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humanities 145 university of toronto quarterly, volume 73, number 1, winter 2003/4 elites failed on every occasion to achieve its ostensible goal of improving the condition of ordinary people of African descent. His book also has the virtue of including every angle and trying to tell the whole story of the West Indian community=s rise and fall, and it should long be a worthwhile starting point for those interested in the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica. (STEVEN PALMER) Michael Lambek, editor. A Reader in the Anthropology of Religion Blackwell 2001. xi, 620. US $41.95 This sizeable anthology contains thirty-seven selections written mostly by anthropologists, along with a general introduction composed by the editor, Michael Lambek. Lambek also supplies introductory remarks to the four divisions or >parts= into which the selections are sorted (>The Context of Understanding and Debate,= >Poiesis: The Composition of Religious Worlds,= >Praxis: Religious Action,= and >Historical Dynamics: Power, Modernity, and Change=), as well as introductory statements for the subdivisions of the four parts and for each individual entry. Part 5, entitled >Research Tools,= furnishes >A Guide to the Literature,= which consists of a regional index of persons who have contributed to our knowledge of religion in different parts of the world, a topical index that lists persons who have had something to say on a variety of topics (e.g., >cognition Bloch 1998, Boyer, Sperber=), and a general bibliography. Lambek has obviously put a great deal of effort into assembling and introducing the collection. While I like certain of his individual selections less than others, overall I think that the anthology contains much that is pedagogically useful. There are extracts from such >classical= authors as E.B. Tylor, E. Durkheim, and M. Weber, as well as excerpts from later writers, some more famous than others but virtually all with something interesting (if not always something persuasive) to say. Yet, for all that, I deem the collection disappointing. Towards the end of his general introduction, Lambek remarks that his >primary aim has been to include a substantial body of significant work of relatively lasting significance.= While I have some doubts about >lasting significance,= I think that Lambek does supply us with a sample of works that are well regarded by many contemporary anthropologists. But instead of pointing to what he generously views as an >extended conversation,= his selections collectively suggest a directionless babble. Fortunately, however, we are now in the early stages of an interdisciplinary revolution in our understandings of, and debates about, human religiosity. Some anthropologists , still a minority within their own discipline, are major contributors to that development, yet they are given almost no recognition in Lambek=s collection. 146 letters in canada 2002 university of toronto quarterly, volume 73, number 1, winter 2003/4 Lambek refers to Clifford Geertz=s 1966 complaint that the anthropology of religion of that time was not theoretically adventurous. He then suggests that that is no longer true, for some anthropologists >have discovered= existentialism, continental phenomenology, Lacanian psychoanalysis, and much else, and he provides references to essays in his anthology that incorporate some of those discoveries. He also remarks that >Yet other anthropologists have been increasingly attracted to the insights of cognitive psychology in the ambitious attempt to build a universal (objectivist) theory of human knowledge that would incorporate religious ideation,= but he supplies no immediate references, having awarded no space in his anthology to major examples of that approach. The anthropologists to whom he refers in passing, it should be noted, are attracted to more than the insights of cognitive psychology. In addition to sometimes actively collaborating with psychologists in the design and execution of experiments to test hypotheses, those anthropologists draw on the cognitive sciences in general, along with evolutionary biology, the neural sciences, and developmental and evolutionary psychology. For the most part, moreover, they have a keen sense of their obligations as scholars to transcend the armchair and furnish evidence for their theories. I deem the approach to religion that Lambek slights B an approach found in the work of anthropologists such as Scott Atran, Pascal Boyer, Stewart Guthrie, Dan Sperber, and Harvey Whitehouse B to be truly and cumulatively exciting. It seeks...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 145-146
Launched on MUSE
2014-07-02
Open Access
No
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