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Ruy Llera Blanes and Abel Paxe

In this article we chart the histories and political translations of atheist cultures in Angola. We explore the specific translations of atheist ideologies into practical actions that occurred in the post-independence period in the 1970s–1980s and perform an ethnographic exploration of their legacies in contemporary Angola. We also debate the problem of atheism as an anthropological concept, examining the interfaces between ideology, political agency, and social praxis. We suggest that atheism is inherently a politically biased concept, a product of the local histories and intellectual traditions that shape it.

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Simon Coleman and Ruy Llera Blanes

With characteristic playfulness, the subject of this volume’s portrait, Gananath Obeyesekere,

calls his contribution a celebration of ‘foolishness’. But this is indeed a fertile foolishness. It

implies not only an admission that the ethnographer lacks omniscience, but also a positive freedom

to engage passionately in comparison, to avoid disciplinary overspecialization, to understand

that the “non-rational is not necessarily irrational,” and to acknowledge the power of art

and literature as potential inspirations for our work. Of course, as Obeyesekere admits, the ludic

and the ironic also entail risks, as they can provoke anger in others. Nonetheless, his words

have many echoes in this volume, particularly in their invocation of the power of the aesthetic

combined with the ironic, exemplified by reference to the fool in Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night.

They also provoke thoughtful reflections from our three commentators on Obeyesekere’s work,

Douglas Hollan, Luís Quintais, and Unni Wikan.

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Ruy Llera Blanes and Galina Oustinova-Stjepanovic

In the introduction to this special issue, we set the agenda for researching the aspirations and practices of godless people who seek to thin out religion in their daily lives. We reflect on why processes of disengagement from religion have not been adequately researched in anthropology. Locating this issue's articles in the anthropological literature on doubt and atheism, we argue for the importance of a comparative investigation to analyze people's reluctance to pursue religion.

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Ramon Sarró, Simon Coleman and Ruy Llera Blanes

One could say that in 2012 the scientific study of religion, particularly in its anthropological

form, has become one hundred years old. In 1912, Durkheim published The Elementary Forms

of Religious Life, perhaps the most influential book in the social study of religion, and certainly

in the anthropology of religion, of the entire twentieth century. But this was not the only seminal

work published around a century ago. A little earlier than that, in 1909, Arnold van Gennep’s

Les rites de passage inaugurated an interest in liminality and ritual that has accompanied

our discipline ever since. That same year, Marcel Mauss wrote La prière, an unfinished thesis

that started an equally unfinished interest in prayer, one of the central devotional practices in

many religions across the globe. In 1910, Lévy-Bruhl published his first explicitly anthropological

book, How Natives Think, a problematic ancestor of a debate about rationality and modes of

thought that has accompanied anthropology and philosophy ever since. In 1913, Freud tackled

the then fashionable topic of totemism in his Totem and Taboo. Around those early years of the

century, too, Max Weber was starting to write about charisma, secularization, and rationalization,

topics of enduring interest.

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Ruy Llera Blanes, Simon Coleman and Sondra L. Hausner

This volume of Religion and Society is marked by borders, boundaries, and limits. The borders

here are those that make religion operative and politically powerful, as well as those that are

enabled and put into place by religious arguments and worldviews. All these dimensions of borders

are included in the special section of this volume, coordinated by Valentina Napolitano and

Nurit Stadler, entitled “Borderlands and Religion: Materialities, Histories, and the Spatialization

of State Sovereignty.” The section includes articles by Alejandro Lugo, Nurit Stadler and Nimrod

Luz, Alberto Hernández and Amalia Campos-Delgado, and Alexander D. M. Henley. They dwell

upon two of the most notorious and contentious borders in the world: the one that separates

Lebanon and Palestine from Israel, and the one that separates the US from Mexico. Both Israel

and the US are known for their fenced and walled frontier politics. From these contributions,

we learn how borderlands and their religious framing become spaces of political negotiation by

affirmation and/or by exclusion: they determine sovereignty, ontology, history.

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Sondra L. Hausner, Simon Coleman and Ruy Llera Blanes

This volume of Religion and Society offers a personal portrait from a self-described shy academic, who also happens to be an intellectually powerful scholar of South Asia—Ann Grodzins Gold. Anthropologists of religion and South Asia know Gold’s work to portray an astonishingly subtle evocation of the realities of women’s lives, families’ lives, village lives, and everyday existence. Her respondents in this volume’s portrait section all note their admiration for the impact of her work, illustrating further Gold’s capacity to write Rajasthan into the anthropological canon, along with her poignant reflections on the nature of fieldwork, the ways in which texts and people speak to one another, and the nature of religion as lived on the ground, particularly in rural India. Well-known through her ethnographic accounts of rural India, Gold has often incorporated stories about her own experiences into her powerful, larger narratives about Rajasthan, but this volume is the first time we read of her own personal history as the basis from which she learned to observe, research, and write about religion.

