On The Margins of Religion

On The Margins of Religion

Frances Pine
João de Pina-Cabral
Copyright Date: 2008
Edition: NED - New edition, 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 296
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  • Book Info
    On The Margins of Religion
    Book Description:

    Focusing on places, objects, bodies, narratives and ritual spaces where religion may be found or inscribed, the authors reveal the role of religion in contesting rights to places, to knowledge and to property, as well as access to resources. Through analyses of specific historical processes in terms of responses to socio-economic and political change, the chapters consider implicitly or explicitly the problematic relation between science (including social sciences and anthropology in particular) and religion, and how this connects to the new religious globalisation of the twenty-first century. Their ethnographies highlight the embodiment of religion and its location in landscapes, built spaces and religious sites which may be contested, physically or ideologically, or encased in memory and often in silence. Taken together, they show the importance of religion as a resource to the believers: a source of solace, spiritual comfort and self-willed submission.

    eISBN: 978-0-85745-011-1
    Subjects: Religion, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. Part I: Anthropology and Religion
    • Chapter 2 Homeless Spirits: Modern Spiritualism, Psychical Research and the Anthropology of Religion in the Late Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Centuries
      (pp. 13-38)
      João Vasconcelos

      Ambiguous objects are a good tool through which to examine the foundations of discreet categories. Spiritism, the spiritualist movement based on the doctrine established by the French educator Allan Kardec in the 1850s, is one such object. It announced itself as a ‘scientific religion’ or ‘religious science’, the ‘science of the spirits’. Yet neither established sciences nor established religions recognised it as a legitimate relative. Another of these eccentric objects is psychical research, a tradition coeval with Kardecism, which reached its peak around 1900 and came to be what is now called parapsychology. In this essay I aim to identify...

    • Chapter 3 The Abominations of Anthropology: Christianity, Ethnographic Taboos and the Meanings of ‘Science’
      (pp. 39-58)
      Simon Coleman

      In 1992, Ernest Gellner preached a sermon in King’s College Chapel, Cambridge. His theme was ‘The Uniqueness of Truth’ (1992b). Gellner’s Jewish origins and secular convictions hardly made him an obvious candidate for the pulpit, but his talk focused less on divine revelation than on a problem that had absorbed him all his life: the epistemological conditions under which Truth can be approached in the face of the treacheries of language and the pluralities of human culture. He published an expanded version of the sermon as a book,Postmodernism, Reason and Religio(1992a), of which the work of a Muslim...

  6. Part II: Space and Religious Marginality
    • Chapter 4 Religious Logistics: African Christians, Spirituality and Transportation
      (pp. 61-80)
      Thomas Kirsch

      Spreading a religion like Christianity poses logistical problems: it implies traversing space; determining points of departure, crossings and destinations; specifying media, channels and go-betweens; constructing social and technological networks; managing acts of translation; and securing access to means of transport.

      However, there are different views regarding what ‘spreading Christianity’ actually involves. Some Christian organisations aim to diffuse the Christianmessagein other words, ‘religious propositions’, which are then thought to stimulate the recipients’ faith. A well-known historical example of this type of Christian organisation is the British and Foreign Bible Society of the early nineteenth century, which, according to Leslie...

    • Chapter 5 Contested Spaces: Temple Building and the Re-creation of Religious Boundaries in Contemporary Urban India
      (pp. 81-96)
      Ursula Rao

      Religion has a prominent place in the public life of contemporary India. People believe and worship in many ways. Religion also plays an important role in local and national politics, and there are extensive intellectual debates concerning the role of religion in the public life of a modern post-colonial nation. In India the majority of citizens are Hindu. There is also a substantial minority of Muslims and Christians and comparatively smaller groups of Jains, Buddhists, Sikhs and Parsis.¹ In this multi-religious setting, the effort to find an appropriate place for religion also focuses on how different religious communities should be...

    • Chapter 6 Bosnian Neighbourhoods Revisited: Tolerance, Commitment and Komšiluk in Sarajevo
      (pp. 97-112)
      Cornelia Sorabji

      Since the 1992–95 war in Bosnia the concept ofkomšiluk(neighbourliness, neighbourhood) has attracted much analytical attention.¹ While there is general agreement that the concept is important there is far less aboutwhyit is so.² The prevailing trend in political science and sociology has been to treatkomšilukas a social mechanism or structure regulating or ordering relations between different ethno-national groups, primarily Bosnia’s Serbs, Croats and Bosniacs. From this shared starting point, however, there is scholarly divergence over whether, in pre-war Bosnia,komšilukwas an aspect of a benignly tolerant pluralism which was to become a ‘Tradition...

