Haunted, religious modernity and reenchantment
The academic study of religion has for too long laboured under a flawed understanding of the relationship between modernity and religion. Any narrative of the displacement of religion by a universal and secularising modernity fails to recognise the complexity of the historical and cultural realities. While modernity has demonstrably contributed to the erosion of certain forms of religion, there is a growing body of evidence, and new interpretations of existing evidence, which suggest that the interconnections between modernity and religion are far more complex than any simple opposition could account for. Indeed, modernity appears, in certain circumstances, to be capable of producing its own religious effects. This thesis seeks to answer what then becomes a fundamental question: what does it mean for the study of religion if we accept that modernity can generate the religious? New conceptual tools are needed to deal critically with the far-reaching consequences of embracing the true density of modernity. The study of religion can be greatly enhanced by one such concept: reenchantment. However, reenchantment, as an interpretive framework, must be carefully formulated. Reenchantment cannot be properly understood as a reversal of disenchantment, a conception this thesis will be calling thin reenchantment, but as an ongoing dialectic of reenchantment and rationalisation, which this thesis will be calling thick reenchantment. The formulation of a credible and useful concept of reenchantment can in turn be aided by the work of the philosopher and cultural critic Jean Baudrillard. Baudrillard's work is not itself an expression or example of reenchantment, but it demonstrates a remarkable congruence with the concept of thick reenchantment, as both interrogate dominant understandings of modernity in relationship to differing systems of value. The thesis is divided into two sections. The first, substantially longer, section presents in some detail thick reenchantment as an interpretive frame. Though it does not claim to offer any new evidence, the first chapter outlines the evidential background for the thesis, which adopts the concept of religious modernity, developed by sociologist Danièle Hervieu-Léger, as a way of framing this evidence. The second chapter develops the concept of reenchantment and the typology of thin and thick reenchantment in relation to the foundational work of Max Weber. The third chapter is an analysis and review of the extant multidisciplinary discourse on reenchantment. The fourth chapter, the theoretical core of the thesis, presents an innovative reading of Baudrillard's considerable body of work. The second section elaborates on a further insight of the first - that text is a necessary element in the study of religious modernity - by offering detailed readings of the work of three contemporary authors - novelists Douglas Coupland and Chuck Palahniuk and filmmaker Tom Tykwer - as instantiations of the sorts of cultural artefacts that the conceptual framework of thick reenchantment means to explore. Though its claims remain conceptual and interpretive rather than evidential, normative, or explanatory, this thesis, interdisciplinary as it is, is intended as a contribution to a number of related fields, from the study of contemporary literature and film to the exploration of Baudrillard's work, which the study of religion has to date largely neglected, to its detriment However, its primary purpose is to suggest new and fruitful ways to approach the study of religion in modernity.
Advisor: Davidson, Ivor
Degree Name: Doctor of Philosophy
Degree Discipline: Department of Theology and Religious Studies
Publisher: University of Otago
Keywords: religion and sociology; religion and culture; Jean Baudrillard (1929-2007); Douglas Coupland; Chuck Palahniuk; Tom Tykwer
Research Type: Thesis