Drawing on my own fieldwork experiences with the transnational Integral Yoga community, this essay offers some reflections on two possible approaches to bridging insider-outsider perspectives in the study of new religious movements. First, I consider Gerald Larson's suggestion of a “relationship of mutual reciprocity” between researcher and religious community. Second, I discuss the value of a participatory approach that attempts to integrate engaged participation with critical distance in the study of religion. I use my collaborative experience co-authoring an academic article on Sri Aurobindo and the contemporary yoga scene with an Integral Yoga practitioner to argue that while Larson's reciprocal enterprise risks either sacrificing critical concerns to apologetic agendas, or polarizing the insider as apologetic and the outsider as reductive, a participatory approach proposes a way to put insider-outsider perspectives into a more creative relation.
- method and theory in religious studies
- participatory turn
- new religious movements
- Sri Aurobindo
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