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The Limits of Religious Indifference


This essay explores religious indifference as an example of that which stands beyond the scope of social scientific knowledge production. In turn, it uses religious indifference to consider the social scientist’s role in constituting the religion-related field. The literary character Bartleby and the ethnographic character Gino provide two case studies for examining particular types of religious indifference that cannot be known to the researcher. As fictions, they offer a way to explore that which would otherwise remain illegible, and they serve as humbling reminders of the inescapable limits of inquiry. To better understand the role that researchers play in constituting the religion-related field, this essay relies on other ethnographic examples to compare differing notions of “entanglement” and their implications for the study of nonbelievers and the nonreligious. The essay concludes by offering researchers a choice: to pursue religious indifference or to leave it alone.

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