Magic, Religion, Science, Witchcraft, and Heresty

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In terms of the Wiener and Kieckhefer articles, are these categories of magic, religion, science, witchcraft, and heresy useful distinctions? Analyzing the other three articles in terms of the McCutcheon article, how does studying religion affect these distinctions, OR what type of affect did colonialism and Christianity have on the study of religion?—or witchcraft, magic, or heresy? For all four articles but particularly the Lambert article, what does the study of religion have to say about how identity is constructed?

You have 500 words to fashion a post that addresses one or more of these questions or that articulates anything else you found interesting from this week’s readings.

Anthropology News November 2004 IN FOCUS Worlds through Religion, n anthropology, magic, science and religion once formed a hierarchy of knowledges, corresponding to a hierarchy of peoples. Are these categories still relevant in an interconnected world of entangled projects? I propose collapsing them into overlapping projects of world-making. Colonizing Religions The ubiquity of “religion” in the world at present must be understood as a colonial formation, an outcome of power-laden interactions between European administrators, jurists, missionaries, Orientalists, and yes, ethnologists, with intellectuals, bureaucratic functionaries, ritual specialists and activists in colonial societies. Together they precipitated “religion” out of a myriad of existing practices, texts and experiences, highlighting what fit most comfortably into channels carved out by European Christianity in its negotiations with science. Some religions were cast as local, tied to specific sites and social groups, especially those identified with “primitive” societies; others appeared mobile, c and thus “world religions.” Religion makes worlds today by mobilizing subjects and populations to engage actively and voraciously in articulating connections in the name of particular visions of the good. No longer do only world religions travel. Santeria and Voudoun (now granted the status of religions) enlist new adherents in Brooklyn and Miami. Practice centers of the Kagyu Lineage of Tibetan Buddhism stretch from Nairobi to Wichita. Middle-classcitizens of the global North, embracing neopaganism and shamanism in the name of spirituality, make pilgrimages to energetic hot spots and bring back experts from Peru and Siberia to lead workshops and conduct rites. Rather than treating religion as society’s objectification of itself, anthropologists now explore it as a site of and actor in political battles. All we need to do is open a newspaper to see how all over the globe 10 course. Instead, we all labor at complex forms of translation, articulating connections among collections of humans and nonhuInam. deities, prophets and ethics figure in skirmishes over territories and ferent from all of the rest: humans are everywhere and always intri- technologies, over human nature cately erntiroiled with nonhuman$. I Science as Materializing Practice distant places entwined with entangled with own back yard representation, and attributed agency, proper only to humans, to lifeless objects. With science studies now troubling the boundaries What marks a Once unthinkable anthropology of science is a stress on practice (pioneered in anthropology in studies of ritual). No longer are anthropologists content to take philosophers (or science textbooks!) at their word about science, as Tylor ‘and Frazer did. Instead, ethnographers follow scientists to their laboratory lairs, through the pages of their journals and grant applications, out again to their conferences and to see cultures natures, objects subjects. In our we can explore COMM€NTARV I 1 propose collapsing [magic, reli@Onand science] public and andinstituinto into overlapping projects of world-making. tional spacesnewspapers, regulatory commissions, law courts and foundations. Such empirical studies have led to extraordinary discoveries. For one, science involves skilled technique. It turns out to be harder than imagined to distinguish knowing that from knowing how. For another, scientists do not discover nature but help to produce it, and in doing so materialize and differentially empower new agents. Thus ecologists articulate with rainforests and social movements, and biotechnologists and venture capitalists precipitate property and protests out of indigenous genes and knowledges. But arguably the most consequential result of science studies is the attention it draws