When the two editors of this journal were approached by Berghahn Books to start an annual journal on religion, they felt the opportunity had arrived to fill a gap oft en remarked upon when anthropologists meet for a coffee or a beer; namely, the one created by the lack of any journal dealing exclusively with the ‘anthropology of religion’. Of course conversations over coffee have to be taken with a pinch of salt (or sugar). The idea of a separate ‘anthropology of religion’—not to mention the notion that there is such a thing as a separate field of human action and thought called ‘religion’—creates an enduring problematic in itself. But even so, scholars claiming to do something of the sort have been active since at least the days of Frazer and Tylor. Approaches oft en portrayed as different, even opposed (e.g., cognitive, phenomenological, structuralist) have been developing their own dynamics, debates, conferences and publications, sometimes in isolation from one another, and sometimes with little or no connection to nonanthropological disciplines also concerned with the study of religion, such as theology, sociology, or religious studies.
Simon Coleman and Ramon Sarró
As I began writing this piece, a blog post in the Guardian (18 May 2010) asked if “the markets” are our new religion, likening them to a “bloodthirsty god” in primitive religion. Financial markets are the outcome of thousands of independent decisions, but the media oft en speak of them as a single all-knowing entity. Almost a decade earlier, Thomas Frank (2001) published One Market under God and many others have made a similar connection. The editors of this journal approached me to comment on the possible interest the financial crisis might hold for anthropologists of religion. That begs the question of what religion is and what money has to do with it. In what follows I stick to a Durkheimian line on the affinity between money and religion. Its relevance to the current economic crisis must wait for another occasion.
The Immanent Frame
Max-Planck-Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity Afterlife Research Centre
The Non-religion and Secularity Research Network
Teaching Religion in the Social Sciences
Network of Anthropology of Religion
Tracking the Anthropology of Human Rights and Religion
Kamari Maxine Clarke
This article explores the reality of translating or vernacularizing practices in relation to the politics of religion and the realities of faith. Taking violence as endemic to the processes of vernacularization and translation, the article articulates an analytic theory of religious faith—the way it is violated, often in the interest of making it legible within neo-liberal universalizing trends. Thinking about these realities involves understanding translations both as productive of cultural change and as manifestations of struggles over power. Many of these struggles are in the interstices among particular principles of individualism, secularism, legal rationality, and evidence. This article seeks to review the assumptions that emerge with these concepts and show their limits.
Maurice Bloch, Laurent Berger, David Berliner, Fenella Cannell, and Webb Keane
Th e refl ections presented here demonstrate the coherence and continuity of the part of my work that can be labeled as dealing with religion and ritual. Th is of course does not mean that everything I have written on the subject is coherent and continuous. Indeed as time has passed I have learned many things from my readings and experiences, from interacting with colleagues and friends, and from working with others, including the people I have studied and, above all, the PhD students I have supervised. As a result I have had to modify what I thought. Looking back I believe there is an ongoing line of argument in what I have published and this is what I attempt to clarify in what follows.
Exploring Spiritual Ecology
Leslie E. Sponsel
Many scholars have touched on the relationships between religion and nature since the work of late nineteenth-century anthropologists such as Edward B. Tylor. This is almost inevitable in studying some religions, especially indigenous ones. Nevertheless, only since the 1950s has anthropological research gradually been developing that is intentionally focused on the influence of religion on human ecology and adaptation, part of a recent multidisciplinary field that some call spiritual ecology (Merchant 2005; Sponsel 2001, 2005a, 2007a, 2007b, 2007c; S. Taylor 2006). At last this ecological approach is beginning to receive some attention in textbooks on the anthropology of religion, ecological anthropology, human ecology, and environmental conservation, though it is still uncommon in the anthropological periodicals (Bowie 2006; Marten 2001; Merchant 2005; Russell and Harshbarger 2003; Townsend 2009). This article summarizes a sample of the growing literature and cites other sources to help facilitate the eff orts of those who may find this new subject to be of sufficient interest for further inquiry.
The Spatial Turn in Research on Religion
Following a consideration of the impact of the late twentieth-century spatial turn on the study of religion by geographers, anthropologists, sociologists, historians, and religious studies scholars, two trends are distinguished: the poetics of place and the sacred; and politics, religion, and the contestation of space. Discussion of these reveals substantially different approaches to religion, space, and place—one phenomenological, the other social constructivist. The spatial turn has been extremely fruitful for research on religion, bringing together scholars from a variety of disciplines, and connecting not only to traditional areas such as sacred space and pilgrimage, but to new ones such as embodiment, gender, practice and religious-secular engagements.
Recent Studies of Amazonian Ontologies
Luiz Costa and Carlos Fausto
The ethnography of lowland South American societies has occupied a central place in recent debates concerning what has been called the 'ontological turn' in anthropology. The concepts of 'animism' and 'perspectivism', which have been revigorated through studies of Amerindian ontologies, figure increasingly in the ethnographies of non-Amerindian peoples and in anthropological theory more generally. This article traces the theoretical and empirical background of these concepts, beginning with the influence of Lévi-Strauss's work on the anthropology of Philippe Descola and Eduardo Viveiros de Castro, and proceeding with their impact on Amazonian ethnography. It then investigates the problems that two alternative traditions—one combining a cognitivist with a pragmaticist approach, the other a phenomenological one—pose to recent studies of Amazonian ontologies that rely on the concepts of animism and perspectivism. The article concludes by considering how animism and perspectivism affect our descriptions of Amerindian society and politics, highlighting the new challenges that studies of Amerindian ontologies have begun to address.
Moving Relations, Patterned Effusions
François Berthomé and Michael Houseman
This article reconsiders the connection between 'ritual' and 'emotion' from a pragmatic, relational perspective in which rituals are seen as dynamic interactive contexts and emotions as fairly short-lived emergent properties and integral components of these interactions. It emphasizes ritual's capacity to reallocate social positions by instantiating characteristic patterns of relationship, and the way particular emotions crystallize and express these patterns. In short, ritual emotions are treated as the sensate qualities of ritual relationships. From this standpoint, emotions feature in ceremonial settings not as striking experiences grafted onto practices and representations, but as constitutive aspects of ritual interactions themselves, whose properties of bodily salience and relational reflexivity both reflect and inflect the latter's course in a variety of sensory, expressive, moral, and strategic ways. Four issues relating to ritual and emotion are discussed within the framework of particular ceremonial practices that have been the object of much recent research: (1) the ritual expression of emotions in funerary laments, (2) the waning of cathartic models in the interpretation of rites of affliction, (3) the intense emotional arousal characteristic of initiatory ordeals, and (4) the self-constructive, affective dimensions of contemporary devotional practices.
The Uses of Ethnography in a Contested Field of Scholarship
Since the 1980s, there has existed a field of scholarly inquiry into a range of phenomena termed New Age. The relative lack of ethnographic studies in this field was identified several years ago, in response to research that focused merely on the discourses within alleged key writings. However, the employment of ethnographic methods does not by itself resolve the problems inherent in other modes of research; attention also has to be paid to how ethnography is used in practice. This article examines ethnographies of the New Age in terms of the extent to which they contextualize data within their immediate social frames, by paying attention to actors' practices and interactions, and to the ways in which beliefs and discourses are constructed and contested. The article demonstrates the strong tendency among New Age ethnographic studies to veer from 'the social' and to rest instead on analytically problematic conceptualizations of agency. It argues that epistemological revision is required to form the basis of a more sociologically adequate understanding of the phenomena addressed.