History of Religions

The History of Religions is a historical-philosophical discipline which at Uppsala University is coordinated at the Faculty of Theology. As a research discipline the history of religions covers all of the religious traditions of the world, in all places of the globe, in all times and relation to all other human communication and social dynamics. Dependent on the specific formulation of the problem historians of religion share theoretical and methodological starting points with researchers within adjacent disciplines such as linguistics, literary history, history of ideas, post-procedural archaeology, anthropology, sociology, psychology, political science, art history, gender studies, philosophy of law, media studies, area studies (such as Latin America, Africa, East Asia) and disciplines which focus individual religious fields (such as Islamology, Judaism and Buddhism studies).

Within the discipline there are two, sometimes concurrent, main lines of enquiry: firstly the history of religions as a text oriented philological discipline and secondly the history of religions as an anthropological discipline where the religious person rather than the religious documents are in focus. These approaches are united in three common starting points: For the first a certain measure of distance where researcher and research object are usually distanced in terms of time, space, philosophical tradition and social context. For the second an idea critical perspective, if not necessarily in the Marxist sense, from which religion can be seen as changeable social constructions produced by the history people themselves have created. It should be mentioned that this does not deny the possibility of divine existence, but rather marks the boundaries of the academic study of religion. The History of Religions is therefore, thirdly, a non-normative discipline which does not express opinions on what is or should be the case, but rather evaluates the construction of various taken for granted normative dictums and understandings.

Within the Faculty of Theology the discipline is restricted to the study of non-Christian religions. To the extent that Christianity is included in the research field this involves traditions which veer from the mainstream (from Gnosticism to liberation theology), the meeting of religions (historical, local and global) or specialised studies such as theological constructions of gender or race. As a research discipline at Uppsala University the history of religions is naturally marked by the respective research interests and competency of the participating researchers, which can be found in our research programme.

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