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Learning Religion: Anthropological Approaches

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Volume 17

Methodology & History in Anthropology

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Learning Religion

Anthropological Approaches

Edited by David Berliner and Ramon SarrĂ³

248 pages, bibliog., index

ISBN  978-1-84545-374-9 $135.00/£99.00 Hb Published (October 2007)

ISBN  978-1-84545-594-1 $29.95/£23.95 Pb Published (October 2008)

eISBN 978-1-78238-213-3 eBook

Hb Pb View cartYour country: United States - Click here to remove geolocation   Buy the eBook! $29.95 Request a Review or Examination Copy (in Digital Format) Recommend to your Library Available in GOBI®


“This volume demonstrates that a formidable barrier divides social and the cognitive anthropologists. Sperber, Bloch, Whitehouse, and even the very Durkheimian Mary Douglas have been encouraging a merger between cognitive studies, hermeneutics, and ethnography, while others have been more reticent or antagonistic…Either way, this work has helped to advance the discussion.”   ·  Anthropos

“This volume is a valuable contribution to an emergent field of study, and will appeal to scholars who seek new interdisciplinary approaches.”   ·  Social Anthropology/Anthropologie sociale


As we enter the 21st century, it becomes increasingly difficult to envisage a world detached from religion or an anthropology blind to its study. Yet, how people become religious is still poorly studied. This volume gathers some of the most distinguished scholars in the field to offer a new perspective for the study of religion, one that examines the works of transmission and innovation through the prism of learning. They argue that religious culture is socially and dynamically constructed by agents who are not mere passive recipients but engaged in active learning processes. Finding a middle way between the social and the cognitive, they see learning religions not as a mechanism of “downloading” but also as a social process with its relational dimension.

David Berliner is an Assistant Professor at the Université Libre de Bruxelles (Belgium). He received his PhD from University of Brussels (2002). In 2001 he was a visiting PhD student at Saint Cross College, Oxford, and in 2003-2005 a post-doctoral fellow at Harvard University.

Ramon Sarró is a Senior Research Fellow at the Institute of Social Sciences, Lisbon. He read anthropology in London (PhD 1999). In 2000-2002 he was the Ioma Evans-Pritchard Junior Research Fellow at Saint Anne's College, Oxford. His publications include Surviving Iconoclasm: Religious and Political Transformation on the Upper Guinea Coast (Edinburgh University Press, 2006).

Subject: Religion Theory & Methodology in Anthropology
Area: Asia Latin America



Chapter 1. On Learning Religion: An Introduction
David Berliner and Ramon Sarró

Chapter 2. Learning to Believe: A Preliminary Approach
Carlo Severi

Chapter 3. Menstrual Slaps and First Blood Celebrations: Inference, Simulation and the Learning of Ritual
Michael Houseman

Chapter 4. The Accidental in Religious Instruction: Ideas and Convictions
David Parkin

Chapter 5. On Catching Up With Oneself: Learning to Know That One Means What One Does
Michael Lambek

Chapter 6. How Do You Learn to Know That it is God Who Speaks?
T.M. Luhrmann

Chapter 7. How to Learn in an Afro-Brazilian Spirit Possession Religion: Ontology and Multiplicity in Candomblé
Marcio Goldman

Chapter 8. Learning to be a Proper Medium: Middle-Class Womanhood and Spirit Mediumship at Christian Rationalist Séances in Cape Verde
João Vasconcelos

Chapter 9. Copyright and Authorship: Ritual Speech and the New Market of Words in Toraja
Aurora Donzelli

Chapter 10. Learning Faith: Young Christians and Catechism
Laurence Hérault

Chapter 11. What is Interesting about Chinese Religion
Charles Stafford

Chapter 12. The Sound of Witchcraft: Noise as Mediation in Religious Transmission
Michael Rowlands

Notes on Contributors

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