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Understanding Religion & Violence

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Sita Venkateswar

on 26 May 2018

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Transcript of Understanding Religion & Violence

Understanding Religion & Violence
Protecting God-given Honour in Kohistan
Anthropology of Religion
The Burning Monk
3 Jihads:
Violence and Vengeance: Religious Conflict and Its Aftermath in Eastern Indonesia
"Because ideas about the supernatural are part of every human culture,
understanding these beliefs is important to anthropologists" (pg.1)
"To study supernatural beliefs, anthropologists must cultivate a perspective of cultural relativism and strive to understand beliefs from an emic or insider’s perspective"
"Coming to political consciousness through the period of the Vietnam War, we were acutely aware of the power of photographic images to evoke both ethnocentric recoil and agonizing identification. Malcolm Browne's famous photo of a Buddhist monk's self-immolation in Saigon was profoundly disturbing to Western viewers, who could not fathom the communicative intent of such an act" (Lutz & Collins 1993: 4).
"Since 2009, over 135 Tibetans have self-immolated, set themselves on fire with the intention of dying. Their actions appear to be a combination of things: protest against Chinese policies, a form of religious offering, and communication with the world and, most especially, other Tibetans. Seen as a form of sacrifice rather than suicide, the self-immolations in Tibet signal a new political moment, one which is still unfolding and in which Tibetans are making new demands for their collective future" (McGranahan 2012).
"Duncan builds on extensive fieldwork conducted over the course of a decade to make sense of the 1999–2000 conflict in the Eastern Indonesian province of North Maluku that came to be seen by participants as a religious war between Muslim and Christian communities" (Conroe 2014:784)
"What we may be experiencing in the last half of the 20th century and early in the 21st century are religious wars posed as secular for Christians and Jews, but as jihad or holy war for Muslims. It behoves the anthropologist to use critical comparisons to unveil the contemporary scene which has been appropriated by politicians, political pundits, journalists and even orientalists, because these terms have enormous weight in the world today, leading to mass killing and destruction" (Nader 2015:1)
Geopolitics & double standards
"The selectivity of the media that turns a blind
eye to Israel’s Western recruits fuels the notions of Islamic jihad as defence against the Jewish jihad’s continued expansion in the occupied territories, and military assets beyond, to other Arab countries" (Nader 2015:2).
Jihad = Islam
Crusade = Christianity
Jihad/Mahal? = Judaism
Key concepts applied to this research:

: the dis-embedding of conflicts from their original spatial and temporal locations

: reframing of conflict within larger and more distant contexts.
Cosmic War
"Religion is Deeper than Rational Thought"-Elaine Pagels (Historian of Religion)
Mark Juergensmeyer: "Global Religious Challenges to the Secular State"
"Soldiers in the Army of God"
Guido Reni's Michael (in Santa Maria della Concezione church, Rome, 1636) tramples Satan. A mosaic of the same painting decorates St. Michael's Altar in St. Peter's Basilica.
"There are double standards, and serious implications when Western and Israeli armies are perceived as neo-crusaders. Anthropologists are well equipped as comparativists to use such methods as ethical practice" (Nader 2015:2)
The Soul Stirrers- I am a Soldier
Stanley Tambiah
Key concepts:
'focalisation;’ ‘transvaluation;’ ‘nationalisation;’ ‘parochialisation;’
Key contributions to an understanding of religion & violence
• how cultural categories were used in action
• ritual as perfomative and an analytical tool that allows us to discern cosmologies in ordinary events
• innovative approach to riots as rituals and their cosmological implications
• micro-events may clarify macro histories and vice- versa
• the cultural repertoire of South Asia does not offer a foundation for the Western European model of the nation state
• electoral politics and collective violence may be integral components of democracy at work


"Saffron Curtain: how Buddhism was weaponised during the Cold War"
1. Anthropology of Religion
2. The Burning Monk
3. Cosmic War
3 Jihads
4. Protecting God-given honour in Kohistan
5. ‘Violence & Vengeance: Religious Conflict and its Aftermath in Eastern Indonesia’
6. 'Saffron Curtain: How Buddhism Was Weaponized During the Cold War’
7. Stanley Tambiah
Elliot Prasse-Freeman
Jennifer Leehey
Eugene P. Ford
Gustaaf Houtman

Islamic, Christian & Jewish
"The myth of Buddhism as a wholly peaceful religion ignores Buddhists' agency and diversity-and the fact that they will go to great lengths to defend their religion, whether by way of pistol bearing monks or self-immolating protestors" (Jerryson 2017)
Full transcript