Thursday, December 4, 2008

Thinking About Religion, Belief, and Politics

The Inaugural Danforth Lecture Series
Princeton University

In a dense and stimulating talk, anthropologist Talal Asad engaged the work of Charles Hirschkind and Charles Taylor. Here are a few ideas that stayed with me:

  • changing models of 'religion' over time, particularly in relation to understandings of ritual
  • connections between the optimism of liberal secular politics and Christian articulations of personal salvation
  • how the market and formal communication both exert forms of control that alter internal desire
  • an 'ethnography of the body' that would help distinguish between discipline (as intentional cultivation of specific practices) and unintended shifts in the sensorium (the place data from our senses in received and interpreted)
  • the contrast between state dominance of space and acoustic sensibility of sermons in Egypt
  • the provocative question: how does democratic sensibility accord with democracy as a state?