From Religious Contact to Scientific Comparison and Back: Some Methodological Considerations on Comparative Perspectives in the Science of Religion

  • Volkhard KrechEmail author
Part of the Transcultural Research – Heidelberg Studies on Asia and Europe in a Global Context book series (TRANSCULT)


(1) After dealing with some of the challenges in the study of religion and with the operation called “comparison,” the article focuses on (2) thoughts on the relation between object- and metalanguage, followed by (3) remarks on comparison from the perspective of a sociology of knowledge, and (4) concludes with some considerations on the emergence of regional religious fields and of a global religious field.

Ad 1) “Eurocentrism” might be avoided if we look at religious contact and the entangled history of religions, by which religious fields are constituted in empiricism. From this perspective, comparison is first and foremost a part of the empirical history of religions itself. However, academic comparison must refer to certain analytic frames of references.

Ad 2) Academic metalanguage can best correspond with religious-historical material and avoid a sterile scientism when it is linked with the reflection that emerges during religious contact and in which an object-linguistic awareness of the religious arises.

Ad 3) Comparative research on religion might be based on a sociological frame of reference, namely on the question of how a religion as a system of symbols generates forms of institutionalization and vice versa. Different social forms of religion are discussed.

Ad 4) Regional religious fields and the emerging global religious field emerge by establishing inner and outer boundaries. Inner boundaries form through the labeling of Self and Other––as an amalgam of social formations and religious semantics––which establish a discursive field. Outer boundaries are formed by distinctions and interactions between religion and other societal fields.


Religious Group Religious Tradition Family Resemblance Religious Movement Societal Structure 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Center for Religious StudiesRuhr University BochumBochumGermany

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