Genealogies of Religion: Discipline and Reasons of Power in by Talal Asad

By Talal Asad

In Genealogies of faith Asad explores how faith as a historic class emerged within the West and has emerge as utilized by means of students, newshounds, and politicians as a common thought. the concept that faith has gone through a thorough switch because the Christian Reformation - from totalitarian and socially repressive to personal and comparatively benign - is a well-known a part of the tale of secularization. it's always invoked to give an explanation for and justify the liberal politics and world-view of modernity. And it results in the view that "politicized religions" threaten either cause and liberty. Asad's essays discover and query a majority of these assumptions. He argues that "religion" is a development of eu modernity, a building that authorizes - for Westerners and non-Westerners alike - specific different types of "history making." Asad examines elements of this authorizing procedure within the so-called fundamentalism of Saudi Arabia, within the Rushdie affair in nice Britain, and in different phenomena.

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Additional resources for Genealogies of Religion: Discipline and Reasons of Power in Christianity and Islam

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The major point, at any rate, is that whether they were concerned with customary beliefs and practices or with contemporary social and cultural changes, anthropologists saw themselves-and were seen by others-as dealing typically with nonmodern lives. Certainly, if anthropology was expected to deal with political, economic, religious, legal, medical, poetic, and historical events, it was only when these objects of modern disciplines were situated in a nonmodern social totality. e. that early law is dominantly the law ofstatus" (Gluckman 19SS, 28).

At its most dubious, such attempts encourage us to take up an a priori posi- Religion as an Anthropological Category 29 tion in which religious discourse in the political arena is seen as a disguise for political power. In what follows I want to examine the ways in which the theoretical search for an essence of religion invites us to separate it conceptually from the domain of power. "2 I stress that this is not primarily a critical review of Geertz's ideas on religion-if that had been my aim I would have addressed myself to the entire corpus of his writings on religion in Indonesia and Morocco.

By adopting it, Geertz moves away from a notion of symbols that are intrinsic to signifying and organizing practices, and back to a notion of symbols as meaning-carrying objects external to social conditions and states of the self(" social and psychological reality"). This is not to say that Geertz doesn't think ofsymbols as "doing" something. In a way that recalls older anthropological approaches to ritual,9 he states that religious symbols act "by inducing in the wor8. " 9. If we set aside Radcliffe-Brown's well-known preoccupation with social cohesion, we may recall that he too was concerned to specify certain kinds of psychological states said to be induced by religious symbols: "Rites can be seen to be the regulated symbolic expressions of certain sentiments (which control the behaviour of the individual in his relation to others).

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