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The Discourse on Primal Religion

Disentangling Regimes of Truth

David Atwood

This article presents a formalized way to distinguish different regimes of truth in the historiography of religion. By focusing on the nineteenth-century European discourse on the origins of humanity and its (primal) religion in Africa, I will show how narratives of the origin always oscillate between a scientific and a religious regime of truth. The article further outlines a possible method to formally differentiate between insider and outsider positions by redefining them as the assignment to a certain way of organizing a discourse or a semantic field according to a regime of truth. A discourse analysis and sociology of knowledge approach reveals possibilities to distinguish different constructions of insider perspectives by heuristically identifying codes, rarefactions, rules of formations, and regimes of truth.