  7. Part III: Power and Relative Centrality
    • Chapter 7 Revival of Buddhist Royal Family Commemorative Ritual in Laos
      (pp. 115-134)
      Grant Evans

      King Sisavang Vong of Laos died on the ‘29th day of October 1959 at 5 minutes past 10 p.m. at the age of 74 years 3 months and 15 days, after being on the throne for 55 years, 3 months and 14 days,’ as reported by an astrologically sensitive commemorative volume published at the time of his funeral in April 1961. At his death he was the longest reigning monarch in Asia, perhaps the world, and this in itself was evidence of his great merit. His reign has subsequently been matched only by Emperor Hirohito of Japan, and the current...

    • Chapter 8 Centres and Margins: The Organisation of Extravagance as Self-government in China
      (pp. 135-150)
      Stephan Feuchtwang

      Like all people, Chinese are centric. The very name for China in Chinese is, as we have been endlessly informed, the Central kingdom (Zhongguo). As a civilisation, it is the Central florescence of culture (Zhonghua). It is famous for having had – for longer than two millennia – in aspiration and more often than not in fact, a single political centre that was also conceived to be the cosmological centre. This is not simply an imagined centre, it is also the capital of a fiscal administration and of a system of ritual, jural and educational authority.

      Anthropologists rarely if ever gain access...

  8. Part IV: Religious Options and Identitary Claims
    • Chapter 9 Allies and Subordinates: Religious Practice on the Margins between Buddhism and Shamanism in Southern Siberia
      (pp. 153-168)
      Galina Lindquist

      ‘The power of religion consists in its special and surprising message and in the bias which that revelation gives to life. The vistas it opens and the mysteries it propounds are another world to live in; and another world to live in … is what we mean by having a religion.’ This quotation of Santayana, from ‘Reason in Religion’, is an epigraph to Clifford Geertz’s essay ‘Religion as a Cultural System’. This essay, although much criticised, made a great impact on the anthropology of religion. But, for all its valuable insights, Geertz’s essay reiterates the reification of ‘religion’ as a...

    • Chapter 10 On Celibate Marriages: Conversion to the Brahma Kumaris in Poland
      (pp. 169-184)
      Agnieszka Kościańska

      Poland is predominantly a Roman Catholic country. Catholicism has played an extraordinary part in national history. Under the conditions of partition in the nineteenth century, the Church supported pro-independence activities. Similarly, and even more significantly, the Church supported anti-Communist opposition in the second part of the twentieth century. Under the repressive communist regime, the Church provided citizens with the space for an independent exchange of thoughts. As well as spiritual and intellectual support, the Church supplied resistance activists with essential material goods during the time of economic shortage. Moreover, the Polish anti-Communist movement,Solidarność, operated under Catholic patronage and drew...

  9. Part V: Modernity and the Transmission of Religion
    • Chapter 11 Elders’ Cathedrals and Children’s Marbles: Dynamics of Religious Transmission among the Baga of Guinea
      (pp. 187-204)
      Ramon Sarró

      In 1954, French anthropologist Denise Paulme and ethno-musicologist André Shaeffner were among the first social scientists ever to visit the coastal mangroves of Guinea, an area inhabited by different groups of rice farmers known as Baga, and the first to produce scholarly work about these people (Paulme 1956, 1957, 1958; Schaeffner 1962, 1964).¹ At that time the Baga were famous in the West for their art and ritual objects, but the social context of the objects stored in Western museums was not well known. Unfortunately, Paulme and Schaeffner could only make a few short visits and were unable to find...

    • Chapter 12 Geomancy, Politics and Colonial Encounters in Rural Hong Kong
      (pp. 205-232)
      Rubie S. Watson and James L. Watson

      During the last forty years, Hong Kong’s rural hinterland has been transformed from a patchwork of green hills punctuated by fertile valleys into a hodgepodge of new, purpose-built cities complete with forty-storey apartment blocks. Many old villages dating to the 1600s are now surrounded by four-lane highways and train lines, by huge drainage canals, by fields that have been converted into storage depots and by massive housing estates. In a single generation, a once intimate, agrarian landscape has been transformed beyond recognition. In this paper we explore how a cosmology that Hong Kong people callfengshui(literally ‘wind and water’)...

    • Chapter 13 The Sacrifices of Modernity in a Soviet-built Steel Town in Central India
      (pp. 233-262)
      Jonathan P. Parry

      Until the mid-1950s, Bhilai was a small village in Durg district, in the Chhattisgarh region of Madhya Pradesh, central India. Chhattisgarh has since become a separate state and Bhilai is now a large ‘company town’, the site of one of the biggest steel plants in Asia. The construction of the Bhilai Steel Plant (BSP) was amongst those mega-projects of the post-Independence era that were key to Nehru’s strategy for leaping over centuries of backwardness and kickstarting the Indian economy along the highway of rapid industrialisation. But the Nehruvian modernisers well understood that the creation of such a gargantuan industrial complex...

  10. Notes on Contributors
    (pp. 263-266)
  11. INDEX
    (pp. 267-286)