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Social Imaginaries

Volume 3, Issue 2, Autumn 2017
Approaches to Religion

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Displaying: 1-10 of 13 documents


1. Social Imaginaries: Volume > 3 > Issue: 2
Johann P. Arnason Introduction
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2. Social Imaginaries: Volume > 3 > Issue: 2
Joel S. Kahn The Inner Lives of Javanese Muslims: Modern Sufi Visions in Indonesian Islam
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This paper draws on fieldwork in Indonesia and uses its findings to clarify questions about the differentiation of trends in contemporary Islam. Modernist and reformist currents are commonly distinguished from the Islamist revival that finds expression in political and sometimes violent activism; but a closer look at the field suggests a more diversified picture. A current of inner-oriented piety, akin to the Sufi tradition but also responsive to modern conditions and challenges, is documented through interviews with Javanese spiritual leaders. The methodological issues raised by this approach are not unrelated to those accompanying the ‘ontological turn’ in anthropology; in this case, they have to do with an esoteric Islam oriented towards the sacred and the secular worlds at the same time, critical of the legalism too often identified with Islam, and open to dialogue with other religions. On the historical level, the roots of this religious orientation should be sought in the mystical traditions that grew out of Islam’s encounter with Hinduism and Buddhism in the Indonesian archipelago.
3. Social Imaginaries: Volume > 3 > Issue: 2
Jörg Rupke ‘Religion’ as Conceptualised in a Roman Perspective
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Definitions and theories of religion have been developed and discarded in an ongoing debate, which has been fuelled as much by post-colonial critique, theories of modernity, and postmodernist positions, as by new foci on old and new media. By starting from the challenges to adequately describe historical phenomena that could be fruitfully compared to religious action in other geographical and chronological settings, methodological options are developed and theorised with regard to an adequate, that is, fruitful model and theory of religion. More concretely, it is proposed to analyse ancient Roman religion as ‘lived ancient religion’ and to conceptualise this religion as religious agency, communication, and collective identity. The basis for this analysis is a recollection of the critique raised against an approach that had reduced ancient religion to ideological and ritual systems bolstering political and (in the context of Greek and Roman cities) ‘civic’ identities. Instead, I argue that the ancient evidence demands an approach that focusses on individual actors and their situational and strategic uses of religious communication. ‘Traditions’ are shaped and modified in such acts of ‘appropriation’.
4. Social Imaginaries: Volume > 3 > Issue: 2
Martin Fuchs ‘Hermeneutik des Neuen’. Ruptures and Innovations of Religious Interpretation—Reflections from Indian Religious History: The Case of Bhakti
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This paper discusses the Indian religious current known as bhakti, a cluster of movements and ideas with a long history traced back at least to the Bhagavad Gita, and confronts this case with problems debated in Western cultural hermeneutics. Bhakti is commonly seen as a devotional type of religiosity, opening up new dimensions of religious experience and inventing unconventional, even antinomian forms of expression; more recently, it has also been studied as a vehicle of religious individualization. The hermeneutical questions posed by this historical phenomenon have to do with both sides of the constellation known to social theorists as the double hermeneutic of social life, i.e. the meanings involved in and developed through the initiatives and exchanges of social actors, as well as the interpretive frameworks applied in scholarly analyses. The idea of social imaginaries constitutes a link between these two aspects. On both levels, the case of bhakti raises specific and central problems. It represents a particular pattern of orthodoxy and dissent, unfolding in contact and contest, and very different from the Western-based models of such configurations. For further hermeneutical reflection on this field, Paul Ricoeur’s philosophy—with its emphasis on translation and “oneself as another”—seems better equipped than Gadamer’s work, which in the last instance subordinates understanding of the other to self-understanding.
5. Social Imaginaries: Volume > 3 > Issue: 2
Matthias Riedl Terrorism as ‘Apocalyptic Violence’: On the Meaning and Validity of a New Analytical Category
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This article discusses the category of ‘apocalyptic violence’, which has been frequently applied in recent studies of terrorism. It shows that the category is not self-explanatory because apocalyptic literature is traditionally determinist and rather dissuades their readers from taking action. A historical overview demonstrates that revolutionary forms of apocalypticism emerge only in early modernity, when mystical and humanist influences undermined the determinist creed. A more differentiated concept of ‘apocalyptic violence’ is then tested using the example of several cases of modern terrorism. The result is that the category is meaningful for understanding certain trends within modern terrorism, especially as it captures the symbolic self-interpretation of terrorist groups more adequately than the categories extremism and fundamentalism. However, the article also shows that the category has clear limits and is not suitable for a comprehensive understanding of the motivational and ideological grounds behind terroristic violence.
6. Social Imaginaries: Volume > 3 > Issue: 2
Johann P. Arnason Theorizing the History of Religions: The Weberian Agenda and its Unresolved Issues
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The paper begins with a brief discussion of French approaches to religion, with particular emphasis on interpretations of and responses to Durkheim’s work. This survey of the French tradition then serves as a background to more detailed analyses of Max Weber’s work on the historical sociology of religions. Specific features of the Weberian project stand out in contrast to French conceptions; but to gain an adequate grasp of his problematic, it is necessary to think beyond his incomplete arguments and spell out the underlying or adumbrated themes. Although Weber’s civilizational studies are at first sight centred on ‘economic ethics’, it can be shown that the perspective shifts towards the question of religion and politics. Closer examination of theocracy, a marginal notion in Weber’s writings, but open to more complex interpretations, and of sacral rulership as a more general category, throws light on the religio-political nexus and its civilizational contexts. A further issue, less explicitly present in Weber’s writings, but relevant to his main concern, is the relationship between religion and philosophy. All these aspects should be discussed in more concrete historical terms than Weber could do a century ago, and the processes that led from archaic civilizations to the axial age are of particular importance.
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7. Social Imaginaries: Volume > 3 > Issue: 2
Natalie J. Doyle Critical Introduction to Alain Caillé and Marcel Gauchet: An Exchange on the Place of Religious Meaning in the Self-Institution of Human Societies
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8. Social Imaginaries: Volume > 3 > Issue: 2
Alain Caillé, Natalie J. Doyle On the Politico-Religious: Seventeen Embryonic Theses (Plus One) Written in the Spirit of Sociological Topics
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9. Social Imaginaries: Volume > 3 > Issue: 2
Marcel Gauchet, Natalie J. Doyle The Political and Religion: Twelve Propositions in Reply to Alain Caillé
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10. Social Imaginaries: Volume > 3 > Issue: 2
Alain Caillé, Natalie J. Doyle, George Renuka New Theses on Religion
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