TOWARDS A REALISTIC AND RELEVANT “SCIENCE OF RELIGION” 1 B S 1. Introduction In approaching the country that some call “the science of religion,” I feel obliged to identify myself as a sympathetic alien. In light of cer- tain of my research interests, moreover, I hasten to add that I am fully terrestrial. But my passport is from an anthropology department rather than from a department of religion. While anthropologists sometimes use the expression “science of reli- gion,” it is my impression that we more commonly talk about “the anthropology of religion.” In doing so, we identify ourselves as anthro- pologists with special interests in religion, just as other anthropologists have special interests in nutrition, law, economics, and so forth. In addition to resembling members of departments of religion by virtue of mutual interests in scholarly explorations of religion, anthro- pologists of religion overlap with them in another way. That is, mem- bers of both sorts of departments in the modern, secular academy recognize an obligation to bracket judgments about the truth-values of magico-religious claims (Wiebe 1988, 1990). 2 In practice, however, schol- ars in both groups sometimes resist or reject bracketing. Thus, for example, Evans-Pritchard
Method & Theory in the Study of Religion – Brill
Published: Jan 1, 2004
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