This article highlights some important conclusions in Karénina Kollmar-Paulenz’s study, “Lamas and Shamans,” and offers some reflections on its relevance for the study of religion more broadly. It argues that comparing the Tibetan/Mongolian process of creating a classification system for religion(s) with the parallel and analogous process in “Western” discourses can yield important insights, especially for the endeavor of category formation, which is crucial in Religious Studies.
This article examines the relationship between two contemporary perspectives on conceptualizing a global history of religion. The first is anchored in an entangled conceptual history, reconstructing the genealogy of “religion” back to the colonial nineteenth century. The second favours a multicentred perspective in studying knowledge systems and general concepts independent of the West and predating global modernity. By analysing Japanese religious history, the article illustrates both the potential for and the necessity of integrating these two approaches.
This piece takes as a starting point a close reading of Karénina Kollmar-Paulenz’s work and connects it to ongoing debates intersecting the fields of religious studies, the anthropology of religion, sensory studies, Global South studies and decolonial theory. It argues that attention to the layered history of local language categories that articulate religious difference constitutes a form of intellectual labour towards epistemic justice.
In her work on “Lamas and Shamans,” Karénina Kollmar-Paulenz takes a broad aim at the role of non-European knowledge in the humanities and social sciences. In this commentary, I take up some lines of inquiry that structure her argument, discussing them in the broader contexts of research on global history and continuing attempts to assess the status of categories deriving from non-European intellectual traditions.
Karénina Kollmar-Paulenz affronta la sfida della comparazione nel campo dello studio della religione invocando una “provincializzazione dell’Europa”. La sua indagine del contesto mongolo decentra lo sguardo occidentale sullo sciamanesimo e lo costringe a osservare inediti processi di contatto che hanno generato forme di classificazione delle “religioni degli altri”. In questa prospettiva, l’osservazione di questi processi di definizione offre una decisiva lezione di metodo per le discipline storico-religiose.
Karénina Kollmar-Paulenz presents an approach to religious studies that combines source interpretation with critical theoretical reflection. She questions European dominance in defining religion and argues for a globalised, multicentric method that includes European and non-European perspectives on an equal footing. However, her approach still faces the challenge of decentralising Europe as the primary conceptual reference in this field.
The contribution discusses Karénina Kollmar-Paulenz’s programme for a global history of religion. Her approach aims to challenge European hegemony over the analytical concept of ‘religion’ by incorporating non-European realms of experience into theories of religious studies. This provokes the question which epistemological interest is associated with this objective. Why should an academic discipline, whose theories and concepts are shaped by European discourses, integrate non-European perspectives? Several possible answers to this question are examined.
The paper discusses the works by Professor Karénina Kollmar-Paulenz on Mongolian shamanism and Buddhism, embedded within the concept of a global history of religion. Contextualised within the debate on the existence of emic terms for “religion” outside of European epistemological traditions, the paper examines the disputes that Kollmar-Paulenz’s approach has engendered among scholars engaged in post-structural paradigms and presents an argument for their theoretical reconsideration.
In this response to Karénina Kollmar-Paulenz’s celebrated essay on non-European concepts in the global study of religion, I discuss the possibility for religious innovation in a socio-religious situation stabilised by objectified elite perspectives by reference to formative teachings and practices in Tenrikyō, a religion founded by Nakayama Miki in 1838. Nakayama Miki’s deviation from the knowledge system of “nourishing life” (yōjō), especially in regard to perinatal food taboos, analysed here on the basis of hagiographical accounts of the foundress, aimed to free humans from all food restrictions. By concentrating on the traditional Japanese “nourishing life” system and its food regulations as an identity marker of the “other”, proponents of freedom from them, as taught by the foundress, contributed in some way, paradoxically, to the stabilisation of the norms.
Seeking to extend Karénina Kollmar-Paulenz’s (2024) methodology for overcoming Eurocentric perspectives in the global history of religion, this commentary evaluates the challenges and alternatives for historiography when textual sources for religious practices are absent. Drawing on research into artistic, visual, and oral practices in Mongolia and the Himalayan region, the authors propose a critical reassessment of the foundational notions of globality, history, and religion.
En complément au défi posé par Nina Kollmar-Paulenz à la rhétorique dominante de la supériorité de l’historiographie européenne, cet essai apporte une perspective tibétaine sur l’historiographie religieuse. Présenté dans le contexte dual des traditions religieuses bouddhiste et Bon, cet essai propose la traduction et l’analyse d’une étude généalogique sur une divinité protectrice masculine, Abse, profondément enracinée dans les sources littéraires tibétaines.
The article reflects on religion both as a concept and as a field of studies from a transcultural perspective, linking it to current developments in folkloristics. It sheds light on the methodology of vernacular religion, a concept introduced by Leonard N. Primiano in the 1990s, which gained momentum in the 21st century with attention shifting from the institutional and scriptural forms of religions to vernacular beliefs, narratives, and practices in daily life.