The Study of Religious Experience - Approaches and Methodologies - Bettina E. Schmidt

The Study of Religious Experience - Approaches and Methodologies - Bettina E. Schmidt

1. How to Study Religious Experience: Historical and Methodological Reflections on the Study of the Paranormal

The Study of Religious Experience - Approaches and Methodologies - Bettina E. Schmidt

Fiona Bowie [+-]
University of Oxford
Fiona Bowie is a Research Associate in the School of Anthropology and Museum Ethnography, Oxford. She studied anthropology at the universities of Durham and Oxford, specialising in the anthropology of religion, with regional interests in Cameroon, and Wales. Fiona has taught at several universities in the UK and overseas, including the University of Wales, Bristol University, and the University of Virginia, in areas related to religion, gender, spirituality, kinship, ethnography and the afterlife. She is widely published, including recent chapters in The Study of Religious Experience (Equinox, 2016), Talking with the Spirits: Ethnographies from between the Worlds (Daily Grail Publishing 2014) and The Cambridge Companion to Miracles (CUP, 2011).

Description

In this paper I will give a brief account of the role of experience in the study of religion, from E. B. Tylor and Andrew Lang in the Nineteenth Century to so-called ‘ontological turn’ in the Twenty First Century. I propose a form of cognitive, empathetic engagement as an ethnographic method that is well suited to the study of religious experience. In essence this implies openness to the other, critical awareness of one’s own perspective, and reluctance to move too quickly to explanation. It is consistent with aspects of phenomenological, dialogical and ontological ethnographic methods, as well as the anthropology of wonder, which has been used to bridge ethnographic and theological perspectives. I then use the study of the afterlife as an example of the ‘common core’ or ‘experiential hypothesis’ of religion, which brings us back to the key role of experience in the formation of religious ideas and practices.

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Citation

Bowie, Fiona. 1. How to Study Religious Experience: Historical and Methodological Reflections on the Study of the Paranormal. The Study of Religious Experience - Approaches and Methodologies. Equinox eBooks Publishing, United Kingdom. p. 13-32 Aug 2016. ISBN 971781792575. https://www.equinoxpub.com/home/view-chapter/?id=26575. Date accessed: 26 Jun 2019 doi: 10.1558/equinox.26575. Aug 2016

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