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Tuesday, 15 September 2015

Privileged or Not?

Identity and the Politics of Scholarship in the Study of Religion,
ed. José Ignacio Cabezón & Sheila Greeve Davaney, Routledge, 2004,
Chapter 1 "Between Identity and Footnotes" (pp. 25-41), page 31

Sheila Davaney then addresses the question of privilege:

A variant on the privileging of social location can be found in the claim that it is really only insiders, participants or sharers of particular identities, who can know the history, understand the identity, properly express the meaning of a text or of the experience of some group.

Now this claim comes from all sorts of positions, even including those who are dominant in either social, political or religious groups. Davaney suggests that the "most compelling advocates" in these claims are those who have historically been marginalised, assigned "non-identies" and been denied scholarly roles.

From these sources a second claim has been added ... the insistence that variables such as race, ethnicity, nationality, gender, class, sexual orientation, and political and religious orientation provide access to the correspondig histories and experiences that are unavailable to scholars outside those groups.

In one sense, this intersects with Carline Lunsford Mears' work on the Gateway Approach, where an individual acts as a gateway between a closed group and the 'outside' world; having an outside voice, such an individual can relay or speak for those inside, while the insider identity allows privileged access to those inside the group. In my opinion, such claims go too far. Davaney again:

This claim moves beyond the observation that the variables of identity such as race, gender or religous association often determine social location and hence provide certain historical and cultural vantage points to the conviction that identity itself provides or blocks access to the histories, experiences and situations of individuals or groups.

Posted By Jonathan, 8:00am Comment Comments: