- freely available
Religions 2019, 10(12), 660; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel10120660
1. The Pressing Issue
2. Virtues as the Moral Basis of Collaborative and Comparative Hagiology
2.1. Formal Scholarly Collaboration: Some Thoughts on Best Practice
2.2. Pedagogy: The University Classroom
3. Models of Practice from Informal Comparative Conversations and Lived Religion
3.1. Deliberate Border Crossing
3.2. Modulating Our Accent
4. Conclusions: Recognizing Virtues as Intrinsic to Successful Comparative Relationships
Conflicts of Interest
List of Contributions
- American Academy of Religion Professional Conduct Task Force. 2017. Draft Professional Conduct Statement. November 8. Available online: https://www.aarweb.org/aar-annual-meeting-policies (accessed on 4 August 2019).
- Bradley, Ben. 2013. Intrinsic Value. In The International Encyclopaedia of Ethics. Vol. V. Edited by Hugh LaFollette. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, pp. 2770–79. [Google Scholar]
- Clooney, Francis. 2018. Difficult Reminders: Seeking Comparative Theology’s Really Difficult Other. In How to do Comparative Theology. Edited by Francis Clooney and Klaus von Stosch. New York: Fordham University Press, pp. 206–28. [Google Scholar]
- Freiberger, Oliver. 2019. Considering Comparison. A Method for Religious Studies. New York: Oxford University Press. [Google Scholar]
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- Nussbaum, Martha Craven, and Joshua Cohen. 2002. For Love of Country? Boston: Beacon Press. [Google Scholar]
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Todd French deals with this issue in his essay in this special issue. He promotes the importance of the work of scholarly “generalists” who may shed light on a range of academic disciplines and their methodological cultures (French 2019, pp. 1–2).
Here I align my views with others in this special issue. For example, DiValerio’s proposal of a controlled vocabulary for our shared enterprise is an instrument that allows for shared values and language in order to facilitate best academic practice (DiValerio 2019). Rondolino’s social–scientific proposal is another example of setting the rules in order to allow for clear communication within an agreed framework that, at the same time, includes some aspirations and not others (Rondolino 2019). Sara Ritchey also addresses these issues (Ritchey 2019).
https://www.un.org/en/universal-declaration-human-rights/. For AAR see https://www.aarweb.org/aar-annual-meeting-policies. For illustrative purposes, it is worth noting that their Professional Conduct Statement (2017 draft) includes the following on respect, which is a foundational value to my own work. “As a scholarly and professional value, respect manifests itself in mutual accountability—of AAR members to one another and to the organization’s stated commitments. Respect as a scholarly and professional value requires that AAR members recognize the inherent worth of each member of the organization.” (AAR RPCTF 2017, p. 2). “Transparency” is another key value in the AAR policy, and is related to my use of justice and respect for collaborative work. It reads: “As a key value of our learned society, transparency promotes a culture of openness, accountability, reflexivity, integrity, and honesty.” (AAR RPCTF 2017, p. 3). An expanded version of this work could deal more fully with the rationale for normatively (not merely informatively) drawing from these documents, with some examples of how to implement the virtues they promote in comparative hagiology with both past and living interlocutors.
This is a coherent worldview argument made within the documents themselves (Bradley 2013, p. 2770). A related philosophical argument for why we cannot compartmentalize our lives, especially our mindset and perspectives, is made by Rondolino (Rondolino 2019). I would add fundamental psychological and social reasons for this.
(Twiss 2013, p. 2456). The AAR states the following on its value of “diversity”: “Within a context of free inquiry and critical examination, the AAR welcomes all disciplined reflection on religion. This outlook includes two different components: one has to do with the methodological variety of our inquiries, and the other with the diversity of the persons who undertake these inquiries. At many points in our history we have underscored the importance of diversity in teaching, research, and service. Equally important is the diversity of scholars who represent different cultures, social locations, perspectives, professional standings, and experiences. These enrich and enlarge our understanding of ourselves and our community.” (AAR RPCTF 2017, p. 2)
I focus on French’s work because I was part of the discussion group that focused on his paper during the 2018 workshop. I am not arguing that he alone pursues this avenue of thought, rather in this paper I am also trying to convey the way in which collaboration occurs shapes our perspectives. My views would have been slightly different, and with different emphases as well as concerns, had I been a participant in another group.
French wonders: “How do we push past the siloed nature of thinking in academic disciplines and fields of study? e.g., how might one’s reading of a text be affected by awareness of other modes of writing/reading/reception/function?” (French 2019, pp. 2–3).
We can hope for “substantial and empathetic immersion in a tradition other than one’s own, followed by patient comparison of how some matter of importance is engaged in in this other and in one’s own tradition, for the sake of collaborative articulation of some new understanding and ultimately more productive relations between communities” (Hollander 2019).
“I wish to initiate a conversation to establish a shared vocabulary for the comparative study of hagiographical sources, whether inter- or cross-cultural” (Rondolino 2019, p. 2). See also (DiValerio 2019). On collaboration see (O’Rourke et al. 2013).
(French 2019, p. 5).
“How ought one begin conceiving a project in comparative hagiology? I suggest that two main options exist, derived from the tension between comparative and hagiology. They present scholars with a fork in the methodological road. Immediately but not necessarily consciously, the scholar must choose a path that prioritizes one of the two terms over the other. For comparative and hagiology each is rooted in a different set of considerations and disciplinary lenses” (Keune 2019, p. 2).
(French 2019, p. 4).
In this Section, I draw from the experience at AAR 2018 to develop French’s argument and propose some initial thoughts on the ethics of an aspirational “code of best practice.”
(French 2019, p. 5).
In French’s words, “we can only accurately learn about ourselves in the context of others” (French 2019, p. 7). French draws from (Nussbaum and Cohen 2002, pp. 11–12)
It is worth noting that Hollander is attentive to this issue in his essay (Hollander 2019).
This echoes McClymond’s notion of comparison as a craft (McClymond 2018).
The cultural make-up of the class is diverse, however, the historical context for most of my classroom sources is Ancient Rome and Late Antiquity, therefore, I use Rebecca Langlands’s 2018 Exemplary Ethics in Ancient Rome.
This is an academic rephrasing of the virtues of hope, faith, and love, which are heavily used in first and second century CE Mediterranean Christian ethics.
Aaron Hollander writes: “Recognizing the need for such metatheoretical reflection has led the comparative hagiology workshops into a kind of two-steps-forward-one-step-back rhythm, as every apparent agreement has been accompanied by the recognition that the agreement obscures differences in our working definitions of core problems and holds a tenuous common ground between different frameworks of scholarly sense-making” (Hollander 2019, pp. 3–4).
This article is intended to raise some of the neglected ethical dimensions that comparativists and hagiographers often face. Due to essay length constraints, I cannot propose an ethically sound and constructive model that responds to the challenges I have outlined. However, my hope is to work with other scholars on a collaborative volume that explicitly outlines an ethical model framework for comparative hagiography.
(Clooney 2017, pp. 206–7; Hollander 2019).
“Ours is an apprenticeship profession […] If we are lucky, we get to train with master craftsmen and craftswomen, watching over their shoulders […] to see how they select the material they will work with, how they play with it, and how they bring the tools they have been trained to use to bear upon the “stuff” of religion. There is no single, correct method, although certain practices are common” (McClymond 2018, p. 5).
I understand that when we are dealing with many cultures in the distant past our conversations will be indirect, mediated through material culture, literary products, and interpreters of these traditions, including scholars.
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