Across the Boundaries of Belief: Contemporary Issues in the Anthropology of Religion

By Morton Klass; Maxine Weisgrau | Go to book overview

6 The Domestication of Religion
The Spiritual Guardianship of Elderly Jewish Women

Susan Sered

Fieldwork conducted among elderly, Oriental Jewish women living in Jerusalem reveals a religious world centred around guarding over ancestors and descendants. The article identifies and labels the "domestication of religion" as a process in which people who profess their allegiance to a wider religious tradition personalise the rituals, institutions, symbols and theology of that wider system in order to safeguard the well-being of particular individuals with whom they are linked in relationships of care. It is argued that individuals (such as the Oriental women) who have a great deal invested in interpersonal relationships, and who are excluded from formal power within an institutionalised religious framework, tend to be associated with a personally-oriented religious mode. --Author's Abstract

AN INTENSE CONCERN WITH THE WELL-BEING of their extended families characterises the religious lives of many elderly, Oriental Jewish women. In numerous rituals--spontaneous, formal, private and communal--they guard the living, dead and unborn people with whom they have close relationships. The re- ligious world of these women highlights the need for a conception of religion which takes into account the interpersonal nature of much of human religiosity. Inspired by Fustel de Coulanges's notion of domestic religion, 1 in this article I shall describe a process that I call domestication--a process in which people who profess their allegiance to a wider religious tradition personalise the rituals, institutions and perhaps even the theology of that wider system in order to safeguard

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Man (N.S.) 23(3) ( September 1988): 506-521.

-96-

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