• Emergence of the Modern Academic Study of Religion: An Analytical Survey of Various Interpretations

    Muhammad Akram (see profile)
    Islamicate Studies, Religious Studies
    Religions, Methodology, Civilization, Modern, Religion, Enlightenment
    Item Type:
    Method and Theory in the Study of Religion, Theology of Religions, Religious studies, Comparative religion, Methodologies, Modernity
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    This paper discusses various interpretations about the emergence of the academic study of religion in the modern world. It is viewed that the expansion of Europe and resultant engagement of European consciousness with religious and cultural otherness played a role. Internally, the Enlightenment movement had prepared the ground for a critical and objectified gaze at the phenomenon of religion on the one hand while Romanticism had generated a kind of fascination for oriental religions and exotic cultures, on the other. Similarly, the Christian theology, which had already gone through a transformation, is also linked to the whole enterprise either as a disciplinary other or as a participating actor. The paper shows that available interpretations of the development range from viewing it as an encroachment of the scientific project into the realm of religion to a marriage of convenience between science and religion. In the final analysis, an integrative and inclusive view of various interpretive narratives has been adopted. It is maintained that since the modern academic study of religion itself is characterised by a diversity of approaches, theoretical perspectives, and regional contexts, therefore, heterogeneity of the narratives regarding its beginnings is but a logical consequence. Still, interrogation into these narratives is useful for a better contextual understanding of various epistemological and methodological inclinations prevalent in the academic study of religion in our own times. The emergence of the academic study of religion in the modern world—variously known as Religionswissenschaft, Science of Religion, Comparative Religion, History of Religion, and Religious Studies—has been subject to various interpretations. The interpretive narratives in this context draw on a broad range of discourses such as science and religion, tradition and modernity, and colonial project of the European powers and their encounter with other
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    Journal article    
    Last Updated:
    3 years ago


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