Religion and the Study of Social Memory
In recent decades memory studies have gained great popularity in the humanities and social sciences, and not without cause. At least since the 1980s we have witnessed something which has been called an international memory boom. The article first looks at some explanations as to why memory fascinates people of our own time; it then focuses on questions as to how we can study religion from the point of view of social memory. The discussion is based on ideas derived from the French sociologists Maurice Halbwachs and Danièle Hervieu-Léger, and is structured in terms of recollection, events, narratives, communities and tradition. Finally, I reflect upon the criticism directed against the theory of religion as a chain of memory in the study of world religions, the latter of course being one of the main tasks of our discipline. In the concluding remarks, I comment on the simultaneous rise during recent decades of religion and of a worldwide interest in memory: both address the need to belong to and be part of something larger.
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