From Respected Religion Scholar Expert to Cartoon Character: Reflections in the Wake of the Danish Muhammad Cartoon Crisis and Three Decades as Expert to the Media

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Abstract

Respected scholar, expert, public opinion maker, oracle, under-cover politician, charlatan, cartoon character – all roles “out there” waiting for scholars sharing knowledge with a wider public. Scholars of religion trying to carve out more room in the public arena for a nonreligious, scientific approach to religion always risk digging their graves as (respected) scholars. What’s worse, they also risk digging the grave for a valuable and respectable, as well as publicly valued and respected academic, scientific study of religion. The scholar popularizing scientifically based knowledge, not least via the mass media (daily newspapers or public television), may “become” political and controversial to such a degree that s/he becomes a problem for the scientific study of religion, the community of scholars of religion, and the university with which s/he is affiliated. The otherwise valuable engagement threatens the reputation of science as being something valuable, “pure” and “neutral,” elevated above the dirty business of politics and power. In spite of the risks, the engaged scholar, it is, however, also argued, actually can help to strengthen the position, inside and outside the academy, of scientifically based knowledge and of the critical, analytical, scientific study of religion.
Original languageEnglish
JournalChanging Societies & Personalities
Volume3
Issue number4
Pages (from-to)333-352
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2019

Keywords

  • Cartoon crisis
  • Islam
  • Methodological neutrality
  • Public intellectual
  • Public sphere
  • Social engagement
  • Study of religion

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