Religious Studies and its Relationship with Theology: A Spatial Analysis
Academic disciplines can be understood as tribes with their own territories (Becher 1989) which are protected from outsiders and invested with power and meaning for those within. The language which scholars use to delineate and distinguish them from one another is replete with spatial metaphor and the language of war and struggle. References to inside/outside, inclusion/exclusion, to boundaries, incursions, incorporation, integration and embrace are frequently made, particularly when scholars write about their own discipline in relation to others. In this article I offer a spatial analysis of discourse about the discipline of religious studies and its relationship to theology. I note the importance in such discourse of the container schema (Lakoff and Johnson 1999) for depicting possible disciplinary relationships and various perspectives on ‘religion’ as an object of study. A spatial approach offers a clear visual depiction of the views of selected scholars of religion on the relationship of religious studies to theology, whilst also revealing some of the power strategies at work in disciplinary construction.
Keywords: Religious studies, Theology, spatial language, academic disciplines
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