Diaspora, and with it 'diasporic religion', has exploded as an area of research in the field of Religion, opening important paths of inquiry and analysis. This article traces the itineraries and intersections of Diaspora and Religion over the last two decades, especially vis-à-vis groups that activate multiple diasporic horizons. It then evaluates the risks of the overdispersion of Diaspora. To counter this, the article recommends more narrowly circumscribing Diasporic Religion in relation to 'territory', while at the same time rendering the question of what territoriality means more complex and diverse.
Paul Christopher Johnson
A Critical Assessment
Recent cognitive and evolutionary approaches to the study of religion have been seen by many as a naturalistic alternative to conventional anthropological interpretations. Whereas anthropologists have traditionally accounted for the existence of religion in terms of social and cultural determinants, cognitive scientists have emphasized the innate—that is pre-cultural—constraints placed by natural selection on the formation and acquisition of religious ideas. This article provides a critical assessment of the main theoretical proposals put forward by cognitive scientists and suggests possible interactions, perhaps interdependencies, with more standard anthropological sensibilities, especially between cognitive and evolutionary perspectives that see religion as a by-product of innate psychological dispositions and anthropological approaches that take the 'meaningful' nature of religious symbols as their point of departure.
Archaeology, Ritual, and Religion
This article is an introduction to the emerging sub-discipline of the archaeology of ritual and religion. It addresses the question of how archaeologists can approach these fields: what are the challenges and opportunities? Using theory and methodology, ritual and religion are explored in the archaeological record by means of so-called framing, and an interpretation is attempted through analogy and 'ethos'. Selected Neolithic sites from the Near East that have yielded rich and important data regarding ritual and religion serve as examples.
The Spatial Turn in Research on Religion
Following a consideration of the impact of the late twentieth-century spatial turn on the study of religion by geographers, anthropologists, sociologists, historians, and religious studies scholars, two trends are distinguished: the poetics of place and the sacred; and politics, religion, and the contestation of space. Discussion of these reveals substantially different approaches to religion, space, and place—one phenomenological, the other social constructivist. The spatial turn has been extremely fruitful for research on religion, bringing together scholars from a variety of disciplines, and connecting not only to traditional areas such as sacred space and pilgrimage, but to new ones such as embodiment, gender, practice and religious-secular engagements.
Roger Sansi and Luis Nicolau Parés
The debates on identity politics and the invention of tradition led the study of Afro-Brazilian religions to a certain impasse in the 1990s. However, in the last several years, the field has been totally renewed, although in different directions. In this article we will consider some of these new trends, from a wider historical engagement with the Atlantic world, through the religious field and the public sphere, to new approaches to spirit possession and cosmology. Our objective is to assess the extent to which these new debates have managed to overcome this impasse.
Material things and phenomena have come to vie with belief and thought as worthy subjects of inquiry in the interdisciplinary study of religion. Yet, to the extent that we are justified in speaking of a “material turn”, no consensus has arisen about what materiality is or does. This article offers a preliminary sketch of the diverse terrain of material religion studies, delineating three dominant approaches to religious materiality as well as an emerging alternative. It argues that the dominant approaches—respectively characterized by an emphasis on symbolism, material disciplines, and phenomenological experience—continue to privilege the human subject while material things themselves struggle to come into sharp focus. That is, they remain anthropocentric and beholden to the biases against materiality deeply entrenched in the study of religion. Such biases may be negotiated more successfully via the emerging alternative “new materialism”.
Winter Sleep is the latest film from Nuri Bilge Ceylan, a Turkish director and screenwriter who has received international acclaim. For the purpose of social and cultural analysis, this article critically focuses on the film’s key themes and maneuvers that have diagnostic value from a social theoretical viewpoint. These themes are religion, the relationship between religion and capitalism, and symbolic exchange. Organized around these topics, the article examines the religion-capitalism-symbolic exchange nexus by analyzing the motifs of formation, intervention, and intelligibility as these themes arise. This site of intersection is the conceptual pivot around which the article configures itself. It explores Winter Sleep based on what the film shows and says on screen, how its thought processes emerge, and at what points this thought supports or conflicts with dominant societal opinions.
Tracking the Anthropology of Human Rights and Religion
Kamari Maxine Clarke
This article explores the reality of translating or vernacularizing practices in relation to the politics of religion and the realities of faith. Taking violence as endemic to the processes of vernacularization and translation, the article articulates an analytic theory of religious faith—the way it is violated, often in the interest of making it legible within neo-liberal universalizing trends. Thinking about these realities involves understanding translations both as productive of cultural change and as manifestations of struggles over power. Many of these struggles are in the interstices among particular principles of individualism, secularism, legal rationality, and evidence. This article seeks to review the assumptions that emerge with these concepts and show their limits.
Ruy Llera Blanes, Sondra L. Hausner and Simon Coleman
Professor Eileen Barker, one of the key figures in recent sociology of religion and the subject of this volume’s portrait, recalls in her text how her first goal in life was to become an actress. Only later on and quite by accident did she stumble upon the social sciences of religion, without, however, losing interest in performing. Those reminiscences are somewhat of a motto for what we find in this volume of Religion and Society: texts concerned with the performance of religion in society from different angles and perspectives—from ritual to reflexivity, from advocacy to opposition (here Eileen’s piece is illuminating in its subtleties of approach), and from definition to regulation.
Religion and Violence
William T. Cavanaugh, Wendy James and Paul Richards
It is much easier these days to find people who think that Barack Obama was born in Kenya than it is to find Westerners who deny that religion has a peculiar tendency to promote violence. This latter idea is widespread, from the common person in the street to political theorists who assure us that liberal politics arose to save us from the violence that religion would foster if left untamed in the public sphere. The violence of religion is more than a history lesson, we are told; with the rise of Islamic radicalism and other forms of illiberal politics, we are threatened today with the kinds of religious violence that the West successfully domesticated in the early modern period. In this brief essay, I will raise doubts about this prevalent tale that we in the secular age like to tell ourselves.