Gaining access to the radically unfamiliar: religion in modern times

Kalpana Ram

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Postcolonial critique instructed anthropologists to turn to history in order to integrate time into their discourse. Yet historiography, even when undertaken from a postcolonial, subaltern standpoint, has foundered precisely on the challenge of doing justice to religious subjectivity. How then is the non-religious scholar to gain access to religious phenomena? Phenomenological understandings of body, temporality and place provide an alternative account of what it means to come to understand something. Seen from this perspective, disciplines such as anthropology in fact rely radically on time, on the capacity of the scholar's body to slowly effect a new synthesis of body, place and people. In the expansion that takes place lies the potential to come to understand, without any necessary involvement of consent or belief, the continuum between religious and non-religious experience.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationDynamics of religion
Subtitle of host publicationpast and present: proceedings of the XXI world congress of the International Association for the History of Religions, Erfurt, August 23-29, 2015
EditorsChristoph Bochinger, Jörg Rüpke
Place of PublicationBerlin ; Boston
PublisherDe Gruyter
Number of pages20
ISBN (Electronic)9783110450934, 9783110451108
ISBN (Print)9783110450927
Publication statusPublished - 2017
EventWorld Congress of the International Association for the History of Religions (21st : 2015) - University of Erfurt, Erfurt, Germany
Duration: 23 Aug 201529 Aug 2015

Publication series

NameReligionsgeschichtliche Versuche und Vorarbeiten
PublisherDe Gruyter
ISSN (Electronic)0939-2580


ConferenceWorld Congress of the International Association for the History of Religions (21st : 2015)
Abbreviated titleErfurt 2015 IAHR World Congress

Bibliographical note

Copyright the Author(s) 2017. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.


  • modernity
  • historical time
  • postcolonial and feminist critiques of modernity
  • temporality of anthropological practice
  • phenomenology
  • bodily access to the unfamiliar
  • spirit possession
  • continuities of experience
  • religious agency


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