Personal Knowledge and Beyond: Reshaping the Ethnography of Religion

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Over the last decade the sociology of religion and religious studies have experienced a surge of ethnographic research. Scholars now use ethnography, as anthropologists have long done, as a valued source of knowledge from which they draw their pictures of the religious world.

Yet, many researchers of religion have yet to grapple with the issues that are changing anthropologists' use of the method. Personal Knowledge and Beyond seeks to foster a cross-disciplinary rethinking of ethnography's possibilities and limits for the study of religions. It provides an overview of recent debates while also pushing them in new directions. In addition, it offers critiques of some of anthropology's reigning conceptualizations.

The volume brings together many of the best-known ethnographic researchers of religion, including Karen McCarthy Brown, Lynn Davidman, Armin Geertz, Cheryl Townsend Gilkes, Mary Jo Neitz, and Thomas Tweed. Together, they share substantively from their fieldwork and consider the consequences for the study of religion of rejecting old ethnographic myths, as well as the risks of replacing them with new ones. The volume will be of interest to students as well as to experienced scholars in the field.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"This bold and provocative book of essays pushes ethnography to a new frontier as seasoned social scientists of religion describe how their personal biographies intersect with their research. . . . These essays challenge us to rethink the ethnographic study of religion. Both field researchers and those who teach methods will find this book a gem."

-Helen Rose Ebaugh,Former President, Society for the Scientific Study of Religion and coeditor of Religion and the New Immigrants: Continuities and Adaptations in Immigrant Congregations

"This is a timely book on the actual doing of ethnography, and how doing ethnography of religion demands specific attentiveness, not least to the transformations undergone by the observer herself."

-Journal of Religion

"Religion seems to be everywhere and nowhere in contemporary social science theorizing. This collection of essays puts religion back where it has belonged since the beginnings of social theory: at the center of debate and, moreover, a debate grounded in concrete ethnography tempered by cogent reflection on the ethnographic process."

-Thomas J. Csordas,President, Society for the Anthropology of Religion and author of Embodiment and Experience: The Existential Ground of Culture and Self

"I would recommend this book to anyone contemplating the study of religion using interviews and/or participant observations."

-Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion

"This is a rich collection in every sense of the word. It is rich in ideas, in examples, and in approaches. . . . Beautifully written and impeccably edited."

-Journal of Contemporary Religion

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780814798027
  • Publisher: New York University Press
  • Publication date: 2/1/2002
  • Series: Critical America Series
  • Pages: 284
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

James V. Spickard is Associate Professor of Sociology and Anthropology at the University of Redlands.

Shawn Landres is a doctoral candidate in religious studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara and in social anthropology at Oxford University.

Meredith B. McGuire is Professor of Sociology and Anthropology at Trinity University. She is the author or coauthor of several books, including Religion: The Social Context and Ritual Healing in Suburban America.

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Table of Contents

Introduction: Whither Ethnography? Transforming the Social-Scientific Study of Religion 1
Pt. I Being an Ethnographer
1 Truth, Subjectivity, and Ethnographic Research 17
2 From the Heart of My Laptop: Personal Passion and Research on Violence against Women 27
3 Walking between the Worlds: Permeable Boundaries, Ambiguous Identities 33
4 Dancing on the Fence: Researching Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Christians 47
Pt. II Doing Ethnography
Between the Living and the Dead: Fieldwork, History, and the Interpreter's Position 63
6 "But Are They Really Christian?" Contesting Knowledge and Identity in and out of the Field 75
7 Transitional Identities: Self, Other, and the Ethnographic Process 88
8 Being (in) the Field: Defining Ethnography in Southern California and Central Slovakia 100
9 Encountering Latina Mobilization: Field Research on the U.S./Mexico Border 113
Pt. III Writing and Reading Ethnography
10 Writing about "the Other," Revisited 127
11 "There's Power in the Blood": Writing Serpent Handling as Everyday Life 134
12 Voicing Spiritualities: Anchored Composites as an Approach to Understanding Religious Commitment 146
13 Against Univocality: Re-reading Ethnographies of Conservative Protestant Women 162
14 A Conscious Connection to All That Is: The Color Purple as Subversive and Critical Ethnography 175
Pt. IV Beyond Personal Knowledge
15 New-Old Directions in the Social Scientific Study of Religion: Ethnography, Phenomenology, and the Human Body 195
16 Greening Ethnography and the Study of Religion 212
17 As the Other Sees Us: On Reciprocity and Mutual Reflection in the Study of Native American Religions 225
18 On the Epistemology of Post-Colonial Ethnography 237
References 253
Contributors 275
Index 281
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