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
A Discursive Analysis of a Century of Anthropological Writings on Missionary Ethnographers
Travis Warren Cooper
: Houghton Mifflin . Bielo , James S. 2013 . “ Introduction: Writing Religion .” In Crane and Weibel 2013, 1 – 10 . Bielo , James S. 2015 . Anthropology of Religion: The Basics . New York : Routledge . Bonsen , Roland , Hans Marks , and Jelle
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
We all have our conceptual bugbears, terms which, as anthropologists, cause us trouble. Over the past couple of years, an increasing number of anthropologists working in the anthropology of religion have had to face some newly prominent ones: atheism, godlessness, and (worst of all) non-religion.
Simon Coleman and Ramon Sarró
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.
Ruy Llera Blanes, Sondra L. Hausner and Simon Coleman
anthropology itself. These two pieces can be read as complementary genealogical reflections on the anthropological study of religion. A few months ago, we learned of the passing of Saba Mahmood, a pioneer and key thinker in the anthropology of religion and a
This article centers on the somatic modes through which ghosts, spirits, and other unseen beings are apprehended as felt experiences by the Bidayuh, an indigenous group of Malaysian Borneo. Such experiences reveal a local epistemology of supernatural encounters that associates vision with normality and its suspension with both sensory and social liminality. The second half of the article explores how this model has been extended to contemporary Bidayuh Christianity, thus rendering God, Jesus, and other personages viscerally real in people's lives. Drawing on the ethnography and recent developments in the anthropology of religion, I argue that these 'soul encounters' hold important theoretical and methodological lessons for anthropologists, pushing us to reshape our conceptions of belief, as well as our approaches to the study of ostensibly intangible religious phenomena.
Lenience in Systems of Religious Meaning and Practice
Maya Mayblin and Diego Malara
Questions of discipline are, today, no less ubiquitous than when under Foucault’s renowned scrutiny, but what does ‘discipline’ in diverse religious systems actually entail? In this article, we take ‘lenience’ rather than discipline as a starting point and compare its potential, both structural and ideological, in religious contexts where disciplinary flexibility shores up greater encompassing projects of moral perfectionism as opposed to those contexts in which disciplinary flexibility is a defining feature in its own right. We argue that lenience provides religious systems with a vital flexibility that is necessary to their reproduction and adaptation to the world. By taking a ‘systems’ perspective on ethnographic discussions of religious worlds, we proffer fresh observations on recent debates within the anthropology of religion on ‘ethics’, ‘failure’, and the nature of religious subjects.
Technologies of the Other, Lenience, and the Ethics of Ethiopian Orthodox Fasting
Focusing on the practice of fasting, this article traces the ethical efforts and conundrums of Ethiopian Orthodox Christians who take their religion seriously, but do not necessarily see themselves as disciplined believers. I argue that the flexibility and lenience of the Orthodox system allow for morally ambivalent disciplinary projects that, in order to preserve their efficacy, must be sustained by an array of intimate relationships with more pious individuals who are fasting for others or on others’ behalf. By examining this relational economy of spiritual care, its temporalities and divisions of labor, I ask whether recent preoccupations with ‘technologies of the self’ in the anthropology of religion might have overlooked the relevance of ‘technologies of the other’.
The anthropology of ‘religion’ was once a central topic in anthropology. It persisted through the heady days of structuralism in a seemingly exotic triad of myth, symbolism and ritual, only to emerge with its analytical boundaries in question. In a poststructuralist world, other analytical priorities and formulations then seemed to take over but ethnographies of religion continued to pose interesting questions. We have moved the topic back to centre stage in this issue with an article by Joel Robbins in which he calls for attention to the question of how religions disappear. Aparecida Vilaça, Simon Coleman, and Don Seeman then offer their own comments and critique from within anthropology, along with an historian of religious conversion, Máire Ní Mhaonaigh. Robbins then has a chance to respond, pulling issues together and illuminating further as he does so.