The activist approach remains a neglected area in the study of religion(s). By activist, we mean a socially engaged yet non-confessional stance that focuses on the scholar dealing with the relationship between religion and the public sphere. While other disciplines are incorporating the socio-political and socially transformative potential of academic knowledge production into their curricula, the field of the study of religion(s) is lagging behind. The (dis)engagement and rejection of activist approaches in the study of religion seems to be determined by paradigms of knowledge production, the dominance of understanding and explanatory approaches, the programmatic socio-political neutrality of the religious studies scholar imposed by the discipline, and claims to the specificity and uniqueness of the object of study. However, as we attempt to show, several modes of engagement can be identified that lie between the scholar’s attitudes of engagement and programmatic neutrality in the study of religion(s), namely translating, deconstructing, meditating and transforming. We propose that these modes should be included in the spectrum of approaches that straddle the critical and activist study of religion. We argue for the radical mode of engagement as a further step in developing the link between research and activism in the study of religion. In doing so, we focus on the scholar(s) of religion as an authority figure, an agent of power distribution, capable of proposing reformulations, accompanying negotiations, and supporting processes of reordering the contemporary post-secular public sphere. This article is an invitation to discuss the activist approach within the scientific study of religion. We also hope to stimulate debate on more radical forms of the activist approach, which we would call “the radical study of religion(s)”.


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