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Istratii, Romina (2019) ‘Religious fundamentalism’: Contemplating the epistemological, ethical and practical limitations of the conceptual category in its cross-cultural deployment. In: Strictly Observant Religion, Gender and the State, 25-26 March 2019, Woolf Institute, Cambridge University. (Unpublished)

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Despite its western Christian origin, the notion of religious fundamentalism has been employed by many western and non-western scholars alike to describe a variety of religious groups crossing various religious traditions on the basis that they too manifest antagonism to aspects of modernity and secularism invoking faith-based moral tenets, place emphasis on original or authentic religious traditions or texts, and take issue particularly with western ideals of gender egalitarianism. While some theorists are cautious to conceptualise religious fundamentalism strictly in reference to the characteristics of American Protestant experience, others have deployed fundamentalism with more generalising usages. My position is that although the category may have a place in our conceptual repertoire, serious discussions need to be had on: a) the fundamental usefulness of this terminology for understanding what it propounds to be its subject matter, b) in that case, how that subject matter should be defined, and c) the process by which the relevance of the category can be assessed for any religious group or expression prior to its cross-cultural deployment. In thinking about this, it is imperative that we consider the epistemological, ethical and practical implications of using this terminology cross-culturally in view of the imperialistic underpinnings of western scholarship. Who has typically ‘named’ a fundamentalist if/when this has not been a self-referent? If opposition to gender egalitarianism is to be considered important to the concept, who has tended to define ‘gender equality’ and in reference to whose standards? What might be some of the more practical consequences of preconceiving as fundamentalist religious traditions that display rigid adherence to religious tenets or value what may be perceived as immutable doctrines and theologies? Might there be better ways of engaging with non-western religious expressions that appear to the ‘outsider’ as particularly rigid in some aspects? In this essay I want to start to evidence the problematic deployment of the category and what could be some implicit consequences, specifically drawing from the fields of gender and development and gender and religion(s) studies. I will propose how scholars may engage with religious expressions that appear theologically rigid or tradition-oriented to remedy imperialistic epistemological tendencies without simultaneously compromising the investigations of what might be particularly intransigent religious phenomena and expressions.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Items (Paper)
SOAS Departments & Centres: Departments and Subunits > Department of Development Studies
Departments and Subunits > School of History, Religions & Philosophies
Date Deposited: 10 Apr 2019 07:06
Related URLs: https://www.woo ... r-and-the-state (Organisation URL)
Funders: Other

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