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Till Mostowlansky

Abstract

This article is an ethnographic study of Ismaʿili communities along the Pamir Highway. “The road,” as it is referred to locally, links Southern Kyrgyzstan with settlements in the eastern part of Tajikistan; its construction traces back to Soviet modernization policy. However, the highway’s construction in the course of the twentieth century led not only to a physical, but also a social transformation of the region. Labor migration of Ismaʿili Tajiks to various settlements along the road resulted in ethnically and confessionally mixed communities. Thus, the Pamir Highway as an ethnographic point of reference provides an entry to discussion of topics such as genealogy, identity, diaspora, and the notion of an Ismaʿili heartland.

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“The Very Act of Cutting”

Ethnomethodology, Interaction and the Emic–Etic Debate

Till Mostowlansky

In the course of the emic–etic debate in the scientific study of religion\s, two complexes—insider–outsider and emic–etic—have increasingly become entangled. Taken against this backdrop, this article argues that ethnomethodology provides a methodological and epistemological outlook on these two complexes that can support efforts to disentangle them. Based on the discussion of ethnomethodological studies, I trace this outlook back to ethnomethodology’s focus on observable social interaction as dynamic, situational, and directed toward the public. This focus rejects the preoccupation with what is going on “inside people’s heads,” and thus underlines the methodological and epistemological redundancy of the insider–outsider distinction. Finally, I maintain that ethnomethodology and the majority of strands within the scientific study of religion\s are jointly rooted in an emic standpoint that concentrates on the study of specific contexts and interactions, and seeks to avoid generalized a priori classifications.

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A Matter of Perspective?

Disentangling the Emic–Etic Debate in the Scientific Study of Religion\s

Till Mostowlansky and Andrea Rota

This article introduces the emic–etic debate in the scientific study of religion\s and provides a frame for the special issue’s six articles on the topic. Departing from the broader debate’s early history in the 1960s, this article contextualizes the emic–etic debate and locates its point of entry into the scientific study of religion\s in the 1980s. This article argues that in the course of the debate the insider–outsider and emic–etic complexes have become entangled. In order to facilitate an understanding of the debate, this article maintains that the emic–etic debate in the scientific study of religion\s touches upon three central dimensions (existential–political, methodological, and epistemological). In order to move toward a clearer methodological and epistemological framework, this article furthermore proposes an iterative model that locates insider–outsider at the level of observers and emic–etic at the level of categories.