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Chapter 2: The Emics and Etics of Religion: What we Know, How we Know it, and Why this Matters

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1. Title Title of document Chapter 2: The Emics and Etics of Religion: What we Know, How we Know it, and Why this Matters - The Insider/Outsider Debate
2. Creator Author's name, affiliation, country Steven Sutcliffe; University of Edinburgh; United Kingdom
3. Subject Discipline(s) Religious Studies
4. Subject Keyword(s) emics; etics; Kenneth Pike; Marvin Harris; Geertz;
5. Subject Subject classification Religious education; religion and culture; applied religious studies; ethnography
6. Description Abstract The author argues that the method encoded as ‘emics’ and ‘etics’ constitutes a theoretically stronger research instrument in the study of religion than the vague ontology of ‘insider’ and ‘outsider’, both because it yields more precise and tractable knowledge specifically about the research objects of the study of religion, and because it can be operationalised effectively across adjacent disciplines such as ethnography, social anthropology and history.
Sutcliffe provides a detailed account of the origin of emic/etic in Kenneth Pike’s extrapolation from phonemic/phonetic in his work in linguistics in the 1950s and 1960s, its development in Marvin Harris’ cultural anthropology in the 1960s and 1970s and its application in the study of religion. The author provides a critique of the insider/outsider model on grounds of its implicit commitment to a politics of identity, contrasting with the cognitive or epistemic commitment of emics and etics. Drawing on Geertz’s distinction between ‘experience near’ and ‘experience distant’, it is argued that everyone is capable of rendering both emic and etic accounts of ‘what is going on’ – and of moving between them, thereby generating a potentially powerful translation effect.
To be able to differentiate between emic and etic accounts of a phenomenon creates a simple and practical epistemological tool that fosters cross-cultural, comparative interpretation and encourages interdisciplinarity, especially across the human sciences. Although the chapter will be predominantly meta/theoretical in design, including the history of emic/etic scholarship, this chapter employs simple practical examples from the new age/holistic field, showing how the emics/etics of religion can be operationalised.

7. Publisher Organizing agency, location Equinox Publishing Ltd
8. Contributor Sponsor(s)
9. Date (YYYY-MM-DD) 15-Oct-2019
10. Type Status & genre Peer-reviewed Article
11. Type Type
12. Format File format PDF
13. Identifier Uniform Resource Identifier
14. Identifier Digital Object Identifier 10.1558/equinox.27423
15. Source Journal/conference title; vol., no. (year) Equinox eBooks Publishing; The Insider/Outsider Debate
16. Language English=en en
18. Coverage Geo-spatial location, chronological period, research sample (gender, age, etc.) world,
19. Rights Copyright and permissions Copyright 2014 Equinox Publishing Ltd