Fieldwork in Religion, Vol 5, No 2 (2010)

The Making of Representations of the Religious Adherent Engaged in Politics

Anne Mette Fisker-Nielsen
Issued Date: 27 Sep 2010


In this paper, I present two ethnographic examples of young Japanese who as members of the lay Buddhist organization Soka Gakkai in Japan support the political party Komeito. I highlight that concord about interpretations of meaning between the anthropologist and the interlocutors makes for different understanding of motivation and subsequently for different representations. While the anthropologist’s work in most cases remains an ethnographic account written by the researcher, fieldwork and personal interaction with people who are regarded as interlocutors rather than subjects of study help to make the subject community, not the observer, the people who set the criteria for representation. This does not exclude a critical approach to the social phenomenon researched, but a closer understanding of the paradigmatic position of the people whom one writes about can, with careful reflection, help to overcome the particular biases of structural objectivism. While this position may have its own biases, the starting point is the participation of the anthropologist in inter-cultural discourse with the people studied, rather than an authority who has the last say on the matter. This is looking at social phenomena from the level of meaning, aiming to understand social tendencies to action rather than from a position that asks questions about facticity from a deductive approach about an abstract empirical reality.

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DOI: 10.1558/firn.v5i2.162

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