Empiricism and repetition: A philosophical examination of alterity, colonial discourse, and ethnography in the study of religion

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Charles E. Winquist


Deleuze, Gilles

Subject Categories

Philosophy | Religion | Religious Thought, Theology and Philosophy of Religion


This dissertation contributes to a critique of representation and empirical method in the study of religion by analyzing post-structuralist theories of repetition and alterity. Specifically, the dissertation advances a post-structural analysis of the epistemological status of empirical representations. The dissertation examines the concept of alterity advanced by Gilles Deleuze. Drawing from Deleuze's philosophy, the dissertation interprets alterity as an a priori condition and structure of possibility determinative of perception. The dissertation evaluates the implications of Deleuze's work for analyses of ethnographic and colonial discourses. Chapter One surveys dominant themes in contemporary challenges to ethnography and the relevance of such for New World colonial discourses. Chapter Two evaluates the relationship of experience to representation in proto-ethnographic accounts of the alterity of the New World. Chapter Three advances a post-structuralist analysis of the epistemological status of representation. Chapter Four evaluates empirical representations in colonial and ethnographic discourses. Chapter Five analyzes representation in relation to Deleuze's theory of Otherness. Chapter Six evaluates alterity as an epistemological condition of Bernal Diaz's depiction of Aztec culture and religion. Chapter Seven evaluates the phenomenological role of alterity in the production of empirical positivities. The conclusion outlines the importance of theories of alterity for religious studies.


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