to a phenomenon obscured from our view by insistence on a “modem West” dif- brave and disquieting new worlds inhabited by cyborgs, living cadavers and stem cell lines. In such recognition lies a potentially reinvigorated four fields, where stones, bones and DNA might mingle promiscuously with politics, discourse and history. For science studies also have implications for disciplinary debates, posing an equal challenge to so-called “positivist” and “interpretivist” stakeholders. Science studies urge new conceptions of our work by rejecting both an all-powerful Nature capable of determining human culture, and an all-powerful Culture busily presenting Nature only as appearance. If Nature is made through practice, then we do not simply discover natural laws; if nonhumans saturate cultures and subjectivities, then we cannot analyze only human activity and dis- between people and things, the West and the rest, what do we do with magic’s mysterious seductions? 1 waffle between wanting to resignify it or consign it to the analytic dustbin. In magic, we inherited a concept with a problematic genealogy. Historically, actors rarely used “magic” to describe their own activities. More commonly, it served as a boundary marker deployed to discredit agents and projects as perfidious, bizarre or foolish, thus empowering some at the expense of others. The best anthropology could do was to make magic appear reasonable through subtle mediations and relativist charity. Some anthropologists now are attempting to re-enchant “modem” societies and natures by borSee Making Worlds on page 1 1 IN FOCUS Traveled Continued from page 7 FBI, for example, rejects 20?6 of its job applicants on the basis of their polygraph scores.Police in 62% of departments also use polygraphs. The US government polygraphs 300,000-600,000people a year, and the number is increasing. Then there are “scientific” personality testskch as the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI) and the Myers-Briggs tests. The Myers-Briggs test is taken by two and a half million people a year and is used by 89 of the top 100 companies in the Fortune index. This is despite the fact that more than half the people who retake the Myers-Brigs test come out the second time with a different personality type! Walter Benjamin once argued, famously, that technology demysti- ~ 1 Hybrid Monsters Continued from page 9 tics is publicly experienced nowadays through a very different, thisworldly rhetorical sensibility.” It rests upon a “corporatized language.” “Fashioned along the lines of modern advertising copy, language in this mode is very precisely composed by phrases and words as the units, not by sentences and paragraph-chunks of denotational exposition. It’s a compositional ‘language’-really, a cod-f imagery.” Words of threat-such as “bring it on”-serve as images of toughness in the advertising age when image is message. The “successful” use of such imagistic soundbites--and who would deny that they work for the president?differs little from the performative magic of ritual utterances in any cultural/semiotic system. And thus two or three real-world outcomes flow from the use of word-images like ‘‘[Axis of] Evil”: boosts in the President’s poll numbers, perhaps a rise in attacks on Americans, but also a profound degradation of the potential of language as a medium November 2004 fies the world by robbing objects of their aura. In the contemporary US the reverse seems to be true. Technology itself has an aura of infallibility that makes it an instrument of magic. Particularly in matters of national defense, where the underlying reality in an age of nuclear weapons and terrorists is one of profound anxiety and vulnerability, we turn to the magic of smart bombs and mechanical mind-readers to thwart our enemies and seek out the otherwise invisible traitors in our midst. The stakes are bigger and the interventions more expensive, but have we really traveled so far from the complex mixture of paranoia, logic and magic that characterized Evans-Pritchard’s Azande? Hugh Gusterson is an associateprofessor of anthropologyat the Massachuseh3 Institute of Technology. He is author of People of the Bomb (2004)and co-editor of Why America‘s Top Pundits Are Wrong (in press). of deliberative communication in the public sphere envisioned, but in fact not yet realized, in the American experience. The work of denotational purification that Bacon and Locke inaugurated attempted to rid the public sphere of rhetoric, indirection, intertextuality, flourishes and puffed-up language. Yet, these and more recent figures have, in their