My name is Elena Kalmykova and I’m a postdoctoral
researcher at the Department of Philosophy. My research interest – my main research interest
– is how religious beliefs are related to religious practices. However, it turns out
that to answer this question is not that easy. It’s actually a big problem because the study
of religion is separated into the study of religious beliefs which is done by philosophy
or religion and the study of religious actions, religious practices which is done by anthropology
of religion, sociology of religion and so on. Each of these branches of research have their
own methodologies, their own vocabularies. However there is not much interaction between
them. And this link between beliefs and practices turns out to be in this no man’s land between
these two branches of research. So, what can I possibly do about that? I think
that even though beliefs and practices are very different things and each of them require
specific methods of research and specific concepts, still there is one thing which actually
connects them and unites them. And serves as their core. And that is the human body.
Because we form our beliefs on the basis of embodied feelings, perceptions, what we see,
what we hear, what we feel and we practice our beliefs again using our embodied capabilities.
To dance. To chant. To meditate in a lotus position. So I believe that in order to properly
account for this link between beliefs and practices we have to investigate the human
body. Moreover according to the recent research in cognitive science, body is not merely a
thing which just brings some sensations from the outer world into our mind, no, body actually
influences how we think. It influences the formation of our concepts. It influences our
beliefs. Even in the most abstract areas such as ethics. And morals. What I’m proposing
to do in my research is to take the results of this empirical studies of religion with
embodied approaches to human cognition. Analyse it and to apply this to the issues of religion.
So what I’m striving to do is to provide these methodological and conceptual tools for the
study of religion. And I strongly believe that with this focus upon human embodiment
this can bring us one step closer to finally answering these crucial questions about how
religious beliefs are actually related to religious practices.