anthropology

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Editors’ Picks, Summer 2018: Disenchanting India

This week, Ella Bock tells us why she thinks you should re-listen to our interview with Johannes Quack on Indian Rationalism, and a Relational Approach to Non-religion: "A great listen for better understanding the boundary between religion and non-religion, especially outside of a western context!"
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Why do we believe? Evolution, Primates, and the Human Niche

In this wide-ranging interview, Chris and Professor Fuentes discuss the themes of the lecture series, the intersections of research on human evolution, ethnoprimatology, and human nature, with the study of religion more generally, the Planet of the Apes films, and more. Along the way,...
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Autism, Religion, and Imagination

spectrum represent a unique population of study in the cognitive and psychological sciences of religion. Because religious cognition stems from normal social-cognitive capacities, which are altered for individuals on the spectrum, researchers also expect variation in how they think about supernatural agents.
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Alternative Sociologies of Religion: Through Non-Western Eyes

In this interview, recorded at the SocRel 2017 Annual Conference, Professor James Spickard talks about his latest project. Starting with a critique of North American sociology’s approach to religion, Spickard emphasises how our concepts of religion are historically grounded,
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Witchcraft in Rural Slovenia

Based on her ethnographic fieldwork in the area, Mencej describes witchcraft from a variety of angles, from psychological to anthropological and historical, providing a detailed understanding of witchcraft as part of the lived social reality of the community. In what kind of situations are witchcraft narratives evoked?
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AI and Religion: An Initial Conversation

This roundtable, in association with the Faraday Institute for Science and Religion, considers the impact of recent technological advances in Artificial Intelligence (AI) and robotics on religion, religious conceptions of the world, and the human. It draws attention to how such advances push religion beyond how it has been commonly defined and considered.
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Study of Religion in Peru

In this RSP interview, we are joined by professor Dorothea Ortmann from University of Rostock, to delve more into the foundations of the science of religion in Peru. She first states the major differences between the confessional studies or studies oriented to theological or pastoral matters, and the social scientific study of religious phenomena (Ortmann, 2004).
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New Horizons in the Sociology of Religion: Beyond Secularization?

In this longer-than-usual episode, Chris and David provide an interlinking narrative between Grace Davie, Joe Webster, Carole Cusack, Jonathan Jong, Paul-Francois Tremlett, Linda Woodhead and Kim Knott, reflecting on current or future developments in the sociology of religion which challenge the ubiquity of the secularization thesis, ...
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Nature alive: Amazonian religion in Peru

In this podcast, Dr Jaime Regan Mainville, a leading researcher in the anthropology of religion and linguistics, discusses his ethnographic research among some of the indigenous peoples of the Amazon basin. The Amazon rainforest has always been a land filled with mystery since its 'discovery'.
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Of Demons, Saints and Heaven: Andean religious beliefs in Peru

In his interview with Sidney Castillo, Dr. Luis Millones discusses some of the traditions that have formed the basis for his research, particularly in the northern coast, northern highlands and south highlands of Peru. He mentions that, with the impact of colonization,...
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“Religion in Peru” — conference report, 2015

That this conference took place at the National University of San Marcos was quite inspiring. This was the first university on the continent with a theology and arts faculty during the second half of the sixteenth century. Now, almost five hundred years later, Peruvian academics still have an interest in studying religion. However, our current perspectives and methodologies are far more diverse, and ever broadening. I remain optimistic that, in the near future, the academic study of religion in Peru will be as widespread and supported as other research areas.
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Indian Rationalism, and a Relational Approach to Nonreligion

It is unfortunate fact that in popular ‘Western’ imagination, the land of India is frequently orientalised, and naively conceptualized as ‘the quintessential land of religion, spirituality, and miracles.’ Although we would certainly not want to completely invert this stereotype by substituting one unnuanced and inaccurate construct for another, ...
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“Practice What You Preach”: CREDs and CRUDs

Religious actions speak louder than words. Dr. Jonathan Lanman on credibility enhancing displays (CREDs), and the role that such public displays of commitment play in the acquisition of both belief and nonbelief.Actions typically speak louder than words. A common version of this statement - practice ...
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Bricolage

In this interview with Chris, Altglas discusses the complex genealogy of 'bricolage', tracing a movement from forms of cultural warfare to 'playful, postmodern bricoleurs' - what many might be tempted to dub 'pick and mix spirituality'. However, as Altglas goes on to demonstrate,...
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Prayer, Pretense, and Personification: How God becomes real

Luhrmann details the rise of evangelicals in the 60’s and 70’s, and how anthropological work can be informed by evolutionary psychology. This serves as a framework to understand the unique training processes that teach an individual that their mind is not only open to their own thoughts, but God’s as well.
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Narrative and Reflexivity in the Study of Religion: A Roundtable Discussion (Video and Audio!)