respectwe areas of endeavor, spun off a number of modern-traditional and social-linguistic hybrids in the process. The paradoxes continue in our day: It might come to pass that the antiintellectual,ostensibly anti-rhetorical (and certainly anti-“liberal press”) rhetoric of the crowd pleased by the currently dominant political style might ultimately crush the public‘s confidence in the ability of language to speak truth at all, let alone speak truth to power. El lames M Wilce and Michael Silverstein are cwrganizms of the A M executive session, “WhereHybrid ‘Monsters’Dwell: A Discursive Bestiary of Magic, Science and Religion.” Wilce is the editor of Social and Cultural Lives of Immune Systems (2003);Silverstein is the author of Talking Politics: The Substance of Style from Abe to “W” (2003). Magic Evolution Continued from page 8 But getting back to Frazer and to the changing role of his categories: If I were to ask my students (in a British university) whether they had any faith in organized religion, or even in certain natural scientists, I suspect many would reply in the negative, but a significant number would express at least an interest in contemporary forms of magic and paganism. In his 1948 Magic, Science and Religion and other Essays, Malinowski remarked that when social scientists of his day encountered magic they were disappointed to find “an entirely sober, prosaic, even clumsy art, enacted for purely practical reasons . . . carried out in a simple and monotonous technique.” The magic of today as practiced in the West (and emergent when Malinowski was Making Worlds Continued from page 10 rowing from scholarly and popular magical lexicons to probe familiar institutions. Drawing on Marx’s commodity fetishism, they paint modernity as occult, haunted, fetishized, uncanny: our polities and economies, rather than exemplifymg the transparently rational, are rife with mystifications. This is enticing. But such strategies still ground magic in an a priori unreality. Moreover, they remain asymmetrical, treating others as easily duped. We know; they merely believe. Anthropology‘s efforts to prove magic’s rationality never did obtain much purchase outside of the discipline. Yet could it be otherwise, when efforts to assert the reason of magic denied the reality of its practitioners, treating their deeds as distorted reflections of something else, usually society? No wonder that much of what anthropologists once labeled “magic” has migrated to science or religion-as “traditional healing,’’ “indigenous knowledges,” “shamanism”and “spirituality.” Anthropology News writing) has a far more romantic aura, and it resonates with anthropological worldviews in its eclecticism and selfconscious embrace of otherness. Science, on the other hand, can all too often appear to present an epistemological threat to our discipline. By t h i s I certainly do not mean to propose a knee-jerk relativism, but merely to point out that anthropology in the UK and US is increasingly encountering an “audit-culture” that demands generic, predetermined, hypothesis-based frameworks if projects are to be approved and funded. We need to ensure that such an institutional climate does not provide a new iron cage in which the unpredictable magic of ethnographyand anthropology as a whole-will find no room. B Simon Coleman i s the Socie?, for the Anthropology of Religion Contributing Editor to AN. Yet waving our wand won’t make magic disappear, for it lives beyond its use as an analytical category. What if instead we follow its social life ethnographically? Taking a slight turn from our usual fixations, we find that magic not only has become omnipresent but is invoked with a new attitude. From magic tricks to magic shows, from Disney animation to the virtual communities and realities of Dungeons and Dragons, The Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter and sword and sorcery novels, magic crisscrosses the globe as much as science and religion, zipping along fiber optic cables and packaged as DVDs. The magic ascribed to deluded others, magic viewed from on high, increasingly coexists with an art of wonder. Elaborate illusions deliberately generate desirable imaginaries. Engaging skilled techniques of perception and perspective, here lies a possibility for refiguring magic as oppositional world-transforming practice. Margaret J Wiener is writing a book about magic in colonial Indonesia. A preview can be found in “Hiddm Force.5: Coloniali.sm and the Politics of Magic in the Ncthrrlunds East Indies” in Magic and Modernity. She ic. also the author o f Visiblc and Invisible Realms.
