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The Politics of Life after Earth

Micha Rahder

Abstract

This article examines the reinvigoration of outer space imaginaries in the era of global environmental change, and the impacts of these imaginaries on Earth. Privatized space research mobilizes fears of ecological, political, or economic catastrophe to garner support for new utopian futures, or the search for Earth 2.0. These imaginaries reflect dominant global discourses about environmental and social issues, and enable the flow of earthly resources toward an extraterrestrial frontier. In contrast, eco-centric visions emerging from Gaia theory or feminist science fiction project post-earthly life in terms that are ecological, engaged in multispecies relations and ethics, and anti-capitalist. In these imaginaries, rather than centering humans as would-be destroyers or saviors of Earth, our species becomes merely instrumental in launching life—a multispecies process—off the planet, a new development in deep evolutionary time. This article traces these two imaginaries and how they are reshaping material and political earthly life.

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Introduction

A Decade of Religion and Society

Sondra L. Hausner, Ruy Llera Blanes, and Simon Coleman

This volume of Religion and Society is a special one. First, with this edition we celebrate our 10th anniversary. While our personnel have changed to some degree, our remit has remained largely the same. We present theoretically and methodologically challenging studies of religion through a variety of formats that place religion at the center of analysis and enable those who study religious phenomena to engage in debate and dialogue with each other. In recent years, our approach has also cemented ties with the Society for the Anthropology of Religion, a subsection of the American Anthropological Association. Over the entirety of the last decade, we have continued to publish exceptional interdisciplinary scholarship in social and cultural analyses of religion.

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Introduction

Religious Plurality, Interreligious Pluralism, and Spatialities of Religious Difference

Jeremy F. Walton and Neena Mahadev

Abstract

The introduction to this special section foregrounds the key distinction between ‘religious plurality’ and ‘interreligious pluralism’. Building from the example of a recent controversy over an exhibition on shared religious sites in Thessaloniki, Greece, we analyze the ways in which advocates and adversaries of pluralism alternately place minority religions at the center or attempt to relegate them to the margins of visual, spatial, and political fields. To establish the conceptual scaffolding that supports this special section, we engage the complex relations that govern the operations of state and civil society, sacrality and secularity, as well as spectacular acts of disavowal that simultaneously coincide with everyday multiplicities in the shared use of space. We conclude with brief summaries of the four articles that site religious plurality and interreligious pluralism in the diverse contexts of Brazil, Russia, Sri Lanka, and the Balkans.

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Mega-Plantations in Southeast Asia

Landscapes of Displacement

Miles Kenney-Lazar and Noboru Ishikawa

Abstract

This article reviews a wide body of literature on the emergence and expansion of agro-industrial, monoculture plantations across Southeast Asia through the lens of megaprojects. Following the characterization of megaprojects as displacement, we define mega-plantations as plantation development that rapidly and radically transforms landscapes in ways that displace and replace preexisting human and nonhuman communities. Mega-plantations require the application of large amounts of capital and political power and the transnational organization of labor, capital, and material. They emerged in Southeast Asia under European colonialism in the nineteenth century and have expanded again since the 1980s at an unprecedented scale and scope to feed global appetites for agro-industrial commodities such as palm oil and rubber. While they have been contested by customary land users, smallholders, civil society organizations, and even government regulators, their displacement and transformation of Southeast Asia's rural landscapes will likely endure for quite some time.

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Mindfulness and Hasidic Modernism

Toward a Contemplative Ethnography

Don Seeman and Michael Karlin

Abstract

Amid growing interest in mindfulness studies focusing on Buddhist and Buddhism-derived practices, this article argues for a comparative and ethnographic approach to analogous practices in different religious traditions and to their vernacular significance in the everyday lives of practitioners. The Jewish contemplative tradition identified with Chabad Hasidism is worth consideration in this context because of its long-standing indigenous tradition of contemplative practice, the recent adoption of ‘mindfulness’ practices or terminology by some Hasidim, and its many intersections with so-called Buddhist modernism. These intersections include the personal trajectories of individuals who have engaged in both Buddhist and Hasidism-derived mindfulness practices, the shared invocation and adaptation of contemporary psychology, and the promotion of secularized forms of contemplative practice. We argue that ‘Hasidic modernism’ is a better frame than ‘neo-Hasidism’ for comparative purposes, and that Hasidic modernism complicates the taxonomies of secularity in comparable but distinctive ways to those that arise in Buddhist-modernism contexts.

