Discursive Study of Religion: Approaches, Definitions, Implications

In: Method & Theory in the Study of Religion
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  • 1 University of Groningen, Department of Comparative and Historical Study of Religion, Oude Boteringestraat 38, 9712 GK Groningen, The
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The article explores recent approaches to historical analysis of discourse that have been developed in disciplines such as the sociology of knowledge and historical epistemology. These approaches have only sporadically been taken seriously in the academic study of religion, although they have a great potential to establish a study of religion that is both academically rigorous and aware of its societal and historical contexts and limitations. The article defines the necessary concepts for a discursive study of religion as an hermeneutical discipline that scrutinizes and historicizes the societal organization of knowledge about religion. This discourse on religion—defined here as religion—generates, legitimizes, and maintains meaning structures and societal realities. The discourse-historical analysis of religion is not itself a method but a research perspective. Nevertheless, this perspective implies several steps in designing a research project that the article describes with concrete examples.

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