Academic journal article Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute

Correspondence

Academic journal article Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute

Correspondence

Article excerpt

Dear Sir,

Two comments on Fenella Cannell's impressive 2004 Malinowski Lecture (Cannell 2005).

First, though she is persuasive in concluding that '[a]nthropology is a discipline that is not always so "secular" as it likes to think' (p. 352), she seems to neglect the Jewish contribution to modern anthropology. Some years ago, I got into conversation with some American anthropologists at an AAA annual meeting who were claiming that a Distinguished Lecture by Mary Douglas was too Christocentric, and it was informally estimated that 'perhaps a quarter or a third of the audience were probably of Jewish rather than Christian origin' (Benthall 1989: 24). An ascetic tradition has certainly existed in Jewish history, but is it not generally held that, in the words of a standard encyclopaedia, 'the general temper of Judaism is opposed to [asceticism], regarding all things in life as good when enjoyed within limits and under discipline. In this way, even material pleasures can be spiritualized' (Roth 1966: 174-5)?

Second, Cannell says that '[s]ome Mormon approaches and sensibilities ... may be constitutive of an "American religion" applicable to many more than the Church's 11 million recorded worldwide members' (p. 351). In the course of research in Jordan on Muslim charity in the mid-1990s, I was given a plastic collecting-box used by an Islamist zakat (mandatory alms) committee for fund-raising. …

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