Book: Restoring the Chain of Memory
Chapter: Strehlow the ‘Insider’ as a Phenomenologist of Religion
After having completed the review of Strehlow’s own writings about Arrernte myths, social organisation and ceremonies in the previous chapters, chapter seven draws conclusions about the theoretical method Strehlow employed when gathering research data and interpreting his findings for outside audiences. The argument is made that, although Strehlow never referred to himself in such terms, it is accurate to call him a phenomenologist of religion. This is derived in the first instance from his claim to be an ‘insider’ to Arrernte culture based on his childhood experiences, his linguistic competence and on the trust demonstrated in him by senior Elders. He also stood back and operated as an ‘outsider’ when interpreting meanings associated with Arrernte religious customs. In these ways, he fitted into a model of research based on the assumption widely shared by phenomenologists working in the field of the academic study of religions that the aim of their research is to achieve an understanding in-depth of the communities they are studying. After outlining key concepts associated with the phenomenology of religion and the phases in its implementation, Strehlow’s approach is examined and found to reflect the principal aims associated with the phenomenological method in the study of religion.