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The Insider/Outsider Debate

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Russell McCutcheon’s The Insider-Outsider Problem, written in 1999, tends to be regarded as the definitive work on the topic, and relatively little has been written since then. It has become apparent, however, that the distinction between “insiders” and “outsiders” is unduly simplistic, and that there exists a range of stakeholders in religious and spiritual movements with different positionings and testimonies requiring evaluation.

This volume furthers the discussion of insider/outsider issues by commissioning a variety of new essays from an international group of scholars, discussing a number of points that stem from the different positionings of religious adherents as well as scholars. The questioning of these boundaries has many implications for numerous methodological issues in the study of religion, such as the emic/etic distinction, the distinction between religion and spirituality, the notions of “believing without belonging”, the claim to be “spiritual but not religious” and the existence of multiple, complicated, contesting religious identities. A particular focus of the volume will be in providing critiques of these methodological issues within the most recent academic approaches to religion - particularly models of lived and vernacular religion.

Unlike McCutcheon’s volume, which is a collection of previously published essays, this proposed volume consists entirely of new material, drawn from an international range of scholars, spanning a variety of disciplines and approaches to the study, including ethnography, anthropology, theology and education. The book is accessible and readable, while remaining scholarly.

Published: Oct 1, 2019

Book Contributors

Section Chapter Authors
Introduction George Chryssides, Stephen Gregg
Part One: New Methodological Approaches in the Study of Religion
Chapter 1: Relational Religious Lives: Beyond Insider/Outsider Binaries in the Study of Religion George Chryssides, Stephen Gregg
Chapter 2: The Emics and Etics of Religion: What we Know, How we Know it, and Why this Matters Steven Sutcliffe
Chapter 3: The Death Pangs of the Insider/Outsider Dichotomy in the Study of Religion Ron Geaves
Chapter 4: Research Ethics Beyond the Binaries of Right and Wrong Marie Dallam
Chapter 5: Taking the Body Seriously, Taking Relationalities Seriously: An Embodied and Relational Approach to Ethnographic Research in the Study of (Lived) Religion Nina Hoel
Chapter 6: Negotiating Blurred Boundaries: An Ethnographic and Methodological Consideration Fiona Bowie
Chapter 7: On the Edge of the Inside: Contemplative Approaches to the Study of Religion Lynne Scholefield
Chapter 8: On the (Im)possibility of Participant-Observation Rebecca Moore
Chapter 9: Who Researches? Who Changes? Christian Autoethnography and Muslim Pupil Identity in a Church of England Primary School Tom Wilson
Chapter 10: Imported Insider/Outsider Boundaries: The Case of Contemporary Chinese Christianity Researchers Naomi Thurston
Part Two: Contested Identities in the Study of Religion
Chapter 11: Close Encounters of a Guru Kind: Ethnographic Research as Encounters with the Cognitive Worlds of Others Stephen Jacobs
Chapter 12: Who is a Jew? New Approaches to an Old Question Dan Cohn-Sherbok
Chapter 13: Between Institutional Oppression and Spiritual Liberation: The Female Ordination Movement in the Catholic Church and its Utilisation of Social Media Lyndel Spence
Chapter 14: Navigating Multiplicity in a Binary World: Complex Religious Identity in Java, Indonesia Katherine Rand
Chapter 15: When it Gets Crowded under the Umbrella: An Examination of Scholarly Categorisation of Buddhist Communities in the United States Claire Skriletz
Chapter 16: Being Catholic since Vatican II: Challenges and Opportunities in Post-Secular Times Andrew Lynch
Chapter 17: Reflexive and Holistic Switchers: Older Women/Newer Commitments Janet Eccles
Chapter 18: Scientology Inside Out: Complex Religious Belonging in the Church of Scientology and the Free Zone Stephen Gregg, Aled Thomas
Chapter 19: Moving Out - Disengagement and Ex-Membership in New Religious Movements George Chryssides
Chapter 20: Both Outside and Inside: 'Ex-Members' of New Religions and Spiritualities and the Maintenance of Community and Identity on the Internet Carole Cusack