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Psychology of Religions, Uppsala University, 2015

Division of Psychology of Religion, Faculty of Theology; Uppsala University:

Postal address: Teologiska institutionen, Avdelningen för religionsbeteendevetenskap, Box 1604, SE-751 46 Uppsala
Visiting address: Regnellianum, Slottsgränd 3
Web page: http://www.teol.uu.se/forskning/religionspsykologi/index.htm

Contact person: Professor Owe Wikström, phone: +46 (0)18 471 21 84


Ongoing research connected to South Asia:

Professor Owe Wikström has done some research on India. In 1996 he published ”Darsán (to see) Lord Shiva in Varanasi. Visual processes and the representation of God by seven ricksha-drivers” (Scripta Instituti Donneriani Aboensis, XVI, pp. 105-117).

Göran Viktor Ståhle has been working on a project which is an Ethnographic study of a Hindu temple for Goddess Durga worship in Varanasi. India. Göran Ståhle who previously worked at the Dept. of Media, Journalism and Communication at Stockholm University, interprets his research material through theories used in Social Psychology, Cultural Psychology, and Ritual Theory. He defended his doctoral dissertation called ”The Religious Self in Practice at a Hindu Goddess-Temple: A Cultural Psychological Approach for the Psychology of Religion”, on Friday 17 December 2004. Faculty opponent was Nils G Holm, Dept. of Religious Studies, Åbo Akademi, Finland.
Abstract of thesis: The main objective of this dissertation is to contribute to the psychology of religion in two ways. First, it adds to theory development in the field, and second, it provides an original field study of Hindu everyday-religiosity. This dual-focused objective is met through the development of theory for a practice-oriented cultural psychology of religion, grounded in a study of a Hindu goddess-temple in Banaras (Varanasi), India.
The cultural psychological approach makes use of Bourdieu’s concept “habitus”. It is argued that employing this concept in theory development overcomes a dualism of culture and self, and provides an alternative to previous models in the psychology of religion that interpret religiosity in either intrapsychical or intersubjective terms. Further, it is argued that the concept can interpret culture-specific features in Hindu religiosity, such as an emphasis on practical activity and on a non-dualistic view of person and world.
A model of a “Religious Self in Practice” is outlined, which integrates features from theories of “self as narrative practice” and Bell’s concept “ritualization”. The religious self is seen as a construction of relational and practical processes, a product of individuals participating in cultural practices of religiosity, manifested in a specific local site. Specific persons master the pre-given conventions of religious self-construction in individual, creative ways.
The study argues that a temple is such a site in a Hindu context. Ethnography is used to study the cultural practices of the religious self at the site, and life story interview to study a sample of seven individual ways of mastering these practices. The study analyzes sacred status at the temple as being an interplay of individuals’ devotions and common practices of religiosity. This practical logic is also identified in the life stories of the devotees as narrative practice of the religious self in relation to the Goddess.