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Alexandra Grieser
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(6,021 words)

In recent years, the role of the body and the senses has become a crucial object of study in religious studies. This development has included a critical revision of biased categories that have confined the study of religion to either texts or abstract beliefs, or to an indisputable sui generis mode of experience. This entry presents recent developments that employ aesthetics as a scholarly concept for the study of religion, focusing on aesthetics as a theory of the senses considering how humans relate to reality through their sensory perceptions.The first section outlines different understandings of aesthetics. It highlights the shortcomings of religious studies to which the aesthetic approach has responded, and discusses what the approach can offer to an analytic perspective. The second section explores the heuristic quality of the perspective, presenting some exemplary research. Further, it is demonstrated that considering aesthetic forms and practices enhances the instruments of comparison for religious traditions and offers reflective potential by analyzing both religious and academic aesthetic theories. In closing, the social and political consequences of the aesthetic are addressed. ⸙

Vocabulary for the Study of Religion Online

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