Shaping The Believer: A Comparative Study of Constitutive Religious Rhetoric

Student thesis: Master thesis (including HD thesis)

  • Josefine Berring
The aim of this thesis is to apply a rhetorical framework to analyse three cases wherein religion and religious rhetoric are prevalent, in order to gauge how religion may influence the process of creating collective subjects. The three cases selected are Kokutai no Hongi, a schoolbook from a pre-World War II Japanese context, Pope Urban II’s call for crusades, and Ayatollah Khomeini’s post-revolution speech in Iran, which all three are connected to violent expressions from their audiences. The intention is that applying the comparative method of analysis to these three cases will help isolate the religious components in the rhetorical arguments, and thereby aid in assessing commonalities and discrepancies in the religious argumentations.
These three cases are comparatively analysed taking point of departure in Maurice Charland’s (1987) theory of constitutive rhetoric, as well as Compensatory Control Theory (CCT). The aim of combining these two theories is to illustrate how religion contributes to the process of rhetorically constituting subjects, as well as the potential psychological effects this may have on the constituted collective subjects. The findings of the analysis illustrate similarities and discrepancies between the three cases in how their audiences are rhetorically constituted. Here, it is made evident how the three cases to varying degrees constitute their own familial in-group in contrast with the Other, and how both of these identities are solely constructed through religious imagery. It is also illustrated how the cases invoke the collective subject through anti-individualism. Here, particularly Kokutai no Hongi erases distinctions between the individual and the group. Further, it is argued that the cases all present a so-called transreligious subject, through which the subjects are called to identify with historical subjects, solely by virtue of their religious identities. Following this, the findings of the analysis illustrate how the subjects of Kokutai no Hongi are more tightly bound in terms of fol- lowing through with the narrative that is presented to them in the text, than is the case with the other two. It is shown how both Khomeini and Urban’s speeches also rhetorically constrain their subjects in the sense that the religious identities they are presented with provide a more desirable identity, than the ones they are juxtaposed with.
Further, taking point of departure in CCT, the analysis illustrates how rhetorically constituting subjects in these ways to a certain degree will remove feelings of personal control, which CCT argues leads to a heightened tendency to seek external control. In presenting religion as the only via- ble external control factor to combat these feelings of anxiety, which the texts themselves have imbued onto the subjects, it is argued that following through with the telos, the inherent purpose, presented to them is the only viable option for the subjects to retain their feelings of control.
Publication date15 Sep 2021
Number of pages72
ID: 445195944