Chapter 1: Relational Religious Lives: Beyond Insider/Outsider Binaries in the Study of Religion
George D. Chryssides [+]
University of Birmingham and York St John University
Stephen E. Gregg [+]
University of Wolverhampton
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.