Book: Constructing Data in Religious Studies
Chapter: 7. The Red Hot Iron: Religion, Nonreligion and the Material
The heightened attention to material manifestations of religion in the last decades of the 20th century has led to a new outburst of phenomenological scholarship. However, phenomenology is not intrinsic to the material approach. Petra Klug would go even further to state that the attention to material aspects of religion can be of benefit to a critical study of religion. The problem lies in the definition of religion, but the author doesn't think that it is entirely encompassed in the distinction between emic and etic or through a critique of religion as a sui generis category. Common definitions of religion usually frame what is understood as religion through its meaning for the religious alone. What religion means for the rest of society—for the nonreligious or also for religious non-conformists, and in turn for the critical scholarship about religion—is not included, and leaves a blind spot in such a definition. A focus on the material manifestations of religion can help to make this impact visible if it overcomes the romantic idealization of religion through religious and academic discourse. However, this requires reflecting on some methodological challenges, which become more apparent through the focus on material manifestations of religion, but are inherent to the field in its entirety.