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On Institutional Pluralization and the Political Genealogies of Post-Yugoslav Islam

Jeremy F. Walton and Piro Rexhepi

Abstract

Over recent decades, Islamic institutions and Muslim communities in the successor nation-states of former Yugoslavia have taken shape against a variegated political and historical topography. In this article, we examine the discourses and politics surrounding Islamic institutions in four post-Yugoslav nation-states: Kosovo, Macedonia, Croatia, and Slovenia. Our analysis moves in two directions. On the one hand, we illuminate the historical legacies and institutional ties that unite Muslims across these four contexts. As we argue, this institutional history continues to mandate a singular, hegemonic model of Sunni-Hanafi Islam that pre-emptively delegitimizes Muslim communities outside of its orbit. On the other hand, we also attend to the contrasting national politics of Islam in each of our four contexts, ranging from Islamophobic anxiety and suspicion to multiculturalism, from a minority politics of differentiation to hegemonic images of ethno-national religiosity.

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On Knowing Faith

Theology, Everyday Religion, and Anthropological Theory

Joel Robbins

I was very honored by the invitation to deliver the 2019 Rappaport Lecture, which forms the basis of this article. The theme of the Society for the Anthropology of Religion's conference for which it was written, “The Politics of Religious Knowledge and Ignorance,” is one that is very close to the heart of Roy Rappaport's work. After all, the foundation of his magisterial theory of the role of ritual in the development of humanity is our species’ radical inability, once language allowed expression to take on a life of its own, to know whether others are lying to us or not, and ritual's ability to address the problem of radical social ignorance that this incapacity sets before us by creating certainty about who people are and what commitments they have taken on (Rappaport 1999). For Rappaport, ritual and religion were both from the start fundamentally entangled with issues of knowledge and ignorance.

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Portrait: Saba Mahmood (In Memoriam)

Amira Mittermaier, Susan Harding, and Michael Lambek

A Portrait in Scenes by Amira Mittermaier

For Saba by Susan Harding

Recollections of a Friendship by Michael Lambek

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Post-war Blood

Sacrifice, Anti-sacrifice, and the Rearticulations of Conflict in Sri Lanka

Neena Mahadev

Abstract

Since 2009, in the aftermath of Sri Lanka's ethnic war, certain contingents of Sinhala Buddhists have lodged attacks against religious minorities, whom they censure for committing violence against animals in accordance with the dictates of their gods. Considering these interventions against sacrifice in spaces of shared Hindu and Buddhist religiosity, this article examines the economies of derogation, violence, and scapegoating in post-war Sri Lanka. Within Sinhala Buddhism, sacrifice is considered bio-morally impure yet politically efficacious, whereas meritorious Buddhist discipleship is sacrificial only in aspirational, bloodless terms. Nevertheless, both practices fall within the spectrum of Sinhala Buddhist religious life. Majoritarian imperatives concerning post-war blood impinge upon marginal sites of shared religiosity—spaces where the blood of animals is spilled and, ironically, where political potency can be substantively shored up. The article examines the siting of sacrifice and the purifying majoritarian interventions against it, as Buddhists strive to assert sovereignty over religious others.

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Remaking Oceans Governance

Critical Perspectives on Marine Spatial Planning

Luke Fairbanks, Noëlle Boucquey, Lisa M. Campbell, and Sarah Wise

Abstract

Marine spatial planning (MSP) seeks to integrate traditionally disconnected oceans activities, management arrangements, and practices through a rational and comprehensive governance system. This article explores the emerging critical literature on MSP, focusing on key elements of MSP engaged by scholars: (1) planning discourse and narrative; (2) ocean economies and equity; (3) online ocean data and new digital ontologies; and (4) new and broad networks of ocean actors. The implications of these elements are then illustrated through a discussion of MSP in the United States. Critical scholars are beginning to go beyond applied or operational critiques of MSP projects to engage the underlying assumptions, practices, and relationships involved in planning. Interrogating MSP with interdisciplinary ideas drawn from critical social science disciplines, such as emerging applications of relational theory at sea, can provide insights into how MSP and other megaprojects both close and open new opportunities for social and environmental well-being.