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Conceptualizing Religion: Immanent Anthropologists, Transcendent Natives, and Unbounded Categories

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Conceptualizing Religion

Immanent Anthropologists, Transcendent Natives, and Unbounded Categories

Benson Saler

312 pages, bibliog., index

ISBN  978-1-57181-219-3 $34.95/£27.95 / Pb / Published (December 1999)

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"In this study, the author displays an astonishing knowledge of the field, an outstanding command of the literature and a most remarkable width of scope."  · The Journal of Indo-European Studies

"... a timely and useful addition to current discussions on the topic."  · American Anthropologist

"This is the best book on conceptualizing religion that I have come across for many years. All issues related to the definition of religion are dealt with extensively and in depth, without losing sight of the contribution of the author himself."  · Bijdragen, tijdschrift voor filosofie en theologie


How might we transform a folk category - in this case religion - into a analytical category suitable for cross-cultural research? In this volume, the author addresses that question. He critically explores various approaches to the problem of conceptualizing religion, particularly with respect to certain disciplinary interests of anthropologists. He argues that the concept of family resemblances, as that concept has been refined and extended in prototype theory in the contemporary cognitive sciences, is the most plausible analytical strategy for resolving the central problem of the book. In the solution proposed, religion is conceptualized as an affair of "more or less" rather than a matter of "yes or no," and no sharp line is drawn between religion and non-religion.

Benson Saler is Professor of Anthropology at Brandeis University and a former Interim Vice PResident of the Anthropology of Religion Section of the American Anthropological Association. He has carried out ethnographic fieldwork in Guatemala, Colombia, Venezuela, and the United States. His current research is largely dircted to certain aspects of "popular culture" in the United States.

Subject: Anthropology of Religion Theory and Methodology


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