In this examination I will explore the issue of the role of normativity in the religious studies in depth. I will analyze the theoretical issues surrounding normativity and language, and I will reveal how this plays out in scholarly discourse. I will also conduct a thorough but by no means exhaustive survey of some of the prominent approaches scholars of religion take to deal with the issue of normativity. Then I will examine, as a sort of "theoretical case study" how issues of normativity play out in the works of religious studies scholars by examining discourses of authenticity. Authenticity is a topic particularly sensitive to the normativity debate, and it exemplifies the problems of the issue of normative language in religious studies as well as displays a number of potential approaches scholars can use to deal with that issue. Through this examination, I will show that normativity is an inherent, inseparable part of language, and that one's values will always be made apparent through ones writing. In light of this understanding, I propose that an 2thoroughly reflective and self critical approach to the religious studies must be conducted, in which one devotes significant effort to reveal and re-evaluate the normative claims that may be subtly embedded in their work. I will then examine a number of scholarly works on the subject of authenticity and evaluate how well they carry out this task. Finally, I will examine how the approaches of these scholars reveals their views of the underlying purposes and goals of religious studies, and discuss the potential purposes of religious studies and its value as a discipline.


Graham, Mark


Religious Studies




authenticity, normativity, religious studies

Publication Date


Degree Granted

Bachelor of Arts

Document Type

Senior Independent Study Thesis



© Copyright 2013 Daniel Iwaniec