“SEE MOM IT IS REAL”

The uk Census, Jediism and Social Media

In: Journal of Religion in Europe
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  • 1 University of Cambridge

Lewis () identifies three strategies of legitimation used by New Religions: rationality-tradition-charisma. Using the case of Jediism and the uk Censuses of 2001 and 2011, this article refutes the argument that the invented-ness, or self-conscious creation, of some New Religious Movements prevents their strategic reference to tradition for legitimation. Instead, this article explores a more contemporary understanding of tradition that takes into account how it can work online. Virtual ethnographic methods are used to examine the e-mail campaigns prior to the Censuses, as well as subsequent discussions about Jediism on Twitter and forum boards. This research shows how social media provides new sources of “tradition” that individuals and groups can reference to “prove” that Jediism is a really real religion. More formal, external, mechanisms of legitimation such as the uk and usa tax laws, charitable status and the uk Racial and Religious Hatred Act are explored as providers of “tradition” and authority – even when it is shown that they are negatively commenting on Jediism’s status as a legitimate religion. The “snowball” -like accumulation of legitimacy through interactions between informal and formal mechanisms shows that tradition is still referred to, even by “Invented Religions”.

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  • 2

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  • 3

    Titus Hjelm, “Between Satan and Harry Potter: Legitimating Wicca in Finland”, Journal of Contemporary Religion 21/1 (2006), 34.

  • 4

    Carole Cusack, Invented Religions: Imagination, Fiction and Faith (Farnham: Ashgate, 2010).

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    Christine Hine, Virtual Ethnography, (London: Sage, 2000).

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    Robert V. Kozinets, Netnography, (London: Sage, 2010).

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    Hine, Virtual Ethnography, 13.

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    Hine, Virtual Ethnography, 48.

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    Hine, Virtual Ethnography, 10.

  • 13

    Sarah Pink, Doing Sensory Ethnography (London: Sage, 2009).

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    Hine, Virtual Ethnography, 50.

  • 15

    Postill and Pink, “Social Media Ethnography”, 2.

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    Michele Zappavigna, The Discourse of Twitter and Social Media (London; New York: Continuum, 2012), 14.

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    Zappavigna, The Discourse of Twitter and Social Media, 29.

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    Zappavigna, The Discourse of Twitter and Social Media, 67.

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  • 52

    Hine, Virtual Ethnography, 100.

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