Chapter 1: Relational Religious Lives: Beyond Insider/Outsider Binaries in the Study of Religion

The Insider/Outsider Debate - New Perspectives in the Study of Religion - George D. Chryssides

George D. Chryssides [+-]
University of Birmingham and York St John University
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George D. Chryssides studied philosophy and theology at the University of Glasgow, and gained his doctorate from the University of Oxford. He taught philosophy and religious studies at various British universities, and was Head of Religious Studies at the University of Wolverhampton, England from 2001 to 2008. He is currently Honorary Research Fellow at York St John University. He has published extensively, principally on new religious movements, and recent publications include The A to Z of Jehovah’s Witnesses (2009); Heaven’s Gate: Postmodernity and Popular Culture in a Suicide Group (2011); Christians in the Twenty-First Century (with Margaret Z. Wilkins, 2011); Historical Dictionary of New Religious Movements (2012) and Jehovah’s Witnesses: Continuity and Change (2016). He has co-edited (with Benjamin E. Zeller) The Bloomsbury Companion to New Religious Movements (2014), and is currently working on The Bloomsbury Handbook on Studying Christians, edited with Stephen E. Gregg.
Stephen E. Gregg [+-]
University of Wolverhampton
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Stephen E. Gregg is Senior Lecturer in Religious Studies at the University of Wolverhampton, and Hon. Secretary of the British Association for the Study of Religions. He studied at the University of Wales, Lampeter, and has previously taught at the University of Wales, and Liverpool Hope University. His work focuses upon minority communities and muted voices in contemporary religion, and method and theory in the Study of Religion. Recent and in-press books include Jesus Beyond Christianity (Oxford University Press, 2010 with Gregory A. Barker) Engaging with Living Religion (Routledge, 2015 with Lynne Scholefield), A Universal Advaita: Swami Vivekananda and Non-Hindu Traditions (Routledge, forthcoming) and The Bloomsbury Handbook on Studying Christians (Bloomsbury, forthcoming with George D. Chryssides).


It has become clear that binary notions of religious belonging, based upon narrow views of religion as a monolithic category of participation, are no longer tenable within the Study of Religion. Similarly, recent scholarship has emphasised a relational approach to engagement with religious communities and individuals, critiquing previous conceptions of scholastic objectivity and participation. However, much pedagogy and research about religion and religions still uses insider and outsider categories uncritically. As methodology within the study of religion - and particularly the study of everyday religion - has developed in the last decade, a more nuanced understanding of what it means to be an insider or outsider is needed. Indeed, this focus upon the performance of everyday religious lives must lead to a re-evaluation of ‘what religion is’, thus complicating issues of situation and approach to religion and religious communities. In so doing, we complicate the associated relationships religious practitioners and scholars have with these religious individuals and communities. Quite simply, when we re-negotiate ‘what religion is’ and ‘what religious people do’, with the subsequent challenging of sacred/profane dichotomies, we create a landscape where structured and restrictive notions of ‘insideness’ or ‘outsideness’ may no longer apply. If this is indeed the case, we need to re-focus upon performed everyday narratives and malleable, often complicated and contested, religious identities at the overlaps and edges between researchers, individuals and religious hierarchies, communities and worldviews. This chapter aims to provide context for the current debate, and suggest a new relational continuum approach to the inside/outside issue in the Study of Religion which is reflective of contemporary developments in methodology, focusing in particular on issues of lived religion.

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Chryssides, George; Gregg, Stephen. Chapter 1: Relational Religious Lives: Beyond Insider/Outsider Binaries in the Study of Religion. The Insider/Outsider Debate - New Perspectives in the Study of Religion. Equinox eBooks Publishing, United Kingdom. p. Oct 2019. ISBN 9781781793442. Date accessed: 16 Jul 2019 doi: 10.1558/equinox.27422. Oct 2019

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