Comparison in Anthropological Studies of Religion (14-16 May 2013)
The Genesis of value: Comparison in Anthropological Studies of Religion
EPHE-Paris May 14-16, 2013
Organizers:¬†Annelin Eriksen¬†(Gender and Pentecostalism Project, University of Bergen)
Andr√© Iteanu¬†( CNRS¬†–¬†√Čcole Pratique des Hautes √Čtudes)
In this workshop we want to challenge a common but very limited form of comparison. Anthropologists who explicitly claim to compare often focus on empirical phenomena (marriage institutions, religious institutions etc.) and on the way these are produced and developed in different contexts. To ensure comparability, they compare neighboring
¬†or so-called ‚Äúsimilar‚ÄĚ, societies. However, as Detienne (2008) pointed out, in doing so, they remain prisoners of the idea that one can only compare ‚Äúthat which is comparable‚ÄĚ. Comparability is, however, not an objective fact but a social construction. For instance, in the cases of ‚Äúneighboring societies‚ÄĚ and ‚Äúsimilar societies‚ÄĚ, comparability is defined respectivelyby assumed shared origin or mutual influences, and by material or structural resemblance. From an anthropological point of view, this could be regarded as ‚Äúsympathetic comparison‚ÄĚ, in a similar sense that we speak of ‚Äúsympathetic magic‚ÄĚ.
In contrast, the notion of comparison that this workshop wants to investigate is integral to anthropology but entails more than comparing ‚Äúsimilar‚ÄĚ societies. It is implicit in any anthropological description and becomes explicit when the observer casts his or her own position into the framework of his or her analysis. It has today become even more obvious or ‚Äúfundamental‚ÄĚ in all the explorations that deconstruct the anthropologist‚Äôs perceptive tools. No doubt, it is forever ongoing as every deconstruction opens the way for new ones.
Given this point of view, we all compare, all the time. However, the question of comparison itself has not been directly addressed for a number of years. Therefore, this workshop seeks to engage its participants in the question of the role of comparison for anthropology and how we should conceptualise comparative frameworks. As opposed to empirical comparison, ours takes place at the level of ideology. It implies a focus on how each analyzed element is part of larger systems which gives it its meaning. Dumont‚Äôs (1980) comparative analysis of hierarchical and individualistic systems is a case in point. His studies were used as a model for other comparative analyses in anthropology (see Kapferer 1988  on nationalism, or Al√®s and Barraud 1991 on sex/gender). This sort of comparison often involves contrasting different societies and a focus on cultural and regional diversity. It encourages the research to investigate the systematic way in which social parts (for instance violence
¬†or gender relations) are related to a larger whole that stands for the social. Adopting this stand, open new venues for it then becomes possible to compare even distant and heterogeneous social practices for as long as the analysis accounts for the analytical level¬† of values on which the comparison¬† takes place.
Nonetheless, in order to enhance the coherence of our discussion, this workshop will give priority to the ‚Äúlevel of religion‚ÄĚ. Religion is here taken in the sense of a value that has the capacity to encompass and influence the life of people while at the same time being idiosyncratic to a very large extent; for this matter, ideology or cosmology might be more appropriate terms. Encompassing values are also often sacred values, but not necessarily conventionally seen as ‚Äúreligious‚ÄĚ values (see for instance Kapferer 1988 on nationalist egalitarianism as a religious value).
09.00-09.30 Welcome and opening by Andr√© and Annelin
Session 1 Comparison as a de-stabilizing strategy.
Chair : Knut Rio
09.30-10.30 ¬† Morten Nielsen and Morten Axel Pedersen
‚ÄėGetting it Wrong‚Äô: Incomparing the Comparable in a Collaborative Ethnographic Study of Chinese Infrastructure Projects in Mozambique and Mongolia
10.30-11.30 ¬† Matthew Engelke
The Secular Limn: Christianity and Humanism in Comparative Perspective
11.30-11.45 ¬† Coffee
11.45-12.45 ¬† Henrik Vigh
The Intentionality of the Other: on suspicion and social indeterminacy in Belfast and Bissau¬†
12.45- 13.00 Discussant Rane Willerslev
Session 2: Comparison and value
Chair: Annelin Eriksen
14.00-15.00 ¬† Andr√© Iteanu
A disappearing world: a comparative attempt between the US and the Orokaiva
15.00-1600 Joel Robbins
On Value and Internal Comparison
16.15-16.30 Discussant: Bruce Kapferer 15 minutes
16.30-17.00 General discussion
Session 3: comparison across time and space
10.00-11.00 Ir√®ne Catach Rosier¬†
Remarks on cross-overs in speech effectiveness in the Western Middle Ages
11.00-12.00 ¬† Bj√łrn Enge Bertelsen
Lycantrophy as potentiality of transcendence, sovereignty and territoriality: Comparing Amazonian and Southern African politico-religious formations
14.00.-15.00 Annelin Eriksen
The gender of charisma, a comparison of Pentecostalism in Africa and Melanesia
15.00-16.00 Ismael Moya
Of Comparability and Comparison. Melanesian Models in a Muslim African City; with comparative prolegomena on Economy.
16.00-16.15 ¬† Coffee
16.15-16.30 Discussant: Christine Jacobsen
16.30-17.00 ¬† General discussion
Session 4: Critical Comparison
Chair: Andr√© Iteanu
10.00-11.00 Knut Rio
Critical comparison between philosophy and ethnography: Approximating witchcraft to ‚ÄĚnothingness‚ÄĚ.
11.00-12.00 ¬† Ruy Llera Blanes
Who or what is a prophet? Debating categories of leadership, gender and charisma in the anthropology of religion
12.00-12.15 ¬† Discussant: Rane Willerslev
12.15-1300 General Discussion
1300-1400 ¬† Lunch