Sociology and Anthropology


This article, originally presented as a talk at Harvard University's Weatherhead Center, poses the question: What makes ethnography more than just slow journalism in the study of religion? It traces this concern to the political subtext of ethnography's origins in both sociology and anthropology: as an aid to imperial &/or middle-class domination of other peoples. Having discovered this, anthropologists (and a few sociologists) have changed their approach to their interview partners (no longer 'subjects'). This requires several epistemological moves, including a willingness to acknowledge our own projections about our research partners and to recognize that we are as socially situated as they. I illustrate this with scenes from one of my own ethnographic projects: the exploration of specific networks of religious social activists. They, for the most part, are not the heroes we project them to be. They are, however, willing to live on the edge, putting their faith to the test, because living any other way seems a futile waste of time.

Document Type

Conference Paper


Presented for a special seminar hosted by the Project on Religion, Political Economy, and Society, Weatherhead Center for International Affairs Harvard University presented September 24th, 2003

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Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.