Book: On the Subject of Religion
Chapter: 4. Main Paper: International Perspectives on/in the Field
In my essay on international perspectives on/in the field of the study of religion, I opt for a multi-perspectival approach that reveals the centrifugal and centripetal forces at work in our academic enterprise in this globalizing, technology-driven world. I begin with the significant role played by the International Association for the History of Religions (IAHR), as the “preeminent international forum for the critical, analytical and cross-cultural study of religion, past and present” in the internationalizing of the field, and my own involvement in these developments since the 1990s. However, I choose to focus on the regional and affiliated associations--the meso level, so to speak--for the window they afford onto changing international dimensions. I then explore a range of (some, but not all, IAHR-related) communities of scholars, learned societies, book series, journals, working groups, academic programs, and collaborative research initiatives. I consider that these various “hubs” and “agents” for a more globally inflected and interconnected study of religion reveal a complex range of responses, strategies, and struggles in relation to internationalization processes in our field. These processes may be internally or externally generated (or both). I contend that by using this “nodal” and “interstitial” approach, one can better discern how the “international” trope is variously defined and deployed, whether as best practice, value addition, recalibration, legitimacy, elitism, or redemption.