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Contemporary Western Ethnography and the Definition of by Martin D. Stringer

By Martin D. Stringer

Exploring no matter if the common job of sitting subsequent to a grave and speaking to a deceased individual is a spiritual act types the foundation of this e-book, and the writer argues that it truly is most likely even more average of a basic spiritual act than a lot of what occurs in church buildings, synagogues or mosques. starting with the definitions of faith supplied via a few anthropologists and sociologists this ebook claims that the big majority of those definitions were encouraged via Christian pondering, so resulting in definitions that rigidity the systematic nature of faith, the significance of the transcendental and the transformative job of faith. via an in depth exploration of a couple of ethnographic reports of spiritual job, those features of conventional definitions are challenged. Borrowing Durkheim's language, Martin D. Stringer argues that the main basic kind of non secular existence in lots of Western societies at the present time, and by means of implication in lots of different societies worldwide, is situational, mundane and anxious with supporting humans to deal with their day by day lives.

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Indd 53 11/16/2010 11:08:48 AM 42 Contemporary Western Ethnography and the Definition of Religion word ‘exists’ in both these statements is acknowledged to be different, because ‘God’ is a different kind of term from ‘table’ or ‘friend’. More importantly, however, Southwold claims that we very rarely hear people make a statement to the effect that they ‘believe that’ God exists; rather they are more likely to say, as the Christian creeds do, that they ‘believe in’ God. To ‘believe in’ God is, as with Pouillon, to put one’s trust in God, to have faith in God, not to make any special reference to God’s existence or to the nature of that existence.

The specific factors that were of more importance could generally be classed as local and personal religious practices of a sort that surprised the ethnographer, and it was this entirely unexpected finding that forms the basis for this book and the arguments that it contains. Without ethnography, what I am presenting in this text would never have been discovered. The Structure of the Argument Over the next three chapters, therefore, I wish to present a range of material drawn from the different studies that I undertook in Manchester, or that my students have been involved in, over the past ten years.

From Manchester I was lucky enough to obtain a post as a lecturer in the sociology and anthropology of religion at Birmingham University, and it was on a departmental visit to Chicago that a possible answer to my concerns about ethnography emerged. In Chicago I met Lowell Livezey from the University of Illinois, director of the Religion in Urban America Project (Livezey 2000). This was a Lilly Foundationfunded project that aimed to study a series of neighbourhoods within the Chicago area through specific ethnographic research in each locality.

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