Galen Watts


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JSS 7.1

JSS 7.1 ‘Of’ and ‘For’: studying spirituality and the problems therein

by Mr Galen Watts, Queen’s University, Kingston, Canada
Journal for the Study of Spirituality 7, no. 1, 2017, pp. 64-71

Only since the latter half of the twentieth century has it become relatively common to self-identify as ‘spiritual’ in contrast to ‘religious’. Emerging from this cultural sea-change came the idea that spirituality is a topic of study categorically distinct from ‘religion’ and therefore worthy of its own field. The nascent ‘spirituality studies’ holds both promise and potential, yet there remain important methodological and normative issues surrounding how scholars who study spirituality ought to approach their subject. In this paper, I discuss two such issues: the often implicit (yet unacknowledged) distinction between the study of and the study for spirituality in much contemporary scholarship, and the political and epistemological disagreements that stem therefrom. I conclude with some tentative remarks regarding how we might mitigate the problems they engender.

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