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date: 25 April 2019

Summary and Keywords

The analysis of journalism and religion emerges from two different research paradigms: a post-positivist and a culturalist. The primary debate in the field stems from the two paradigmatic orientations. Post-positivist journalism and religion research argues that religious topics are already complex and so by simplifying, researchers can help explain the topic for broader consumption. Yet culturalist journalism and religion research argues that there is little to be gained from attempting to simplify religion in this way—it is better to represent religion as it is, rather than to make it palatable. The topic developed in the 1980s largely as a result of contributions from Edward Said, Judith Buddenbaum, Stewart Hoover, Mark Silk, and David Nord. Three primary approaches have become dominant. In effects-oriented research, religion serves as a variable in helping explain a phenomenon. In the culturalist approach, the journalism and religion phenomenon is examined through the lens of structure and agency—the power relations integral to the phenomenon. Finally, in the literary criticism approach, religion is examined as the phenomenon being represented in journalism. As paradigms would indicate, the post-positivist paradigm is most interested in predicting the religious representations and the culturalist paradigm is most interested in understanding the representations. Broadly, this subfield is situated within the larger umbrella of journalism and minority concerns. Implicit in this research is Said’s orientalism, a theoretical tradition that emphasizes the “othering” of minority groups, making them appear as if they are in need of being “oriented” to fit ideas of what is normal and acceptable within a society. It similarly builds on Gramsci’s hegemony, which conversely examines how a society proliferates ideas of that which is normal and acceptable practice.

Keywords: journalism, religion, lived religion, orientalism, critical/cultural, post-positivism, journalism studies

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