Special Issue "Methodical Aspects of Comparison"

A special issue of Religions (ISSN 2077-1444).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (15 January 2018)

Special Issue Editor

Guest Editor
Prof. Dr. Oliver Freiberger

Associate Professor, Department of Asian Studies, The University of Texas at Austin, 120 Inner Campus Dr Stop G9300, WCH 4.134, Austin, Texas 78712-1251, USA
Website | E-Mail
Interests: Indian Buddhism; asceticism; comparison in the study of religion

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

This special issue discusses how comparison works as a method in the study of religion. It tackles question such as: Which methodical components should a comparative study include? Which problems does the comparativist encounter in deploying the comparative method? How is the design of the method related to the outcome of the study and to its value for the study of religion? Author A’s “input paper” outlines a methodological framework and terminology of comparison. Then five experienced comparativists in their respective fields respond to the issues addressed in that framework each in their own way. Rather than reflecting upon comparison in a dry, theoretical manner, they discuss the methodical questions in the light of specific comparative studies that they have conducted. Engaging with the framework in this way produced rich essays, in which the authors highlight issues that are most relevant for them, criticize some components of the framework, and suggest new aspects and insights. This seems to be the first time that the method of comparison in the study of religion is put front and center in a collaborate discussion.

Prof. Dr. Oliver Freiberger
Guest Editor

Manuscript Submission Information

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Published Papers (7 papers)

