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Journal Article

Anthropological Conceptions of Religion: Reflections on Geertz

Talal Asad
Man
New Series, Vol. 18, No. 2 (Jun., 1983), pp. 237-259
DOI: 10.2307/2801433
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2801433
Page Count: 23
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Anthropological Conceptions of Religion: Reflections on Geertz
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Abstract

This article examines Geertz's well-known definition of religion, with its emphasis on meanings, and argues that it omits the crucial dimension of power, that it ignores the varying social conditions for the production of knowledge, and that its initial plausibility derives from the fact that it resembles the privatised forms of religion so characteristic of moder (Christian) society, on which power and knowledge are no longer significantly generated by religious institutions. A critical evaluation of Geertz's text is accompanied by brief explorations of some of the ways in which power and knowledge were connected in medieval Christianity. The article ends with a plea for investigating religion with reference to the historical conditions necessary for the existence of particular practices and discourse.

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