13. Theories as Borders: Sites of Entry and Exit in Comparative Religion
Contemporary Views on Comparative Religion - In Celebration of Tim Jensen’s 65th Birthday - Peter Antes
Veikko Kalevi Anttonen
University of Turku (retired)
Considering the range of issues that might valorize contemporary views on comparative religion, I came to think that scholars’ positioning of themselves in reference to the category of religion and to its diverse conceptualizations might provide a good entry to reflect on the present state of affairs in the field at large. The academic study of religion is in a state of flux. On the one hand, the field has benefited from the new visibility of religion in the era of global economy and the re-emergence of religion as a social and political force. On the other hand, questions revolving around the discipline’s positioning in reference to theological scholarship and the natural sciences have surfaced and raised conversations over its identity and boundary issues. The discourse on religion takes on either positive or negative associations depending on the location of the observer who applies and cultivates the concept. Perceptions of religions are closely connected with the cultures, languages, and traditions within which they have become established, and in which they are transmitted in various forms from one generation to the next as part of the cultural heritage and birthright. Even though scholars from different academic backgrounds may come up with different criteria regarding what constitutes the territory of the study of religion, we necessarily perceive the disciplinary landscape and create conceptual borders from the vantage point that our identifications provide us.