Redeeming anthropology: a theological critique of a modern science

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Anthropologists have invariably engaged in their discipline as a form of redemption, whether to escape from social restriction, nourish their souls, reform their home polities, or vindicate "the natives." Redeeming Anthropology explores how in pursuit of a secular science sired by the Enlightenment, adherents to a "faith in mankind" have vacillated between rejecting and embracing theology, albeit in concealed and contradictory ways. Mining the biographical registers of the American, British, and French anthropological traditions, Khaled Furani argues that despite all efforts to the contrary, theological sediments remain in this disciplining discipline. Rather than continuing to forget, deny, and sequester it, theology can serve as a mirror for introspection, as a source of critique offering invaluable tools for revitalization: for thinking anew not only anthropology's study of others' cultures, but also its very own reason. -- Redeeming Anthropology lifts a veil on anthropology as a modern academic discipline, constituted by its secular sovereign reason and membership in the Enlightenment-bequeathed university. Mining anthropology's biographical corpus, Khaled Furani reveals ways theology has always existed in its recesses, despite perpetual efforts at immuring encroachment by this banished other. Anthropologists have alternatively spurned, disregarded, and followed forms of religiosity, transmuting their theistic engagement in their professional work. Centrally, if unwittingly, theology remains in anthropology's consummate rite of ethnographic immersion, defying precepts on the autonomy of reason and knowledge production by immersing the seeker in the sought-after. Nevertheless, anthropology ultimately commits idolatry by largely adoring the concept of Culture, and its constructs, and upholding itself as pre-eminently an ethical triumph. Furthermore, by limiting its horizons to finite categories of "human" and"natural," anthropology entangles itself in "worship" of the State and conclusively of the sovereignty principle that powers modern reason. Recovery from idolatry might arrive should anthropological reason become attuned to its fragility, cease to fear theistic reason, and open pathways toward revitalization through revelation.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationOxford; New York, NY
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages205
ISBN (Electronic)0191837717, 019251637X, 0192516388, 780198796435
ISBN (Print)0198796439, 9780198796435
StatePublished - 2019

ULI Keywords

  • uli
  • Anthropology -- Methodology
  • Anthropology -- Philosophy
  • Anthropological philosophy


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