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VIDEO DOI: https://doi.org/10.48448/myds-st60

technical paper

AAA Annual Meeting 2021

November 18, 2021

Baltimore, United States

The Social Life of Religious Concepts: Multiplicity and Difference under the Conditions of Multiculturalism





In this panel, we attend to the social life of religious concepts, asking how concepts coined within particular discursive religious traditions circulate within and shift in relation to national, transnational and multicultural contexts. The turn to the anthropology of ethics has shifted analyses from the hermeneutics of religious concepts to the role that these concepts play in the discursive production of subjecthood, sociality and human flourishing. This literature also shows that religious endeavors and ethical aspirations do not emerge in a vacuum. Neither are they static. Rather, they develop with and within environments largely structured by modern and secular ways of seeing and being in the world where multiplicity serves as an overcharging frame of reference. What happens, then, when actors on the ground are compelled to negotiate this condition of plurality? This panel is interested in interrogating the way in which concepts and words which foreground particular definitions of the ethical go beyond the traditions in which they originate and circulate within the national and transnational frames of multiculturalism of which these traditions today are only a part. How do subjects of particular ethical traditions encounter multiculturalism? How do they translate, interpret, embody and engage with the tradition-specific concepts amidst competing and often incommensurable worldviews, forms of reasoning, and ways of being in the world? How do these encounters, in turn, disrupt the established ways of relating to and understanding difference vis-à-vis the structures of nation-state, secular modernity and liberalism? Through ethnographic explorations of such classical anthropological concepts as purity, sacrifice, sorcery and spirituality in a variety of contemporary societies, papers of this panel employ the lens of multiculturalism as a way of understanding religious experiences and ask how those religious experiences challenge the way we think about multiculturalism. In doing so, these papers bring to light how the condition of multiplicity bears and expands upon the ethical turn in anthropology.


Transcript English (automatic)

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