Tradition as Cultural Transmission
Tradition - A Critical Primer - Steven Engler
Steven Engler [+]
Mount Royal University
Steven Engler is professor of Religious Studies at Mount Royal University in Calgary, Canada. He teaches a variety of courses and research popular Catholicism, Umbanda, Kardecist Spiritism and related spirit-incorporation religions in Brazil, as well as theories and methodology in the study of religions.
This chapter will review theoretical approaches that look at tradition in terms of cultural transmission (cultural memory, epidemiology of representations, functionalist views from sociology, and cognitivist views within the study of religion). It will critique these views’ implicit assumptions about truth and representation (the accuracy of relations between the putative origin and the later reception of tradition). The goal is to make a case that, despite their importance, these approaches are not the most useful or relevant for the study of religion: an ideology-critical approach captures other issues that, I will argue, are more central.