What is social constructionism, and how is it important to the study of religion? In this interview, Titus Hjelm tells David Robertson about social constructionism – that is, a set of approaches which see social realities as built from language, rather than reflecting ontological realities. Hjelm outlines how these approaches emerged as part of the ‘linguistic turn’ in the social sciences more broadly, as well as pointing to some different interpretations of how these constructivist, discursive or critical approaches operate. Their importance, he suggests, is in challenging how we think about ontology, epistemology and power.
In the second half, attention turns to the study of religion specifically. Hjelm and Robertson note the potential for these approaches to resolve issues in the field, including the increasingly untenable attempt to define religion, and essentialism – that religion is a sui generis thing-in-itself, rather than a product of human culture. Despite – or because – of this, constructionism has not been broadly adopted as a theoretical approach in the field.
For much more on the subject, see Hjelm’s recent book Social Constructionisms, published by Palgrave MacMillan. Listeners might also be interested in our previous podcast with Titus, on Marxist Approaches to the Study of Religions. You can also download this interview, and subscribe to receive our weekly podcast, on iTunes. If you enjoyed it, please take a moment to rate us. And remember, you can use our Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.com, or Amazon.ca links to support us at no additional cost buying academic texts, Finnish metal CDs, fishing tackle, and more.