Saturday, 5 March 2011

Smart's vision of a bright future for Religious Studies

Three years later Smart took up the theme of professionalism once again in his article “Methods in my Life” where he provided the social and historical context for his inaugural address and defended his basic argument about the nature of Religious Studies. Yet again in this paper he stressed the importance of empathy for understanding religions and the need for what he called a “plural, polymethodic, non-finite” approach to the subject (Smart 2000:22).

Then he outlined some dangers he believed were threatening the integrity of the field in particular what he called “the trend to the particularization of cultures” (Smart 2000:30) based on “New Theories, such as deconstruction” that he saw as encouraging people with “ideological or spiritual axes to grind” to use Religious Studies for their own ends (Smart 2000:34). After spending considerable effort decrying “pseudo-specialization” and the growing influence of specialists who, in his view, threatened “the fragmentation and disintegration of Religious Studies” (Smart 2000:31), he concluded that “Religious Studies, provided it does not choke on specialism or commit methodological suicide, has a marvelous future” (Smart 2000:35).
To be continued ...

Smart, Ninian. "Methods in My Life" 18-35. In Stone, Jon R., ed., The Craft of Religious Studies. New York: Palgrave, 2000.