Religião e Sociedade (Jan 2006)

New paradigms and the study of religion: an anti-essentialist reflection

  • Joanildo A. Burity,
  • Amanda Marie Lyons

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 1, no. se


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Over the last few years, there has been a heated debate among social scientists of religion whether we are going through a return of the sacred or an even deeper process of secularization. But this dilemma cannot be approached properly without a new gaze into religion, which may give more room to the internal logic of groups and to the disseminative character of religious-based imaginary and ethical elements across the social scenario. One must question integrationist and class-centred views, as well as their more encompassing paradigm - modernization and secularization theory. A new gaze that will not simply abandon or replace those theories, but will place itself at the margins, sometimes confronting, sometimes articulating modified versions of those more traditional views, so as to supplement them and not leave them untouched. It is a question of an inter- or perhaps post-disciplinary approach, which explores the frontiers of dominant narratives, thus defining new and old practitioners of the academic study of religion, hybrid zones between secularization and the theories of difference and multiculturalism, for example. This article discusses the emergence of new "paradigms" in the study of contemporary religion, through a dialogue between the recent Brazilian experience and the broader background of analyses produced in other social contexts.