Faculty Scholarly Dissemination Grants


The Hub and the Hole: Interdisciplinarity and the Study of Religion


Liberal Studies Department


Brooks College of Interdisciplinary Studies

Date Range



Arts and Humanities


Abstract: The study of religion is an excellent example of the challenges and possibilities inherent in interdisciplinarity in the 21st century. In terms of academic history, the study of religion arose in the West out of the disciplines of theology and philosophy, and the encounter that religions of the West Judaism, Christianity, and Islam had with each other and with indigenous peoples across the globe. So initially, it arose inside of particular disciplines in academia, with a distinct and ever-present bias linked to being inside of a distinct tradition of religious thought. Eventually, though, the modern rise of science in the 19th century influenced how encountercame to be understood as an opportunity for study, and considerations concerning religion began to find their home inside the social sciences; primarily anthropology, sociology, and psychology. There arose the prospect of the scientific study of religion, where scientific method could pull study out of the bias of theology. As the 20th century came to a close amidst the swirl of post-modernism and post-colonialism, the study of religion discovered its bias anew, but in a manner that paralleled other disciplines in academia. Today, Religious Studies bears the marks of its history in the methodological challenges it faces even as the 21st century has unfolded with religious influences being one of its chief shapers. As interdisciplinarity takes its form in this new era it can find in the study of religion, an endeavor that is circumscribed by the pitfalls and promises of academia in the new age. This article will trace the modern development of the study of religion, drawing out the characteristics and challenges that have remained throughout the years, and suggest that interdisciplinarity offers an approach to the study of religion that addresses more completely these challenges and in ways consistent with the landscape of the 21st century. In so doing, the characteristics of the method of interdisciplinarity in general become more apparent and useful.

Conference Name

Association of Interdisciplinary Studies Annual Meeting

Conference Location

Miami University, Oxford, Ohio

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