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Simon Coleman, Ruy Llera Blanes and Sondra L. Hausner

Religion and Society is constructed out of themes and variations. While we have a basic grammar of contents, we try to innovate within a recognizable frame. In previous volumes, we have always begun with a portrait of a living scholar. In this volume, however, we are publishing a portrait around an absence as a tribute to J. D. Y. Peel. John Peel was an extraordinary man and scholar—a great thinker on religion—who died in November 2015. His influence, writings, and memory continue to resonate strongly in many fields and networks. Our six memorial portraits give a flavor (to use a suitable culinary metaphor) of Peel’s wide range of interests and friends, all nourished by his generosity and enthusiasm and his ability to live his life through his work and his work through his life.

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Bruce O'Neill, Helene Maria Kyed, Pauline Peters, Ruy Llera Blanes and Hege Toje

Martin Demant Frederiksen, Young Men, Time, and Boredom in the Republic of Georgia Review by Bruce O'Neill

Didier Fassin, Enforcing Order: An Ethnography of Urban Policing Review by Helene Maria Kyed

Ørnulf Gulbrandsen, The State and the Social: State Formation in Botswana and Its Pre-colonial and Colonial Genealogies Review by Pauline Peters

Franco La Cecla and Piero Zanini, The Culture of Ethics Review by Ruy Llera Blanes

Madeleine Reeves, Border Work: Spatial Lives of the State in Rural Central Asia Review by Hege Toje

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Galina Oustinova-Stjepanovic, Joana Bahia, Luiz Costa, Jonathan Mair, Dolores P. Martinez, Stephan Feuchtwang, Irvine Richard, Stephen D. Glazier, Diana Espirito Santo, Simion Pop, William Dawley, Emily B. Baran, Richard Baxstrom, Anastasios Panagiotopoulos, Mette High, Amy Whitehead, Sindre Bangstad, Thomas G. Kirsch and Ruy Llera Blanes


BUBANDT, Nils, and Martijn VAN BEEK, eds., Varieties of Secularism in Asia: Anthropological Explorations of Religion, Politics and the Spiritual

Galina Oustinova-Stjepanovic

CAPONE, Stefania, Searching for Africa in Brazil: Power and Tradition in Candomblé

Joana Bahia

COURSE, Magnus, Becoming Mapuche: Person and Ritual in Indigenous Chile

Luiz Costa

DAY, Abby, Believing in Belonging: Belief and Social Identity in the Modern World

Jonathan Mair

ENDRES, Kirsten W., Performing the Divine: Mediums, Markets and Modernity in Urban Vietnam

Dolores P. Martinez

FJELSTAD, Karen, and Nguyen THI HIEN, Spirits without Borders: Vietnamese Spirit Mediums in a Transnational Age

Stephan Feuchtwang

GEERTZ, Armin W., and Jappe Sinding JENSEN, eds., Religious Narrative, Cognition and Culture: Image and Word in the Mind of Narrative

Richard Irvine

GRIFFITH, Ezra E. H., Ye Shall Dream: Patriarch Granville Williams and the Barbados Spiritual Baptists

Stephen D. Glazier

HAYES, Kelly E., Holy Harlots: Femininity, Sexuality, and Black Magic in Brazil

Diana Espirito Santo

KAPFERER, Bruce, Kari TELLE, and Annelin ERIKSEN, eds., Contemporary Religiosities: Emergent Socialities and the Post-Nation-State

Simion Pop

LINDHARDT, Martin, ed., Practicing the Faith: The Ritual Life of Pentecostal-Charismatic Christians

William Dawley

LUEHRMANN, Sonja, Secularism Soviet Style: Teaching Atheism and Religion in a Volga Republic

Emily B. Baran

OBEYESEKERE, Gananath, The Awakened Ones: Phenomenology of Visionary Experience

Richard Baxstrom

OCHOA, Todd Ramón, Society of the Dead: Quita Manaquita and Palo Praise in Cuba

Anastasios Panagiotopoulos

PEDERSEN, Morten Axel, Not Quite Shamans: Spirit Worlds and Political Lives in Northern Mongolia

Mette High

ROUNTREE, Kathryn, Crafting Contemporary Pagan Identities in a Catholic Society

Amy Whitehead

WARNER, Michael, Jonathan VANANTWERPEN, and Craig CALHOUN, eds., Varieties of Secularism in a Secular Age

Sindre Bangstad

WERBNER, Richard, Holy Hustlers, Schism, and Prophecy: Apostolic Reformation in Botswana

Thomas G. Kirsch


COLOMBANI, Hervé, dir., Nouvelle Terre Promise

Ruy Llera Blanes