Theorizing Religion and Nationalism
The Need for Critical Reflexivity in the Analysis of Overlapping Areas of Research
Keywords:nationalism, religious-nationalism, theory and method, nation-states, stateless nations, conflict, ethnicity, universalism
AbstractThis introduction urges critical scholars of religion to apply the same contextual rigour and critical reflexivity to “nationalism” that they would to “religion” because the former is an area of study which is frequently bound up with religion. The fact of their mutual entanglement means that unreflective or essentialized approaches to the “nationalism” which form an unavoidable part of our studies of “religion” will inevitably have a detrimental impact on our analysis of our object of study. The chapters in this special edition of Implicit Religion address theoretical issues which emerge from particular case studies related to religion and nationalism. This introduction provides a more general discussion of nationalism from a religious studies perspective (though one thoroughly indebted to nationalism studies scholars: I will make a case for the broader approach to nationalism prevalent in that field). As such, I will address one thing which is associated with religion and nationalism: conflict. I demonstrate that many of the same assumptions which can be critiqued in the study of religious conflict are also identifiable with claims about nationalism. I show that the critical rigour needed to approach “nationalism” often simply involves the application of the same critical tools and observations developed in the study of religion: avoiding essentialism, emphasizing the importance of context, avoiding reifying the objects of study etc.
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