Amid a moment of crisis, how might the anthropology of religion shift its focus from ethics to politics? This 2021 Rappaport Lecture, delivered at the Society for the Anthropology of Religion (SAR) Biennial Meeting on 15 May 2021, begins by highlighting three ways in which our field has taken on politics in recent years: by troubling the distinction between ethics and politics, by thinking religion together with pressing political issues, and by taking a critical look at our conceptual horizons. Elaborating on this third way, it proposes that the anthropology of religion needs to move beyond the human horizon by ethnographically grappling with something bigger, namely, God. Prompted by a reflection on the phrase Allāhu akbar (God is the greatest), the lecture maps the challenges posed by a god greater than the human imagination and considers a range of writing strategies that might help make our texts more hospitable to such a figure. Bringing Islam into the conversation about the relationship between theology and anthropology, it suggests that the figure of God directs us toward the evasive and unknowable—that which exceeds our grasp and analysis.
The Elsewhere beyond Religious Concerns
Annalisa Butticci and Amira Mittermaier
We are all connected to multiple Elsewheres: the place(s) where we grew up, the place we would rather be, the places that haunt us, the places where the dead dwell, the sites of empire. Geographical Elsewheres can be a source of fear. In the wake of Europe's so-called migrant crisis and border-crossing pandemic viruses, a moral and racist panic feeds off the supposed collapse of those ‘other places’ into ‘our society’. But other places can also be sites of fascination and longing. Think of the long history of travel accounts, or the long-standing desire to reach beyond the planetary horizon. The dream of a mission to Mars. Anything but the depressing here and now!
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