The idea for this roundtable was that it would follow on directly from this week's interview on religion and literature, but expand the discussion to cover a variety of points relating to narrative, autobiography and (auto)ethnography in the study of religion. Featuring Dr Wendy Dossett, Prof. Elaine Graham, Dr Dawn Llewellyn, Ethan Quillen, and Dr Alana Vincent.
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Between the Lab and the Field: Xygalatas and the Science of Extreme Rituals

Breaking down the boundary between the research lab and the “field site” is becoming more common beyond the boundaries of religious studies and anthropology. The research project of Dimitris Xygalatas is part of a growing trend in cognitive approaches to human sociality. This trend involves breaking down the boundary between the lab and the field; sometimes this involves bringing the field into the lab—an approach not uncommon to many social psychologists
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The Burning Saints, Fire-Walking Rituals of the Anastenaria

It’s dark outside. The moon hangs in the sky and the soft smell of smoke permeates the warm air as it stings your eyes. Looking down, you notice the glow from burning coals, as hot as 535 degrees C, scattered on the ground below. When Saint Constantine calls you to become a firewalker – you answer - at least if you are one of the Anastenaria.
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Authors meet Critics: “New Age Spirituality”

Following from our interview on Monday with Ingvild Gilhus, today's podcast presents an "authors meet critics" session on the new edited volume by Ingvild Gilhus and Steven Sutcliffe, New Age Spirituality: Rethinking Religion. This was recorded at the University of Edinburgh at the launch of the book,
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Big Gods: How Religion Transformed Cooperation and Conflict

Big Gods: 1. Watched people are nice people, 2. Religion is more in the situation than in the person, 3. Hell is stronger than heaven, 4. Trust people who trust in God, 5. Religious actions speak louder than words, 6. Unworshipped Gods are impotent Gods, 7. Big Gods for Big Groups, 8. Religious groups cooperate in order to compete.
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Religion as Anthropomorphism

In Stewart Guthrie’s interview with Thomas J. Coleman III for The Religious Studies Project, Guthrie begins by outlining what it means to ‘explain religion’. He defines anthropomorphism as “the attribution of human characteristics to nonhuman events” and gives an example of this as applied to auditory and visual phenomena throughout the interview.
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Claude Lévi-Strauss

Claude Lévi-Strauss (1908-2009) was the founder of structural anthropology, and is widely considered to be a foundational figure for modern anthropology. In books including Les Structures élémentaires de la parenté (1949, The Elementary Structures of Kinship), Tristes Tropiques (1955) and La Pensée sauvage (1962, The Savage Mind, 1966),...
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NSRN Annual Lecture 2012 – Matthew Engelke: In spite of Christianity

What do we talk about when we talk about religion? What do we recognize as essential and specific to any given faith, and why? In this lecture, I address these questions by drawing on fieldwork among humanists in Britain, paying particular attention to humanism’s relation to Christianity.
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Peter Collins on Religion and the Built Environment

Buildings dominate our skylines, they shape the nature, size, sound and smell of events within their walls, they provide a connection to the recent and distant past, and they serve as a physical, material instantiation of any number of contextual discourses. But what about the relationship between 'religion' and these (generally) human-made structures?
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Bruno Latour, Talking “Religiously”, part 1

Professor Bruno Latour is one of the most respected scholars in the social sciences today. In this first part, Latour and David Robertson discuss the broader relevance of his work for Religious Studies. They discuss actor-network theory, of which Latour was instrumental in developing. This includes some discussion of phenomenology and religious “essence”.
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Roundtable: Critics or Caretakers?

This discussion brings together a number of aspiring academics to reflect on some of the issues brought up in a recent podcast in a friendly and hilarious manner. The question cuts to the core of what academics who study religion are doing… are they taking care of religion? Are they antagonising it? What should they be doing? And judging by the various long tangents through which discussion meanders, the question certainly sparked our interest.
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Nuancing the Qual-Quan Divide: The Vitality of Research Methods in the Academic Study of Religion

By using “vitality” in the title above, I mean to point to two aspects of the same urgent call. First, I simply mean that research methods are vital to the academic study of religion. As Stausberg and Engler suggest, “it is through methods that data and theory speak to each other and become part of a shared horizon” (2011: 11), and indeed it is still not a platitude to recall that theory, method and data can be considered three sides of that triangle we conjure, whether implicitly or explicitly,
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Ethnographic Fieldwork: Falling in Love or Keeping your Distance?

An anthropologist who has conducted fieldwork in Puerto Rico and in New York, examining, among other things, the lived experiences of possession and trance and as found among practitioners of Santería, Spiritism and other Afro-Cuban religious movements, Schmidt is well equipped to discuss the reality of undertaking ethnographic fieldwork on the topic of religion.
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Doing Anthropological Fieldwork

“If we want to discover what [wo]man amounts to, we can only find it in what [wo]men are: and what [wo]men are, above all other things, is various. It is in understanding that variousness – its range, its nature, its basis, and its implications – that we shall come to construct a concept of human nature that, more than a statistical shadow, and less than a primitivists dream, ...
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Insider and Outsider: An Anthropological Perspective

"What my own position may speak to is the categorisation of "religion"; when talked of in isolation, "religion" remains something fixed and visible. But in fact it intersects heavily across cultural domains, and having been in this ‘piggy in the middle’ situation, it is interesting to note the Christian heritage which is shared both by my family, myself and my non-religious participants: we are all insiders to a point."
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The Insider/Outsider Problem

The Insider/Outsider problem, relating to where scholars position themselves relating to the subject matter (whatever that may be), is one of the most perennial problems in the academic study of religion. Does one have to be a member of a community for your testimony about that community to be valid? Or does your membership of the community invalidate your objectivity?