Interview with Dr. Bengt-Ove Andreassen
Can you introduce yourself and tell us about your research interests?
My name is Bengt-Ove Andreassen and I work as an associate professor at UiT – The Arctic University of Norway. My research interests are primarily Religion Education. I have also done some research on a Christian revival group in Northern Scandinavia, usually referred to as The Laestadian movement. I have been working most with RE and doing critical discourse analysis of curricula and textbooks in order to map and analyse which discourses dominate and therefore also influence how RE in public school is understood. A part of this is to analyse how ‘religion’ is conceptualised, understood and used in defining aims for the subject.
What are the most challenging aspects in the academic study of religion in your view?
I think the most challenging thing is to show how the academic study of religion is something different from theology or other religious approaches to religion. Thereby, argue for the value and importance of the academic study of religion in the public sphere in general, or more specific, such as in teacher education.
Do they have an impact on your teaching?
I always try to base my teaching in what I identify as general principles in the study of religion. That means to always have a critical reflection on the use of the term ‘religion’, be aware of how comparison is being conducted, and be reflexive about myself and my impact on how things are presented.
What do you think about the role of the scholar of religion as a “public intellectual“?
The discussion about the role of the scholar of religion as a “public intellectual” is something that has interested me and is a discussion which I think is very relevant when you work with RE. RE is something that is highly debated in the public sphere and I think it is important that scholars contribute with scientific based knowledge and perspectives. Still, that is a major challenge because the format(s) of public debate is very different compared to academic debates and discussions. You have to be able to address and explain complex issues in clear arguments within limited time. And that is, of course, something that also can benefit most scholars’ academic work.
Please tell us about the seminar and the lecture you were giving here in Hannover.
I have entitled my seminar in Hannover “Researching RE. Perspectives from the Study of religion”. My intention has been to illustrate to the students how I work with RE within the Study of religion. Firstly, it is about the material (i.e. law, curricula and textbooks) I use to analyse how ‘religion’ is conceptualised and related to a number of functions within the educational system. Secondly, how I have used (what I refer to as) ‘basic principles within the study of religion’ in order to develop an approach to RE for teaching in school. My aim for the seminar was to 1) illustrate the critical-analytical deconstruction of ‘religion’ and ‘religions’, which is important in study of religions based research on RE. And 2) to illustrate and discuss how the study of religions can contribute to RE when it comes to how one approaches religions.