6. Objects and Objections: Methodological Reflections on the Data for Religious Studies

Constructing Data in Religious Studies - Examining the Architecture of the Academy - Leslie Dorrough Smith

Matthew Baldwin [+-]
Mars Hill University
Matthew C. Baldwin is Professor and Coordinator of the Program in Religion and Philosophy at Mars Hill University. He teaches courses in Bible, ancient history, Biblical languages, the American intellectual tradition, and method and theory in religious studies. He is the author of Whose Acts of Peter? Text and Historical Context of the Actus Vercellenses (Mohr-Siebeck, 2005).

Description

It has been argued that “there is no data for religion,” however, there do exist “data for Religious Studies” both in the sense that “Religious Studies” is a social formation within academia, and in the sense that scholars working in Religious Studies (and adjacent fields) have treated great masses of things in the world as givens (“data”) for purposes of their research. In spite of widespread theoretical objections which have questioned whether the category “religion” even names a distinct object of study, scholars continue to do “Religious Studies.” This essay examines the “data for religious studies,” in both senses of the phrase, concluding that scholars focused on “religion” are engaged in a colonialist and post-colonialist political/pedagogical project termed here the management of surprise. From this overview of the field and its data, the argument pivots to a closer examination of one current methodological trend, “material religion,” which emphasizes the peculiar value of material objects and artifacts as data for Religious Studies. Some prominent exponents of “material religion” (and its close cousin “lived religion”) are reviving a phenomenological, neo-Ottonian understanding of “religion” as a human response to manifestations of mysterious and transcendent non-human realities, in which they would argue material objects play an important mediatory role. Such exponents are here termed the school of the more. As an antidote to the mystifying metaphysics of presence advocated by the school of the more, this essay concludes with six theses on the study of “objects,” both material and ideal, within a “Religious Studies” conceived of as branch of the human sciences.

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Citation

Baldwin, Matthew. 6. Objects and Objections: Methodological Reflections on the Data for Religious Studies. Constructing Data in Religious Studies - Examining the Architecture of the Academy. Equinox eBooks Publishing, United Kingdom. p. Oct 2019. ISBN 9781781796764. https://www.equinoxpub.com/home/view-chapter/?id=34171. Date accessed: 19 Aug 2019 doi: 10.1558/equinox.34171. Oct 2019

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