In recent years there has been widespread criticism of traditional Orientalism from various quarters. Many scholars, who probably have never identified themselves with the traditional orientation of Orientalism, have been thinking of revising the subject and changing its perspectives. But this task does not seem to be one that can be easily achieved due to the fact that until now there has not even been a valid definition of Orientalism. Previously, it was a field in which historical and linguistic research was done. Since such scholars could simply be called either historians or linguists, Orientalism did not have a justified identity of its own.
Methodological notes on interdisciplinary research on near eastern religious minorities
Recently some attempts have been made to correct this defect by including all aspects of Oriental societies under the general term Orientalism. This automatically makes Orientalism an interdisciplinary subject, no longer limited to history and linguistics alone, and takes the discipline one step further beyond scholars who have become aware of the serious problems involving specialization but have not yet been able to apply interdisciplinary methods.
Religious Communities in the Near East in the Past and Present”, Berlin, 14-17 April 1995, was a successful attempt in this direction. The important questions which the Symposium put at the center of its considerations had, until then, not found a place in scholarly discussion. I will be referring to these questions later in this article. At the same time, the symposium did expose problems regarding interdisciplinary research, which also encouraged me to revise my original article.
Syncretistic Religious Communities in the Near East
It is evident that interdisciplinary research has limitations and difficulties depending on the subjects and disciplines. Here we are concerned with the study of Near Eastern religious communities, andI will therefore limit myself to some of the interdisciplinary questions with which I myself was confronted. Although many of the points that I will be trying to make here will be quite obvious to many, they still need to be discussed, especially as there does not seem to be any writing on this subject by scholars working in this field.
This article does not have any claim other than to be an attempt to start a methodological discussion in research on religious minorities of the Near East. The methodological problems discussed in this article occur commonly in the area of our concern, so it will not be necessary to mention them all. I am limiting my remarks to my own work and those authors who have referred to them. I am sure these authors appreciate critical and objective discussion in the classical scientific spiri…