Historicizing Tradition in the Study of Religion

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This collection of essays analyzes 'tradition' as a category in the historical and comparative study of religion. The book questions the common assumption that tradition is simply the passing down or imitation of prior practices and discourses. It begins from the premise that many traditions are, at least in part, social fabrications, often deliberately serving particular ideological ends. Individual chapters examine a wide variety of historical periods and religions (Congolese, Buddhist, Christian, Confucian, Cree, Esoteric, Hawaiian, Hindu, Islamic, Jewish, New Religious Movement, and Shinto). Different sections of the book consider tradition's relation to three sets of issues: legitimation and authority; agency and identity; modernity and the West.