So far most scholarship has tended to study religious diversity within the scholar’s own national and disciplinary contexts. There has been little comparative work done within the field. Moreover, the current methodological approaches to researching religious diversity have been developed through the intuition of these individual scholars. Consequently, the intention of this network is to collectively analyze the methods with which these scholars are studying diversity within their own research and research areas.
We contend that a sophisticated awareness of the methodological approaches to the emerging field of religious diversity is required. The study of religious diversity is currently aware of its limitations but the existing research has little guiding methodological precedent. Moreover, there is little critical reflection upon how individual scholars have formulated their investigations into religious diversity and how their results have influenced the ways in which religious diversity is understood within their contexts.
This network is a call to develop a reflexive understanding of methods applied to researching religious diversity. We want to turn our attention towards an analysis of the processes by which scholars are defining religious diversity. We want to know what research methodologies investigators are using to study religious diversity. We recognize that each country’s experience of religious context impacts on the categories which are being used to study diversity. We want to identify how context dependent these research methodologies are and to what extent they can be decontextualised for others to apply to their own investigations of diversity. Moreover, we want to collect these methods together into one place where they can be utilized, critiqued and improved by the academic community. Thus, the goal of the network is to identify these various research methods and analyze their various strengths and limitations for future usage by other scholars in the field as well as to use this new knowledge to further our understandings of religion.
The network will assess how scholars are currently defining and deliminating religious groups and religious diversity within different contexts. For example, the broad category of “Buddhist” does not capture the different types of Buddhist identity and practice. It does not capture whether the practitioner is ethnically Buddhist or a Buddhist convert, a “dharma shopper” or a spiritual or secularized user of Buddhist techniques.
We also recognize that the values of the state’s historical and current management of diversity impact upon the categorization of religion. Studies of religious diversity are thus affected by the historical governance of nations.
Finally, we are also interested to explore how quantitative measures of diversity affect the way in which religious groups and religious diversity are considered. Census’s and population surveys are such strong instruments that they dictate how diversity is understood and results in certain categories of belief being aggregated rather than nuanced.