Anthropology of Religion: A Handbook

Anthropology of Religion: A Handbook

Anthropology of Religion: A Handbook

Anthropology of Religion: A Handbook

Synopsis

Religion has experienced growing importance in recent years, and interest in the anthropological study of religion has increased as well. This reference book offers a much-needed overview of the most significant topics and concerns in the field. Chapters by expert contributors examine such matters as snake handling, magic and ritual, shamanism, and the role of religion in particular cultures. Chapters contain extensive documentation, and a bibliography concludes the volume.

Excerpt

[Meyer Fortes] once invited a rainmaker to perform the ceremony for him for an attractive fee, and the officiant in question replied, "Don't be a fool, whoever makes a rain-making ceremony in the dry season?"

Stanley J. Tambiah (1990)

If a major goal of anthropology is--to borrow James W. Fernandez (1985: 2) felicitous phrase--"to find the strange in the familiar" and "to find the familiar in the strange," then the anthropology of religion should be at the center of the anthropological enterprise. We are not there, or at least many anthropologists don't think that we are there. The valiant efforts of Morton Klass and others to establish a section within the American Anthropological Association have been highly contested, and many anthropologists of religion express concern that their subject area has become "marginalized" within the anthropology curriculum. With the notable exceptions of the programs at Princeton, Drew, Rice, California, and Michigan, a prospective Ph.D. student might experience considerable difficulty in putting together a plan of study that focuses on the anthropology of religion.

Some might say that the anthropology of religion is in the doldrums. Others might say it is at a crossroads. Still others may feel we are--like Meyer Fortes's informant--asked to be rainmakers in the dry season. Fewer new textbooks in the anthropology of religion are published each year, and much of what is available for classroom use is ten, twenty, and sometimes seventy years old (e.g., Robert H. Lowie [1924]; W. W. Howells [1948]; E. E. Evans-Pritchard . . .

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