The problem with the jargon of inauthenticity: towards a materialist repositioning of the analysis of postmodern religion

Tremlett, Paul-Francois (2013). The problem with the jargon of inauthenticity: towards a materialist repositioning of the analysis of postmodern religion. Culture and Religion, 14(4) pp. 463–476.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/14755610.2013.838795

Abstract

This study argues that the jargon of inauthenticity in religious studies, which is characterised by references to ‘fake’, ‘hyperreal’ and ‘invented’ religions, is symptomatic of a crisis of method in the study of religion. In the historiography of the state, the term ‘invented’ signalled the emergence of practices and institutions that harnessed and limited modes of assembly through the development of technologies of government that marked a radical break with the past. In religious studies, although the term is taken to signal the emergence of new sites of religiosity, the idealist methods characteristic of phenomenology and Weberian sociology, which are typically used to study both them and the postmodern or late capitalist societies in which they have emerged, have generated an impoverished understanding of their significance. I argue that fake, hyperreal and invented religions can be situated as part of a shift in the sites of religion in the context of rapid postmodern transformation. Drawing from recent studies of such shifts in East Asian urban contexts, I argue that the real meaning of the new sites of religion lies not in allusions to simulations, hyperrealities or consumption, but as agentive nodes for generating new forms of public association and assembly.

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