The classification of religions and religious classifications: a genre approach to the origin of religions

Scholars have long worried over the fact that the categories of religion that they bring to their scholarship imperfectly match folk classifications of the 'same' religion. The more precisely we attempt to define a religion, the more our target seems to elude our grasp. Here, I argue that...

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Bibliographic Details
Published in:Culture and religion
Main Author: Walser, Joseph
Format: Electronic/Print Article
Language:English
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Published: [2015]
In:Culture and religion
Year: 2015, Volume: 16, Issue: 4, Pages: 345-371
Standardized Subjects / Keyword chains:B Religion / Classification / Rise of / Genre theory
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Summary:Scholars have long worried over the fact that the categories of religion that they bring to their scholarship imperfectly match folk classifications of the 'same' religion. The more precisely we attempt to define a religion, the more our target seems to elude our grasp. Here, I argue that by looking at religions through the lens of genre theory, we can make more sense of both the range of classifications as well as the apparent uniformity assumed by scholars and practitioners at any given moment. Religious classes are nouns. The tack taken by a genre theory is to think of genres as verbs that are either performed by producers or distinguished by critics. When the emphasis shifts to actions and decisions made by individuals, we begin to address the variations and fluctuations that could not be accounted for when religious classes were understood as either objectively or analytically given. Moreover, when religious categories are simply taken as given, we have no way to talk about the origin of new categories (i.e. of new religions). Emphasising the verbal aspect of producing and of criticising allows us to explain the origins of religions as the efforts of producers and critics working in tandem.
ISSN:1475-5610
Contains:Enthalten in: Culture and religion
Persistent identifiers:DOI: 10.1080/14755610.2015.1090465