Finding Data

Some Reflections on Ontologies and Normativities


  • Kocku von Stuckrad



religion, nature, culture


The very name of the new International Society for the Study of Religion, Nature and Culture is a programmatic challenge. It brings together three concepts that are notoriously difficult to grasp. Instead of providing ultimate definitions for these concepts, this article argues that the object of scrutiny in academic research is not nature as such, but the cultural processes that produce certain ideas about nature as nature. Thus, ontological statements are our data; they are not part of our argument. The article argues for a contextualization and historicization of concepts of nature and exemplifies this with reference to a selection of topics that lend themselves to critical analysis. Ontologies and normativities, implicitly or explicitly, are powerful elements of any nature discourse. They constitute conflicting mindsets that determine the way people respond to their environment. In academic analysis, these mindsets are helpful tools for structuring historical processes and discursive formations, the latter including human action and societal realities. Mindsets are not only ways of thinking; they are inextricably bound to the ‘appropriation of nature’ that scholarly analysis has to decode and contextualize. Two culturally influential concepts of nature are used as an example of these processes.


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How to Cite

von Stuckrad, K. (2007). Finding Data: Some Reflections on Ontologies and Normativities. Journal for the Study of Religion, Nature and Culture, 1(1), 39–46.

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