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Open AccessEditorial Introduction: Methodical Aspects of Comparison
Religions 2018, 9(3), 77; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel9030077
Received: 15 January 2018 / Revised: 1 March 2018 / Accepted: 2 March 2018 / Published: 11 March 2018
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Abstract
Much ink has been spilled over the significance, the risks and benefits, and even the very possibility of comparison in the study of religion, but few scholars have reflected on how comparison actually works. [...] Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Methodical Aspects of Comparison)
Open AccessArticle Elements of a Comparative Methodology in the Study of Religion
Religions 2018, 9(2), 38; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel9020038
Received: 15 January 2018 / Revised: 27 January 2018 / Accepted: 27 January 2018 / Published: 29 January 2018
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Abstract
While comparison has been the subject of much theoretical debate in the study of religion, it has rarely been discussed in methodological terms. A large number of comparative studies have been produced in the course of the discipline’s history, but the question of [...] Read more.
While comparison has been the subject of much theoretical debate in the study of religion, it has rarely been discussed in methodological terms. A large number of comparative studies have been produced in the course of the discipline’s history, but the question of how comparison works as a method has rarely been addressed. This essay proposes, in the form of an outline, a methodological frame of comparison that addresses both the general configuration of a comparative study—its goal, mode, scale, and scope—and the comparative process, distinguishing operations of selection, description, juxtaposition, redescription, as well as rectification and theory formation. It argues that identifying and analyzing such elements of a comparative methodology helps, on the one hand, in evaluating existing comparative studies and, on the other, in producing new ones. While the article attempts to present the methodological frame in a concise form and thus offers limited illustrative material, the authors of the other essays in this collection discuss rich historical-empirical cases as they test the frame on their own comparative studies. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Methodical Aspects of Comparison)
Open AccessArticle Comparison as Conversation and Craft
Religions 2018, 9(2), 39; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel9020039
Received: 15 January 2018 / Revised: 26 January 2018 / Accepted: 26 January 2018 / Published: 30 January 2018
Cited by 1 | PDF Full-text (176 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
This essay argues that comparison as a method of study within religious studies is best thought of in two terms: conversation and craft. As a conversation, comparison has its own history, which has included several major shifts. At present, comparative work would benefit [...] Read more.
This essay argues that comparison as a method of study within religious studies is best thought of in two terms: conversation and craft. As a conversation, comparison has its own history, which has included several major shifts. At present, comparative work would benefit from addressing the fact that Euro-Americans dominate the comparative conversation. This dominance limits conversational data, topics, strategies, and participants. At risk is the relevance of comparative work within religious studies. As a craft, comparative work is creative and idiosyncratic, reflecting the apprenticeship lineage in which the comparative scholar has been trained as well as her individual personality. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Methodical Aspects of Comparison)
Open AccessArticle Reading Religiously across Religious Borders: A Method for Comparative Study
Religions 2018, 9(2), 42; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel9020042
Received: 15 January 2018 / Revised: 26 January 2018 / Accepted: 26 January 2018 / Published: 31 January 2018
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Abstract
Oliver Freiberger has done us the great service of drawing our attention to how comparativists do their comparative work. Issues of method—the “methodical aspects”—of course matter greatly in the actual doing of comparison, even if the scholar is not interested in theoretical discussions [...] Read more.
Oliver Freiberger has done us the great service of drawing our attention to how comparativists do their comparative work. Issues of method—the “methodical aspects”—of course matter greatly in the actual doing of comparison, even if the scholar is not interested in theoretical discussions of method per se. One has to know one’s craft, in order to do it well, and to be clear in practice about how to proceed: “How comparison actually works as a method in the study of religion has not been discussed in greater detail so far. With due deliberation we can, as Freiberger suggests, identify and isolate specific methodical problems, effectively confront wholesale criticism, and find opportunities to refine the methodology. His approach also allows committed comparativists to speak in more depth about what we are doing in our research and writing. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Methodical Aspects of Comparison)
Open AccessArticle Implications of Micro-Scale Comparisons for the Study of Entangled Religious Traditions: Reflecting on the Comparative Method in the Study of the Dynamics of Christian-Muslim Relations at a Shared Sacred Site
Religions 2018, 9(2), 45; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel9020045
Received: 15 January 2018 / Revised: 26 January 2018 / Accepted: 26 January 2018 / Published: 1 February 2018
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Abstract
This article applies the comparative methodology proposed by Oliver Freiberger to a case study on Christian-Muslim relations at a shared sacred site in Antakya (formerly Antioch), which belongs to Hatay, the southernmost city of Turkey. Specifically, this case study deals with the veneration [...] Read more.
This article applies the comparative methodology proposed by Oliver Freiberger to a case study on Christian-Muslim relations at a shared sacred site in Antakya (formerly Antioch), which belongs to Hatay, the southernmost city of Turkey. Specifically, this case study deals with the veneration of the Muslim saint Habib-i Neccar in the center of the old city of Antakya. Besides discussing some general questions pertaining to the methodical procedure used in the case study, this contribution demonstrates that Freiberger’s comparative methodology is useful and that its application leads to new insights. In refining the methodical toolkit for comparative research, this article will attempt to enhance the proposed model by introducing a set of analytical concepts. To further illuminate the findings of the case study, ‘mimesis’ and ‘fractal dynamics’ will be introduced as analytical concepts suitable for studying the dynamics of interreligious relations and for enhancing the methodical design for future comparative research. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Methodical Aspects of Comparison)
Open AccessArticle Against the Grain and Over the Line: Reflections on Comparative Methodology
Religions 2018, 9(2), 44; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel9020044
Received: 15 January 2018 / Revised: 26 January 2018 / Accepted: 26 January 2018 / Published: 1 February 2018
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Abstract
This article distills theoretical arguments that I advance in Foreigners and Their Food, arguments relevant to a wide range of religious studies scholars. In addition, it makes the case for comparison as a method that sheds light not only on specific comparands [...] Read more.
This article distills theoretical arguments that I advance in Foreigners and Their Food, arguments relevant to a wide range of religious studies scholars. In addition, it makes the case for comparison as a method that sheds light not only on specific comparands and the class of data to which they belong but also on the very boundaries which the comparison transgresses. Through a comparison of Latin Christian and Shiʿi Islamic discourse about the impurity of religious foreigners, I illustrate methods by which religious authorities develop and transmit conceptions of foreigners. I then analyze this case study using Oliver Freiberger’s “Elements of a Comparative Methodology” while assessing the strengths and limitations of Freiberger’s methodical framework. I offer personal reflections on the process of conducting comparative scholarship, advice for those embarking on this demanding yet rewarding approach to the study of religion, and desiderata for further reflection on comparative methodology. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Methodical Aspects of Comparison)
Open AccessArticle Interrogating the Comparative Method: Whither, Why, and How?1
Religions 2018, 9(2), 58; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel9020058
Received: 15 January 2018 / Revised: 26 January 2018 / Accepted: 26 January 2018 / Published: 12 February 2018
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Abstract
This essay seeks to illuminate the problematics, methods, and dynamics of comparison by interrogating how certain analytical categories in the study of religion, such as scripture and the body, can be fruitfully reimagined through a comparative analysis of their Hindu and Jewish instantiations. [...] Read more.
This essay seeks to illuminate the problematics, methods, and dynamics of comparison by interrogating how certain analytical categories in the study of religion, such as scripture and the body, can be fruitfully reimagined through a comparative analysis of their Hindu and Jewish instantiations. I consider a range of issues that are critical to any productive comparative study, and I reflect more specifically on the principal components of my own comparative method in light of Oliver Freiberger’s analytical framework: the goals of comparative analysis; the modes of comparison; the parameters that define the scope and the scale of the comparative inquiry; and the operations involved in the comparative process, beginning with selection of the specific traditions and analytical categories to be addressed and formulation of the organizational design of the study and culminating in the re-visioned categories and models in the study of religion that constitute the fruits of the comparative inquiry. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Methodical Aspects of Comparison)
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