WHAT IS THE ACADEMIC STUDY OF RELIGION? RUSSELL T. MCCUTCHEON DEPARTMENT OF RELIGIOUS STUDIES UNIVERSITY OF ALABAMA Comparison and Theory understood as strange, sometimes as familiar), early scholars of religion were interested in collecting and comparing beliefs, myths, and rituals found the world over. After all, early explorers, soldiers, and missionaries were all returning to Europe with their diaries and journals filled with tales that, despite their obvious exoticness, chronicled things that bore a striking resemblance to Christian beliefs and behaviors. As such, early scholars tried to perfect the use of the non-evaluative comparative method in the cross-cultural study of people’s religious beliefs, “our’s” and “their’s”. To compare in a non-evaluative manner means that one searches for observable, documentable similarities and differences without making normative judgments concerning which similarities or differences were good or bad, right or wrong, original or derivative, primitive or modern. To compare in a non-evaluative manner means that one searches for observable similarities and differences and then theorizes as to why just these similarities and why just those differences. For example, most all Christians generally believe that the historical person named Jesus of Nazareth was “the Son of God” (similarity) yet only some of these same Christians believe that the Pope is God’s primary representative on earth (difference). As an anthropological scholar of religion, can you theorize as to why this difference exists? A theological approach might account for this difference by suggesting that one side in this debate is simply wrong, ill-informed, or sinful (depending which theologian you happen to ask); an anthropologicallybased approach would bracket out and set aside all such normative judgments and theorize that the difference in beliefs might have something to do with the psychology of people involved, their method of social organization, their mode of economic activity, etc. In other words, the anthropological approach to the study of religion as practiced in the public university is a member of the human sciences and, as such, it starts with the presumption that religious beliefs, behaviors, and institutions are observable, historical events that can therefore be studied in the same manner as all human behavior. If they are more than that, then scholars of religion leave it to theologians who to pursue this avenue of study. Like virtually all scholarly disciplines in the modern university, the academic study of religion is a product of nineteenth-century Europe. Although influenced a great deal by European expansionism and colonialism (the study of religion is largely the product of Europeans encountering—through trade, exploration, and conquest—new beliefs and behaviors, sometimes Although the study of religion came to North American universities prior to World War I and, for a brief time, flourished at such schools as the University of Chicago, Penn, and Harvard, it was not until the late-1950s and early-1960s that Departments of Religious Studies were Anthropology or Theology? The academic study of religion is fundamentally an anthropological enterprise. That is, it is primarily concerned with studying people (anthropos is an ancient Greek term meaning “human being”; logos means “word” or a “rational, systematic discourse”), their beliefs, behaviors, and institutions, rather than assessing “the truth” or “truths” of their various beliefs or behaviors. An anthropological approach to the study of religion (which is not to say that the study of religion is simply a sub-field of anthropology) is distinguished from a confessional, religious, or theological approach (theos is an ancient Greek term for “deity” or “god”) which is generally concerned with determining the nature, will, or wishes of a god or the gods. Traditionally, the term “theology” refers to specifically Christian discourses on God (i.e., theology = systematic Christian thought on the meaning and significance of the Christian witness), though the term now generally applies either to any religion’s own articulate self-study or to its study of another religion (e.g., evangelism or religious pluralism are equally theological pursuits). Descriptive or Normative? Although the academic study of religion—sometimes called Comparative Religion, Religious Studies, the History of Religions, or even the Science of Religion—is concerned with judging such things as historical accuracy (e.g., Did a person named Siddhartha Gautama actually exist, and if so, when and where?) and descriptive accuracy (e.g., What do Muslims say they mean when they say that Muhammad was the “seal of the prophets”?), it is not concerned to make normative judgements concerning the way people ought to live or behave. To phrase it another way, we could say that, whereas the anthropologically-based study of religion is concerned with the descriptive “is” of human behavior, the theological study of religion is generally concerned with the prescriptive “ought” of the gods. As should be clear, these two enterprises therefore have very different data: the academic study of religion studies people, their beliefs, and their social systems; the theological study of religion studies God/the gods and their impact on people. Religion and the US Supreme Court established in most public universities. In the U.S., the establishment and success