chapter  1
26 Pages


ByFrederick Bird, Laurie Lamoureux Scholes

Research is fi rst and foremost a moral activity. (Nina Hallowell et al. 2005: 148)

As scholars within the fi eld of religious studies we are inherently engaged in the study of the religious life of other people. Whether we focus our research on studies of architecture or texts, on organizations or rituals, historical or contemporary, our research is not just an exercise in literary criticism, symbolic analysis, social deconstruction or archaeological reconstruction. It is also an engagement with the people who have and do express their religious lives using these texts, actions and artifacts. As researchers, then, we gather, analyze, organize, interpret, translate, re-present and communicate information about religions. In the process we inevitably involve ourselves in several overlapping conversations-whether actual, assumed, implied or imaginedwith the subjects of our research and with various audiences which may include other researchers, our colleagues, critics, assistants, project sponsors, people in positions of authority, policy-makers, media and interest groups, as well as the subjects themselves. These conversations require our ongoing attention to ensure ethical integrity in both our treatment of those we study and in our efforts to produce and disseminate knowledge about their religious life.