Understanding Religion

Theories and Methods for Studying Religiously Diverse Societies

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Paul Michael Hedges
  • Berkeley: 
    University of California Press
    , February
     584 pages.
     For other formats: Link to Publisher's Website.
Review coming soon!

Review by Priyesh Patel forthcoming.


A cutting-edge introduction to contemporary religious studies theory, connecting theory to data.

This innovative coursebook introduces students to interdisciplinary theoretical tools for understanding contemporary religiously diverse societies—both Western and non-Western. Using a case-study model, the text considers:

  • A wide and diverse array of contemporary issues, questions, and critical approaches to the study of religion relevant to students and scholars
  • A variety of theoretical approaches, including decolonial, feminist, hermeneutical, poststructuralist, and phenomenological analyses
  • Current debates on whether the term "religion" is meaningful
  • Many key issues about the study of religion, including the insider-outsider debate, material religion, and lived religion
  • Plural and religiously diverse societies, including the theological ideas of traditions and the political and social questions that arise for those living alongside adherents of other religions

Understanding Religion is designed to provide a strong foundation for instructors to explore the ideas presented in each chapter in multiple ways, engage students in meaningful activities in the classroom, and integrate additional material into their lectures. Students will gain the tools to apply specific methods from a variety of disciplines to analyze the social, political, spiritual, and cultural aspects of religions. Its unique pedagogical design means it can be used from undergraduate- to postgraduate-level courses.

About the Author(s)/Editor(s)/Translator(s): 

Paul Hedges is associate professor in the Studies in Interreligious Relations in Plural Societies Programme, RSIS, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore. He has authored or edited more than a dozen books and over seventy academic papers. His most recent book is Religious Hatred: Prejudice, Islamophobia, and Antisemitism in Global Context.


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