Syncretism versus synthesis1

In: Method & Theory in the Study of Religion


By first examining the academic, theoretical discourse that takes up the concept of syncretism, and then looking at its application in a Japanese case study, the argument put forward in this paper looks at a) how the usage of the term syncretism in cultural studies has become disconnected from its theoretical framework, b) how syncretism is not synthesis and c) how, within the process of acculturation, syncretism is a necessary theoretical concept that demands academic attention. In order to demonstrate clearly the viability of the concept of syncretism, this article explicates characteristics of syncretistic patterns in a case study. What becomes evident is that the concept of syncretism has emerged as a powerful analytic tool in the study of religions.

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