This article discusses structural, logistical, and administrative issues associated with the use of participant observation assignments in teaching the anthropology of religion. Fieldwork presents extraordinary opportunities for teaching students about the nature of cultural difference, but it also poses pedagogical challenges that require careful planning and supervision. The article reviews problems including the scope and nature of the observation, student preparation and guidance, connecting with fieldsites, presentation formats, issues of ethics and confidentiality, and university administrative considerations.
A Practical Guide
“I didn’t know that we were the repugnant other,” my student Tracy exclaimed as she entered the classroom and tossed her books on the table. “I didn’t know that anthropologists were interested in studying us at all!” “Yes, I imagine it comes as a surprise,” I responded as I finished moving the classroom desks into a semi-circle that was intended to facilitate the creation of spaces marked by open dialogue and diversity—core pedagogical concerns of the institution at which I was teaching. It was the second day of class, and Tracy’s comments were in response to Joel Robbins’s (2003) article “What Is a Christian? Notes toward an Anthropology of Christianity.” His discussion of Susan Harding’s infamous ‘repugnant cultural other’, which Robbins describes as an “anomalous mixture of the similar and the different” (ibid.: 193), had hit a nerve. Tracy’s question about anthropological interests in the Christian subject was an expected one, given that I was leading a special topics seminar on the Anthropology of Christianity to master of divinity students at the Candler School of Theology, a United Methodist seminary affiliated with Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia.
Around Birgit Meyer’s "Mediation and the Genesis of Presence: Toward a Material Approach to Religion"
Hans Belting, Pamela Klassen, Birgit Meyer, Christopher Pinney, and Monique Scheer
In the fall of 2011, I was appointed to the Chair of Religious Studies in the Department of Religious Studies and Theology in the Faculty of Humanities. As I soon realized, my appointment occurred amid major transitions regarding the institutionalization of the study of religion at Utrecht University. This is part of a broader trend of renegotiating the space between ‘theology’ and ‘religious studies’. This trend echoes a wider process of ‘unchurching’: as the number of students of theology declines nationwide, religion in new and unexpected guises has become both a hot item and an intriguing socio-cultural and political phenomenon. Over the past year, as part of the process of adapting to my new post, I have grappled with these complicated institutional transformations.
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.
Around Manuel A. Vásquez’s “More Than Belief: A Materialist Theory of Religion”
Manuel A. Vásquez, Abby Day, Lionel Obadia, David Chidester, and Chad E. Seales
Manuel Vásquez begins his book by describing university courses that frustrate his students by being text-based and divorced from real life. He rightly concludes that analyzing sacred texts does not alone explain lived religion and complex issues such as globalization, transnationalism, and hybrid identities. He is writing from a Religious Studies perspective that, as he says, sometimes suffers from an overly theological bias. Moves within the discipline to abandon ‘religion’ for something as equally diverse and difficult to pin down as ‘faith’ do not, he argues, take us any further, particularly because religion really matters to many people and therefore cannot be dismissed just because we scholars find it problematic. To adopt an approach that explores how religion is understood and lived by the people who practice it is, I agree, the most important task for people studying religion. If this serves as a wake-up call for people who still study religion as something, in Vásquez’s words, of angels rather than of people, then the book has done a great job.
The Cosmopolitics of an Apparently Non-religious Practice
Sergio González Varela
framework that could counterbalance the violence that had been part of capoeira for many decades. He wanted to get rid of the bad reputation that some practitioners had by establishing an academy to educate students and prepare them for life. His attempt to
A Discursive Analysis of a Century of Anthropological Writings on Missionary Ethnographers
Travis Warren Cooper
describe as pristine. ( Burton and Burton 2007: 210 ) Anthropologists in general have a negative attitude toward missionaries, especially when they conceive of missionaries as agents of cultural change … [A]nthropology students learn that missionaries are
Linda Woodhead, James T. Richardson, Martyn Percy, Catherine Wessinger, and Eileen Barker
asking students or colleagues to deputize for her on a couple of occasions when she simply could not face another attack. And although she was not derailed by what she suffered, it is not, she confesses with typical understatement, “something that I would
Fieldwork, Biography, and Authorship in Southwest China and Beyond
, although not entirely, auto-ethnography is an ‘autobiographical’ endeavor, which, as Simon Coleman (2011: 3, 9) suggests, is perhaps the ideal point of entrance for anthropology students into the practice of fieldwork. Built into the classic ethnographic
Ann Grodzins Gold
Ann Grodzins Gold, Bhrigupati Singh, Farhana Ibrahim, Edward Simpson, and Kirin Narayan
to fellow graduate students who were alienated and distraught, and I would mutter under my breath the words of Br’er Rabbit that I had recently read out loud to my young son: “born and bred in the briar patch.” Back to childhood. My parents were