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    Needham’s review of Paul Veyne’s ‘Did the Greeks believe in their myths?’

    by  • 17 August, 2015 • 0 Comments

    This post is a continuation of my thoughts in my previous post… Now to Needham’s review of Veyne’s book. The review is short, and much is taken up with flattering comments on Veyne’s style, but overall the conclusion is negative—he characterises the argument as ‘erratic and inconsistent’. On my reading, Needham makes three substantive points, which I...

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    Rodney Needham and Paul Veyne on religious belief

    by  • 17 August, 2015 • 0 Comments

    I recently came across a review by Rodney Needham of Paul Veyne’s Did the Greeks believe in their myths? I was quite intrigued by this as these two authors are representatives of two approaches to the study of religious belief and the anthropology of belief I have been thinking about for a while . They have often squabbled in my...

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    The Meaning and End of Religion

    by  • 22 July, 2015 • 0 Comments


    Over the weekend I read Wilfred Cantwell Smith‘s The Meaning and End of Religion (1962). I knew a little about this book from Talal Asad’s 2001 article (jStor paywall), which I suppose is the main way most anthropologists of religion have come to know its content too. Asad lavishes praise on Smith at the beginning of...

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    Announcing: Ignorance Studies Listserv

    by  • 26 January, 2014 • 0 Comments

    see, hear, speak no evil, Chris Walkington

      I’ve set up a JISCMail mailing list for discussion of the social scientific study of ignorance. The list will be publicly archived. To subscribe or contribute, click HERE. Get in touch with me if you have any questions. (The image above is ‘see, hear, speak no evil’ by Chris Walkington, and was the...

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    Speaking Ethically Across Borders Conference: Registration Open!

    by  • 11 December, 2013 • 0 Comments

    A conversation between Western Christendom and the Mongol Empire: 
Pope Innocent IV sends a mission to Central Asia, carrying one of a series of letters that were exchanged between the pontiffs and the Mongol khans in the thirteenth century. (Source: Wikipedia)

    Registration is now open for the conference: Speaking Ethically Across Borders: Interdisciplinary Approaches 8-10 January 2014 CRASSH, University of Cambridge With lectures by: Michael Lambek (Toronto) and Simon Coleman (Toronto). Including papers by: Michael Lempert (Michigan), John Marenbon (Cambridge), Carlo Severi (EHESS), Hallvard Lillehammer (Birbeck). ***For registration and further details: http://www.crassh.cam.ac.uk/events/25021 *** ***The Facebook...

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    Abby Day’s Believing in Belonging: Review

    by  • 30 June, 2013 • 0 Comments


    Here’s my review of Abby Day’s Believing in Belonging which appeared in last year’s edition of the Journal of Religion and Society. Though I didn’t quite buy the theoretical argument of the book, I thought the substantive work on people’s attitudes towards institutionalised religion, gods, ghosts and fate was fascinating. The commentary on the...

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    Cultures of Belief — post-print version of article

    by  • 10 April, 2013 • 0 Comments

    As promised, here’s a post-print version of my Cultures of Belief article, which was published in Anthropological Theory. cultures-of-belief-post-print The text is identical to the journal version, but the formatting is different — this is the version I’m allowed to distribute according to the publishing agreement. If you have access to the journal, for...

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    Literacy, religious renaissance and the ‘morality system’

    by  • 4 April, 2013 • 0 Comments

    Safari ya roho akhera, ‘the journey of the soul into the afterlife’, was published in 1999 by Said Amour Al-Habsy in Oman — image from Becker’s 2009 paper.

    This is a cross-post from ethics.CRASSH. Felicitas Becker on Islamic reformism and Sufi traditionalism in Tanzania I’ve just read two fascinating papers by Felicitas Becker on moral conflict in East Africa. Both papers describe the relationship between Islamist reformers and Sufi-influenced traditionalists in rural Tanzania. Broadly speaking, the Islamists are young, have international connections (though these...

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    New blog: ethics.CRASSH

    by  • 28 March, 2013 • 0 Comments

    ethics blog

    I’ve launched a new website as part of my current project at CRASSH. It’s called ethics.CRASSH and at the moment it’s covering the Speaking Ethically Across Borders Project, which has been running as a reading group this year. Several of the participants have already posted commentaries on the texts we’ve been reading. If things...

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