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Considering ComparisonA Method for Religious Studies$
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Oliver Freiberger

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780199965007

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: February 2019

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780199965007.001.0001

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Comparison: Critiques and Challenges

Comparison: Critiques and Challenges

(p.45) 2 Comparison: Critiques and Challenges
Considering Comparison

Oliver Freiberger

Oxford University Press

This chapter addresses theoretical critiques that have been raised and challenges with which comparison is confronted. It first demonstrates that comparison has been used in service of different and contradictory agendas—affirmative or critical of religion—and is therefore not tied to any specific ideological framework. It discusses the most common objections: that comparative studies decontextualize and essentialize religious phenomena. It then engages with postcolonialist and postmodernist critiques of the comparative method and their insistence on acknowledging difference. Turning to the opposite side of the academic spectrum, the chapter reviews the relation of naturalistic approaches (such as the cognitive science of religion) to comparison and their focus on universals and sameness. Acknowledging the critiques and challenges and recognizing their limitations sets the stage for the reflections about comparative methodology in Chapter 3.

Keywords:   decontextualization, essentialization, postcolonialism, postmodernism, cognitive science of religion

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