The ethics of suspicion in the study of religions

Tremlett, Paul-Francois (2007). The ethics of suspicion in the study of religions. Diskus: The journal of the British Association for the Study of Religions (BASR), 8, article no. 3.



In this essay I outline some beliefs and practices among lowland christianised peoples in the Philippines relating primarily to the existence of spirits which are believed to be responsible for causing illness, attending to their imbrication with Catholicism and local cultural notions and practices and post-colonial questions of identity. I sketch three interpretative frameworks that have been brought to bear on these religious beliefs and practices: an anthropological analysis that seeks to explain such beliefs and practices in terms of a cultural logic, a socio-historical account in which resonances are highlighted between such beliefs and the post-colonial question of Filipino identity, and a rationalist account in which the utility of such beliefs is assessed, at all times highlighting the strengths and weaknesses of these different interpretative frameworks vis-à-vis a phenomenological approach. I use the empirical material to demonstrate that the phenomenological commitment to religion as a sui generis phenomenon cannot reasonably be said to constitute a satisfactory theory of context and I argue that the phenomenological epochē is an inadequate response to the problem of representation.

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