concepts of interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary studies are explored. It is argued that while interdisciplinary studies are currently being praised, insufficient attention seems to be directed at the methodological challenges involved. Rather a line of strategic avoidance seems to be adopted. Drawing on insights from migrant studies the author compares the questionable concept of migrants as potentially "falling-between-cultures" with the fear of "falling-between-disciplines" sometimes experienced by scholars attempting to move within various disciplines. While there are important reasons why academic boundaries are retained, their existence may also influence the way scholars approach the field in an undesirable manner. By examples from the study of Islam/Muslims, the author illustrates how the boundary between, for example, social anthropology and history of religion tends to become mixed up with boundaries in the field in such a way that our understanding of the field may become seriously distorted. Exploring what transcending boundaries truely involves, the author discusses the meaning of concepts like strategic avoidance, tacit knowledge and triangulation in action, and reflects on their usefulness in terms of actually establishing interdisciplinary studies and/or scholarship.

Numen

International Review for the History of Religions

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