The International Journal of Religion and Spirituality in Society offers an annual award for newly published research or thinking that has been recognized to be outstanding by members of the Religion and Spirituality in Society Research Network.
This article explores how scholarship on Buddhist self-immolation has changed between 1963 and 2013. Attention is given to how academic orientations and methods have evolved from early tensions between traditional exegesis of texts and sociopolitical analysis of context to recent literature utilizing interdisciplinary approaches that attempt to reconcile such tensions. This methodological shift can be interpreted via Delores Williams’s three-fold womanist hermeneutic. Early literature on Buddhist self-immolation generally falls within either the first or third movements of Williams’s methodology: building continuity with tradition or relating faith to politics. Utilized independently, these two movements are unable to provide a holistic understanding of self-immolation. Williams’s second movement of “protogetical” analysis remedies this problem by placing the act of self-immolation in relationship with a greater number of “cultural deposits,” non-traditional texts and mediums that speak to this practice across different times and places. “Protogesis” thereby bridges traditional textual exegesis and social analysis. This interdisciplinary turn to protogetical analysis is evidenced in recent studies on Buddhist self-immolation that expand the range of materials studied. This article argues this shift in method and perspective ought to challenge researchers of religious phenomenon to shift their attention toward more holistic cultural readings that acknowledge a plurality of meanings and motivations.
As a doctoral student studying religious pluralism, much of my early work grapples with questions of methodology. This article is the fruit of one of these early inquiries. One of my objectives was to reflect on the methodological lineages that have accompanied the study of religion and theology amongst multiple traditions, searching for insights that may emerge from their comparison. This article, in particular, examines the study of Buddhist self-immolation vis-a-vis a theological method commonly associated with womanist theology. By putting these two distinctive lineages in conversation, I sought to think in creative and interdisciplinary ways capable of breaking out of disciplinary boxes – particularly the tensions that tend to persist between theology and religious studies. This kind of exercise is important because it challenges new scholars to find a balance between building on the scholarship of the past while simultaneously breaking new ground with concepts and theories that may not fit within traditional categories of thought. As I pursue my dissertation research on religious identity and public life in contemporary China, I must continually challenge myself to work with data in new ways. This article is an example of that process and I hope it provides readers new ideas to pursue their own methodological questions.
— Easten Law
Okunrounmu, Elizabeth, Argie Allen-Wilson, Maureen Davey, and Adam Davey, The International Journal of Religion and Spirituality in Society, Volume 6, Issue 4, pp. 45-55.