Ruy Llera Blanes, Sondra L. Hausner, and Simon Coleman
Doing Ritual While Thinking about It?
Religious anthropology and ritual studies have increasingly acknowledged that ritual and religion are subject to criticism. There is still a tendency, however, to argue that doubt, skepticism, and forms of ‘critical reflexivity’ develop somewhere outside the ritual ‘frame’, in connection with external processes. In presenting this special section of Religion and Society, this introduction harks back to past research arising out of structural and performative approaches to rite, introduces the notion of critical reflexivity, and outlines the ways it is used to shed light on overlooked formal aspects of religious rituals. In order to stress the subtle connection between ritual action and (local) reflection on this action as evidenced in situ in the course of performance, linked with internal features of ritual activity, the article evokes two lines of empirical inquiry: institutionalized episodes of ritual assessment and ritual ‘accidents’ that do not necessarily imply ritual ‘failure’.
Between Religion, Regulation, and Globalization
The Hebrew term ‘kosher’ means ‘fit’ or ‘proper’ and signifies foods conforming to Jewish dietary law (kashrut). Kosher biotechnical production is subject to elaborate rules that have warranted regulation over the last two decades. This article shows how kosher regulation works in biotech production. I argue that while existing studies of kosher production and regulation have emerged mostly from within business studies and the food sciences, the broader institutional picture and the personal relationships between certifiers and businesses that frame these procedures are not yet well understood. Based on empirical research and interaction with biotech companies, I provide an ethnography of how transnational governmentality warrants a product as ‘kosher’ and thereby helps to format and standardize the market. This article builds mainly on fieldwork conducted at the world’s largest producer of enzymes, Novozymes, based in Denmark, which is certified by the leading global kosher certifier, the Orthodox Union.
Linda Woodhead, James T. Richardson, Martyn Percy, Catherine Wessinger, and Eileen Barker
Analytical Routes through Multiple Meanings
Translator : Jeffrey Hoff
This text proposes a conceptual discussion and a preliminary analysis of a specific situation. In a Brazilian town, a monument representing a Catholic saint has been proposed as a project of ‘religious tourism’. Some of the literature on this subject is examined in order to delineate a perspective that, instead of pointing out its contradictions or ambiguities, allows us to follow the encounters between religion and tourism in their multiple possibilities and meanings. The Brazilian monument is analyzed in order to demonstrate how three different visions converge on it: that of the state, that of the Catholic Church, and that of a group of ‘pilgrims’. In considering these perspectives, the goal is to understand how the various concepts relate to practices of tourism that offer structure and frameworks to promote religious and secular projects.
Anthropologists have recently shown an increasing concern with secular formations. This exploratory article inquires into the secular formation of anthropology itself by initiating an examination of its relation to theology, deemed anthropology’s disciplinary Other. I argue for recognizing a complex relation, whereby anthropology in some ways forgets theology, in others sustains it, and in still others invites critique by it. Analyzing anthropology from its theological edges may reinvigorate awareness of its ethical dimensions as a secular enterprise, as well as help measure its distance from (or proximity to) dominant projects, such as the Enlightenment and the nation-state, which were crucial for its founding in the modern world. An anthropology critically curious about its inherited alienation from theological modes of reasoning may not only become better at investigating the possibilities that cultural forms can take, but also become aware of new forms that the discipline could itself take.
A Discursive Analysis of a Century of Anthropological Writings on Missionary Ethnographers
Travis Warren Cooper
This article examines discussions of missionaries penned by anthropologists and existing in disciplinary consciousness. Questions of alterity, distance and sameness, the potentially exploitative effects of ethnography, and the uncomfortable colonialist underpinnings of both missionary and anthropological pasts come to the fore in these texts. Drawing on a wealth of journal articles, ethnographic monographs, and edited volumes, I identify, describe, and analyze six predominant discourses on missionaries, including anthropological depictions of missionaries as foils (Discourse One), as intermediaries (Discourse Two), and as present in good or bad manifestations (Discourse Three). Other threads constitute missionaries as data (Discourse Four), conceive of them as methodological ancestors and ethnographic colleagues (Discourse Five), or identify them reflexively as both anthropologists and Christians (Discourse Six). I suggest that missionaries serve as an archetypical foil against which the anthropological discipline emerges. Missionary ethnographers are for anthropologists a necessarily uncanny, repressed, productive other.
So What Is the Anthropology of Buddhism About?
David N. Gellner
This afterword considers the history of the subfield of the anthropology of Buddhism in light of the essays in this special section of Religion and Society. Anthropologists have sought to combat conventional assumptions about Buddhism and have long made contributions to the study of Buddhism, the state, nationalism, and politics. As part of a maturing field, they have also made contributions through the study of Buddhism to many other subfields of anthropology, including morality, spirit possession, the emotions, and materiality. It is no longer necessary for the anthropology of Buddhism to be overwhelmingly concerned with the authenticity and identity of its subjects.
Identity, Law, and Gender in the Anthropology of Contemporary Buddhism
“To be Burmese is to be Buddhist” is a slogan commonly identified with the dawn of nationalism in the country known today as Myanmar, where violence between Buddhist, Muslim, and ethnic communities has increasingly jeopardized liberalizing reforms. How do contemporary forms of Theravada Buddhist discourse shape ideas of belonging in a multi-religious and ethnically diverse Myanmar following the dissolution of military rule in 2011? How do digital technologies and globalizing communication networks in this nation influence rapidly changing social identities, anxieties, and imaginaries that Brigit Meyer identifies as ‘aesthetic formations’? In this article, I trace diverse genealogies of belonging to show how contemporary constructions of meaning facilitate religious imaginaries that may exacerbate difference by drawing on past ideologies of conflict or may seek to envision a new and diverse Myanmar.