Taking ‘Religion’ Seriously: Essays on the Discursive Study of Religion


This book demonstrates through methodological reflections and carefully chosen case studies a new way to conduct study of religion. It focuses on how social actors negotiate what counts as “religion” and how discourses on religion are part of the way in which contemporary societies organise themselves. The present volume draws on examples from judicial processes, media discourses, and scholarly debates related to Wiccans, Druids, and Jedi knights, among others. By analysing discourses on religion and building on, rather than rejecting, genealogical critiques of religion, Teemu Taira argues that the study of religion can be constructive and socially relevant.

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Teemu Taira, Ph.D. (Turku, 2006), is Senior Lecturer in the Study of Religion at the University of Helsinki. He has published extensively on theoretical and methodological issues in the study of religion, religion and the media, and atheism in public discourse, including Media Portrayals of Religion and the Secular Sacredwith Kim Knott and Elizabeth Poole (Ashgate, 2013).
1 Introduction: Taking “Religion“ Seriously
 1 How This Approach Differs from Other Studies of “Religion”
 2 A Look at the Content
2 The Discursive Approach: Theory, Method and the Study of Religion
 1 Outline for a Discursive Study of Religion
 2 Differences within Discursive Approaches
 3 Struggling for a Discursive Study of Religion: A Debate on Disciplinary Identity
 4 Structural Challenges in the Study of Religion
 5 Conclusion
3 Religion as a Discursive Technique: The Politics of Classifying Wicca
 1 The Finnish Context
 2 What Happened to the Wiccans?
 3 Registration as a Social Interest
 4 The Benefits of Being a Religious Community
 5 Governing by Classification
 6 Scholars as Participants in Classificatory Practice
 7 Conclusion
4 The Art of Becoming a Religion: Law, Media and Experts
 1 Registering Religious Communities in Finland
 2 Key Interests behind the Process
 3 Negotiating “Religion”: The First Round
 4 Negotiating “Religion”: The Second Round
 5 Involving Researchers and the Media
 6 Conclusion
5 The Category of “Religion“ in Public Classification: Charity Registration of the Druid Network (with Suzanne Owen)
 1 “Religion” and Charity Law
 2 Negotiating “Religion” in the Druid Network’s Application
 3 Motives, Responses, Implications
 4 Conclusion: “Religion” in Regulating and Enabling
6 Jedi Knights and the Category of Invented Religion
 1 Evaluating the Theoretical Utility of “Invented Religion”
 2 Alternative Framework: Studying Discourse on Religion
 3 Man with a Hood: The Curious Case of Chris Jarvis
 4 Inclusion, Exclusion, Reflexivity
 5 Conclusion
7 Rethinking the Classroom: Teaching the World Religions
 1 Teaching and Un-teaching “Religions in the World”
 2 Problematising and Historicising the Discourse on World Religions
 3 Partial Steps Forward: Ethnography and “Making the Tent Bigger”
 4 Exploration of the Category of “Religion” in the Classroom
 5 Resources for the Classroom
 6 Teaching Again: Living with Compromises
 7 Conclusion
8 Critics and Allies in Studying “Religion“
 1 Defining Religion Anew? No Thanks!
 2 Material/ist and Affective Turns
 3 Different Ways to Be Critical
 4 Acknowledging That the Work Is Not Done
The academic market, especially those scholars of religion who are interested in method and theory; the upper end of the undergraduate and postgraduate market, particularly because the application and development of the proposed approach with case studies make it easy to follow.
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