Sociologist of Religion: Insider As a Professional Outsider. on Professional Competence and Potential Engagement

Thursday, July 17, 2014: 8:40 AM
Room: 315
Oral Presentation
Ludmila GRIGORIEVA , Krasnoyarsk State Pedagogical Univ, Krasnoyarsk, Russia
This type of research is about understanding concealed internal meanings of a religious belief and religious action from the viewpoint of Max Weber’s interpretive understanding of social action. This method helps to reveal subjective presumptions, incentives and personal foundations for religious belonging and religious service. This research requires specific conditions and specific methods: “ethnographic”, “anthropological” and phenomenological methods. Typical sociologists of religion face numerous problems when they study unknown communities as outsiders. The difficulties are about penetrating into a studied group, duration and continuity of staying in a group, the difficulty of understanding the internal worlds of believers, etc.

 Contemporary religious communities involve people of every social class, educational level and intellectual abilities. Sociological education per se does not always result in high quality research.

It can be argued that an ‘original insider’ cannot avoid religious engagement or that they cannot be completely objective, an important rule to observe in any research. The author explains that every society member has a greater or lesser degree of religious engagement caused by their initial attitude to any religion (Max Weber, ‘Intellectual Honesty as a Principle of Religious Cognition’). Speaking generally, each of us is ‘engaged’ by our temperament, nature, experience, beliefs, prejudices, etc. Being objective might be a theoretical objective for any researcher with a bit of self-discipline and an honest attempt to distract from their personality. A ‘professional outsider’ is not especially different from an ‘original insider’ in this respect.

  The problems might be mitigated if original insiders could become professional outsiders. They could be members of a studied community by birth, education or by conversion and, essentially, they would have the necessary level of intellect, culture and training. The paper discusses some methods of finding, attracting and training such researchers.