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Straying from the Straight Path
How Senses of Failure Invigorate Lived Religion
Edited by Daan Beekers and David Kloos
146 pages, bibliog., index
ISBN 978-1-78533-713-0 $135.00/£99.00 Hb Published (October 2017)
ISBN 978-1-78920-760-6 $29.95/£23.95 Pb Published (April 2020)
eISBN 978-1-78533-714-7 eBook
“This most interesting book, fairly short in length but substantial in content, will undoubtedly be of interest to both social anthropologists and ethnographers of religion…this is a fascinating book which professionals in the field will undoubtedly find easier to navigate than the general reader.” • Journal of Contemporary Religion
“I applaud and commend this volume for taking one step… away from the emphasis on piety and perfection in studies of lived religion. It opens needed analytical space for contingency and shows that the making of religious subjects is always a negotiated process. It will be appreciated by anyone drawn to the rich, evocative stories of women and men who abide by ethical norms sometimes, fail to do so at other times, but at all times embody the complexity, and thereby the humanity, of religion as lived.” • Reading Religion
“Straying from the Straight Path is a timely and theoretically sophisticated book on an important topic in the contemporary anthropology of religion and ethics. By looking at ethical perfection and failure in dialectical interaction, it provides a much-needed theoretical mediation of a heretofore fractious issue in the anthropology of religious ethics.” • American Ethnologist
“This rich collection of ethnographic studies of failure goes a long way in moving anthropological accounts of ethical and religious life beyond false dichotomies, including the very distinction between failure and success itself.” • Michael Lambek, University of Toronto Scarborough
“This excellent volume explores how self-perceived failures play an important role in the ethical realms of faith, opening up an important conversation about the interplays of religious coherence, incoherence, doubt, failure, ethics and piety across the anthropology of Islam and the anthropology of Christianity – literatures that have often been largely separate from each other.” • Anna Strhan, University of York
If piety, faith, and conviction constitute one side of the religious coin, then imperfection, uncertainty, and ambivalence constitute the other. Yet, scholars tend to separate these two domains and place experiences of inadequacy in everyday religious life – such as a wavering commitment, religious negligence or weakness in faith – outside the domain of religion ‘proper.’
Straying from the Straight Path breaks with this tendency by examining how self-perceived failure is, in many cases, part and parcel of religious practice and experience. Responding to the need for comparative approaches in the face of the largely separated fields of the anthropology of Islam and Christianity, this volume gives full attention to moral failure as a constitutive and potentially energizing force in the religious lives of both Muslims and Christians in different parts of the world.
Daan Beekers is a social anthropologist currently affiliated with the Alwaleed Centre for the Study of Islam in the Contemporary World, University of Edinburgh. His first monograph, an ethnographic study of religious commitment among young Muslims and Christians in the Netherlands, is forthcoming with Bloomsbury.
David Kloos is a senior researcher at the Royal Netherlands Institute of Southeast Asian and Caribbean Studies (KITLV) in Leiden, The Netherlands. He is the author of Becoming Better Muslims: Religious Authority and Ethical Improvement in Aceh, Indonesia (Princeton University Press, 2018).