A workshop on “comparative hagiology” over the course of three years at the American Academy of Religion has yielded not only a series of articles but an experimental methodology by which scholars hailing from different disciplines and working in different fields might collaborate in threshing out commonalities and entanglements in their respective treatments of holy figures. This article’s response to the workshop identifies three pillars of general consensus among the participants that serve as promising footholds for aligned innovation in our respective fields: That hagiography (1) is constituted not only in verbal texts but in a wide array of media, both material and ephemeral; (2) is best interpreted by attending substantially to the “processes” of thought, life, and society in which it is rendered; and (3) opens possibilities of cross-cultural and interdisciplinary comparison by way of the many family resemblances in how saints (or more broadly, religious and even para-religious exemplars) are rendered in transmittable media and mobilized for a particular group’s benefit. The article concludes by suggesting vectors for further development on these grounds, indicating how the category of “hagiography” affords a resource for interpreting unauthorized and apparently irreligious phenomena akin to sanctification, and calling for a professional and pedagogical ethic of collaboration that extends beyond any particular scholarly fruits of hagiological comparison.
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License
which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited