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date: 05 December 2023

The Study of Indigenous Religionslocked

The Study of Indigenous Religionslocked

  • Gregory D. AllesGregory D. AllesDepartment of Religion, McDaniel College


The most important question to start with in considering the study of Indigenous religions is: What do the terms study, indigenous, religion, and Indigenous religions mean? There is no universally agreed upon definition for any of these terms or their combination, but one common understanding sees the study of Indigenous religions as the examination, in an academic context, of the religions of Indigenous people, prototypically, but not exclusively, people displaced by European settler colonialism. In Western European and North American universities this study has been dominated by scholars whose nations engaged in colonialism, and it has produced any number of theories attempting to understand and explain the religious practices and ideas of people who have generally been deemed “other.” As in other disciplines and fields, the Western European and North American tradition of study has exerted a powerful influence on scholars elsewhere, such as South Asia. Beginning in the late 1990s, however, Indigenous people began to develop their own methods of study, known as Indigenous research methodologies. Among other things, these methodologies emphasize the active involvement of Indigenous people as research participants rather than just objects of study, engage in research that addresses the concerns of Indigenous people, and insist that the benefits of research should be shared with the people being studied. They also often employ various methods and theories rooted in their own traditions. In practice, the mutual relations of Indigenous and non-Indigenous scholars and the people whom they study vary widely, as do the topics that scholars choose to study.


  • Indigenous Religions

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