The Study of Children in Religions: A Methods Handbook

The Study of Children in Religions: A Methods Handbook

The Study of Children in Religions: A Methods Handbook

The Study of Children in Religions: A Methods Handbook

Excerpt

In much of religious studies scholarship, as in most religious practice, children appear primarily as reflections of adult concerns about the present or as projections of adult concerns for the future. Until recently, the absence of children’s voices in religion—and the widely shared assumptions about childhood that inform this absence—led many scholars to view children as uncritically following the beliefs of their parents. Scholars assumed that adults are the sole creators and promoters of religious traditions and beliefs, overlooking any roles that children play in the creation or modification of religion as they respond to adult efforts to nurture their faith. Guided by theories from childhood studies, however, scholars have begun to appreciate the benefits of a child-centered perspective that can reveal the complex ways in which children can both negotiate and transform their faiths. When making this shift, scholars must, as historian Harry Hendrick reminds us, “be aware that we are studying people—with voices, concerns, and interpretations of their own—not ideas or concepts.” Studying children, rather than the idea of “the child,” raises questions that researchers interested in adult issues often overlook. This volume assists those interested in religion and young people in their efforts to understand children, in all their fullness, as they participate in and work to create their own faith communities and sacred practices. The contributors offer concrete suggestions for creating methodologies that allow scholars to study adult discourses about children and the ways in which the words and actions of those same children reflect, interrupt, and challenge these discourses. Scholars interested in children and religion who want to explore the idea of childhood autonomy in religious studies, and to think critically about what we currently know about children and religion, should find much to learn in this volume.

Religious studies scholar Robert Orsi and others questioned whether adults can ever truly achieve child-centeredness in their work or access children’s thoughts about religion because of the complicated ways in which children’s voices are influenced by and intertwined with the adults around them (including adult researchers), the marketplace, and their peers. He . . .

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