Journal Article

The Discipline and Its Other: The Dialectic of Alterity in the Study of Religion

José Ignacio Cabezón

in Journal of the American Academy of Religion

Published on behalf of American Academy of Religion

Volume 74, issue 1, pages 21-38
Published in print March 2006 | ISSN: 0002-7189
Published online January 2006 | e-ISSN: 1477-4585 | DOI:
The Discipline and Its Other: The Dialectic of Alterity in the Study of Religion

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The academic study of religion emerges, in part at least, from an encounter with the religious Other. This essay traces out a history of this encounter, a history that is dialectical. In each historic moment, the simple dichotomy that was previously thought to ground a hard and facile distinction between self and other comes to be challenged. But in the wake of such challenges, new categories come to be posited, categories on the basis of which the Self can (once again) emerge not simply as different from, but also as superior to the Other. This process – this dialectic of alterity – is as operative today in the discipline of religious studies as it was in the discipline’s antecedents. We consider some of the core concepts around which the identity of the discipline is constructed in the present moment: the categories that allow for the differentiation of the discipline from its Other(s), and for its emergence in a position of superiority vis a vis its Other(s). The essay concludes by identifying four recent developments that are challenging a notion of the discipline constructed in these terms.

Journal Article.  8154 words. 

Subjects: Religious Studies

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