Local Religion in the Context of Global Religious History
The local history of religion studies the supposed ‘periphery’ of religious history (in the sense of geographically isolated and therefore historically insignificant places). In Bremen, the Local Religion project is oriented towards various approaches in cultural studies, above all the so-called postcolonial studies, which have brought the latent Eurocentrism in historiography into the focus of criticism: In its consequence, they argue, all regions outside Europe are seen only as an ‘addendum’ or imperfect manifestations of European history, representing historical development in general. In contrast, postcolonial theory have called for a “provincialization of Europe” (Dipesh Chakrabarty) in the sense of increased historiographical focus on the supposed ‘periphery’ in the form of the non-European world.
This criticism can also be made fruitful for a local and micro history of religion arguing from the perspective of cultural studies. For also in research on the history of religion and the church, the focus is often placed on the ‘significant’ developments in the centers of (European) history. In contrast, contexts away from these centers, supposedly affected only indirectly by historical developments, are rather rarely the subject of religious historiography, despite the fact that such contexts have never been completely isolated and closed off from the outside world.
Against this background, the local history of religion strives to examine those ‘small’ places in their entanglements with supra-regional and global discourses. In doing so, it turns out that the so-called ‘province’ cannot be understood solely as an imperfect reflection of the ‘big wide world’. Rather, on closer inspection, it presents itself as an intersection of a multitude of discourses with their very own dynamics, often effecting broader contexts in turn.