Legitimizing Claims of Special Knowledge
Towards an Epistemic Turn in Religious Studies
Keywords:social epistemology, Gnosticism, conspiracy theories, knowledge, decolonialization
A significant function of the category “religion” is demarcating and insulating particular claims of special knowledge — but too often, Religious Studies serves to mystify and defend this function, rather than critically analysing it. Drawing on categories in which claims of special knowledge are central, including Gnosticism, conspiracy theories and esotericism, this paper will look at the history of Religious Studies scholars operating within epistemes which it should be critiquing. Yet a focus on multiple and overlapping knowledges, and competition over epistemic capital, suggests a possible future for the social-scientific study of religion.
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