of these departments can be related to the Supreme Court’s understanding of the Constitution. The opening lines to the First Amendment to the Constitution read: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof....” Legal scholars distinguish between the First Amendment’s “establishment clause” and its “free exercise clause.” In other words, the Amendment states that the elected government has no right to enforce, support, or encourage (i.e., “establish”) a particular religion, nor does it have the right to curtail its citizens’ religious choices and practices (i.e., the “free exercise” of their religion). It may well be significant that, in the opening lines of the First Amendment, it is made explicit that all citizens of the U.S. have the absolute right to believe in any or no religion whatsoever. In 1963 a landmark case known as the School District of Abington Township, PA vs. the Schempp family came before the Court. In this case a nonbelieving family successfully sued a public school board for its school’s daily opening exercises in which a Christian prayer was recited over the school’s public address system. The Court decided that, as a publicly funded institution charged to represent and not exclude the members of a diverse, tax paying citizenry, the school board was infringing on the rights of its students, not just by supporting a specifically Christian worldview but, more importantly perhaps, a religious worldview. Both the Constitution’s “establishment” and “free exercise” clauses were therefore the topic of concern to the Court. Justice Clark, the Supreme Court justice who wrote on behalf of the majority, stated in his decision that, although confessional instruction and religious indoctrination in publicly funded schools were both unconstitutional, one’s “education is not complete without a study of comparative religion or the history of religion and its relationship to the advancement of civilization.” The majority of the justices interpreted the First Amendment to state that, although the government cannot force a student to be either religious or nonreligious, the government certainly can—and probably should—support classes that study the history of particular religions, the comparison of two or more religions, and the role of religion in human history. In a way, we might conclude that the study of religion is among the few fields of study mandated by a Supreme Court decision! Fundamental to its decision was the Court’s distinction between religious instruction and instruction about religion. The academic study of religion is concerned to study about religion and religions. The History of “Religion” Perhaps you never thought about it before, but the very term “religion” has a history and it is not obvious just how we ought to define the term. Obviously, “religion” is an English term; therefore, we can ask, “Do nonEnglish speakers have religions? Would an ancient Egyptian name something as ‘a religion’?” We know that our term “religion” has equivalents in such modern languages as French and German. For example, when practiced in Germany the study of religion is known as Religionswissenschaft (the systematic study, or wissenschaft, of religion); when practiced in France it is known as Sciences Religieuses. Even just a brief comparison of these and other related languages helps us to see that all modern languages that can be traced back to Latin possess something equivalent to the English term “religion.” This means that, for language families unaffected by Latin, there is no equivalent term to “religion”—unless, of course, European cultures have somehow exerted influence on non-Latin-based cultures/languages, an influence evident in trade or conquest. Although “religion” is hardly a traditional concept in India, the long history of British colonialism has ensured that English speaking Indians have no difficulty conceiving of what we call Hinduism as their “religion”—although, technically speaking, to a Hindu, Hinduism is not a religion but is, rather, sanatana dharma (the eternal, cosmic duty/obligation/order). Even the New Testament is not much help in settling these issues since its language of composition—Greek—lacked the Latin concept religio. English New Testaments will routinely use “religion” to translate such Greek terms as eusebia (1 Timothy 3:16; 2 Timothy 3:5), terms that are closer to the Sanskrit dharma or the Latin pietas than our term “religion.” Even in Latin our term “religion” has no equivalent—if, by “religion,” you mean worshiping the gods, believing in an afterlife, or being good—what most people seem to mean today when they talk about “religion.” The closest we come when looking for Latin precursors to our modern term “religion” are terms such as religare or religere which, in their original contexts, simply meant such things as “to bind something tightly together” or “to pay close or careful attention to something.” So, where does all this leave us? Well, it leaves us with a lot of questions in need of investigation: Just what do we mean by “religion”? If a culture does not have the concept, can we study “their religion”? Is there such as thing as “the Hindu religion” or “ancient Greek religion”? Regardless of the history of our vocabulary, is religion a universal human phenomenon or is it simply one among many ways that people name and classify their particular social worlds?

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