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The Relevance of Fitzgerald’s Critical Approach to the Study of Religions in Asia

Issue: Vol 22 No. 3-4 (2019) Special Issue: Twenty Years After - The Ideology of Religious Studies

Journal: Implicit Religion

Subject Areas: Religious Studies

DOI: 10.1558/imre.41105


During my doctoral research, I looked at a specific type of medium who lives in the north of Japan. Although many of these figures are categorised as religious, the activity and role they cover in their communities goes beyond the “religious” function. In light of this consideration, I became interested in the use of the term religion, as its application in this context limited the capacity to understand these mediums. As I began questioning the category of religion, I was introduced by my supervisor to The Ideology of Religious Studies by Fitzgerald. The book quickly became a relevant source to understand the development of the discourse on the study of religion and in my specific region of research: Asia, and more specifically, Japan. Since then, I have applied his critical approach to the study of religion to my methodology of research, coupling it with visual ethnographic methods, “giving a body” to Fitzgerald’s observations in his critique of religion in Asia. This paper will explore the use of the critical religion approach in the analysis of the use of the concept in Japan and, more specifically, in the study of the Itako mediums of Nord Tohoku. This work will also be related to the visual ethnographic work moulded on the critique of religion as conceived by Fitzgerald.

Author: Ilaria Vecchi

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