final paper c&a - Brelan Hillman Anthropology of...

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Brelan Hillman Anthropology of Christianity December 12, 2007 Advantage of Belief: A Comparison of Anthropological Approaches In this paper I would like to challenge my belief that anthropologists, who are believers, are more adequately equipped for anthropological research at churches. I feel that a secular anthropologist’s “disbelief,” can prevent him or her from observing objectively. However, I realize that an anthropologist who is a believer can face the same problem of struggling with impartiality in his or her anthropological research. I would like to discuss how secularism has affected anthropologists’ approach to their work. I would also like to explore the work of anthropologists who are believers and those who are not believers and identify the advantages and disadvantages of each. I believe that secularism has seriously handicapped anthropological research in the western world. When I speak of secularism, I want to consider the belief that religion should have no place in the public realm and the “secularization thesis,” which I think misguidedly predicts the eventual demise of religion in both the public and private realm (Stewart 326). Both of these aspects serve as barriers between the anthropological observer and the people he or she studies. I believe that an anthropologist must have a necessary closeness to his or her subjects to
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conduct his or her anthropological research adequately. I think that belief and the incorporation of this belief into an anthropologist’s observations establishes a terrain where this necessary closeness can be achieved. I also feel that those who believe in the “secularization thesis” will have a hard time of researching without a condescending attitude. It would be a difficult task for a secular anthropologist to effectively show how the belief of his or her subjects influences and affects their actions and lives, if he believes what guides their lives is a fleeting phenomenon. I think a secular anthropologist’s ignorance of belief causes many of them to underestimate the power of belief in the societies they research. Many of the believers, who the anthropologists observe, employ religion in almost all aspects of their life. This employment of religion in all aspects of life is a stark contrast to secularism. I do not think it is possible for an anthropologist to sufficiently articulate how belief affects the various aspects of a society without incorporating belief in his or her work. I do not see how an anthropologist can “examine people’s belief simply as social phenomena” and still give an informative recountal of a society who employs belief in all aspects of their life (Evans- Pritchard 30). This hostility can often result in the anthropologist critiquing the religion rather than showing how belief affects the society under study. I think Harding says it best when she declares “social scientists and professed unbelievers in general do not let themselves get close enough to ‘belief’ to understand it, or, for that matter, even to see what it is” (Harding 36). The
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final paper c&a - Brelan Hillman Anthropology of...

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