Adventures and Misadventures in Comparison
The introduction establishes the book's foundation by reviewing the history and critique of the comparative method, also reciting rebuttals posed by proponents of a new comparativism. Responding to Jonathan Z. Smith's criticisms of past comparative studies and his prescription for an approach that furthers the field and its study, the introduction outlines how each chapter uses comparison to investigate and hone categories and assumptions central to the discipline. Examined throughout the book are conceptions of “the sacred,” a category hotly contested by practitioners and recently truncated or neglected by scholars. The introduction frames the sacred as an enlivening category for comparing multilayered religious contexts, one that connotes transcendent meaning and power yet is not limited to the metaphysical or hegemonic. As an intricately woven reference structure, the sacred can be especially useful when casting the wide net of comparison; moreover, comparative explorations provide multifaceted scenarios from which to deepen understandings of the sacred in its complexity.
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