Academia, anthropology, Ethics, Research, Research Metodology, sociology

Why we need an anthropology beyond good and evil

As some of you may have noticed, not only has my blog shifted from a specialist focus within the field of anthropology to a more generally anthropological one, but the new name of the blog wishes to challenge how we do anthropology.

Overall my aim now is to push towards a different way of doing anthropology. When I say a different way, I do not mean a ‘new’ way. Indeed, the roots of my attempt have a rather well established pedigree in the field. Yet long years of self-criticism and reflection within the discipline known in the US as ‘cultural anthropology’ have caused many to throw the baby out with the bathwater, so to speak.

The established pedigree I am referring to originates with Malinowski and perceives anthropology as a scientific effort aimed to explain or to highlight facts about cultures and in particular, in my case, humans. Within this tradition, I can also mention another anthropologist whom has greatly influenced my work, Gregory Bateson, and another, whose theoretical discussion of anthropology and relativism I appreciate despite my strong criticisms of his study of Islam (Marranci 2008), Ernest Gellner. Surely in the case of Malinowski and most of the anthropology of those times, the issue of colonialism had an impact and should be considered. Yet in the attempt to get rid of the bath water (the moral mistake of colonialism), during the 1970s and in particular 1980s, anthropologists threw out the baby itself by adopting post-modernism and relativism as an approach to reality.  Continue reading

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Academia, anthropology, Australia, Ethics, Islam, Islamophobia, Journalism, Muslims, Neocon, Politics, Religion, Research, Research Metodology, Terrorism, University, War on Terror

Think Tanks, weak research and the case of Hizb-ut-Tahrir in Australia

Think Tanks, often linked to a party in the nation’s political system, are becoming increasingly popular (particularly in the US and the UK), receive funds, and produce very easily digestible research, ready-made for the rushed politician. Think Tanks do not have to adhere to the same quality standards that university research has to or, when they are supposed to meet similar standards,  there is no effective means of monitoring it. Ethical issues, ethical conduct of research and often methodology remains unexplained in reports written to impress more than explain complex issues. In an era where simplification often resembles “The Complete Idiot’s” guides, Think Tanks provide a fast, public friendly, easy to use policy support for difficult decisions.

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America, anthropology, Bush, David Horowitz, democracy, Democracy and Justice, Ethnic Minorities, Islam, Islam and Christianity, Islamo Fascism, Islamophobia, Journalism, Muslims, Neocon, Politics, Religion, Research, Research Metodology, Robert Spencer, sociology, Terrorism, War on Terror

American Muslims, Muslimphobia, and dangerous chemerias

The debate concerning Islam and Muslims in the US is a very heated one – sometimes beyond metaphors. The fear that Sharia will rule in the land of the free is a strong one, so much so that there has been more than one attempt to legally ban ‘sharia’.  Newt Gingrich, former House speaker who led the Republican takeover of Congress in 1994, exclaimed

Stealth jihadis use political, cultural, societal, religious, intellectual tools as a way to “replace Western civilization with a radical imposition of Sharia

The list of American anti-Muslim politicians, commentators and pundits is long and often all linked to the Christian Republican right. The most quoted are  Ann Coulter, whom invited a Muslim student to take a camel instead of a plane, Fox News personality Sean Hannity, whom drew a parallel between Islam and Nazism, Glenn Beck,  Daniel Pipes , as well as showbiz personalities such as the well known “Jihad watcher” and the “femme fatal” of  fear mongering, author of “Stop the Islamization of America“. Continue reading

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Academia, anthropology, Fashion, Islam, Islam in Europe, Islamophobia, Journalism, Muslims, Neocon, Politics, Religion, Research, Research Metodology, Sunni, Terrorism, University

Prayer bumps, Muslim haters, and the danger of scientific popularization

Recently I came across a short article titled: The Muslim ‘prayer bump’ and Traumatic Brain Injury. Since I am interested in both religion as well as neuroscience, I eagerly read the short post. To my disappointment, I had to conclude that this was another, yet more sophisticated and insidious, attempt to demonstrate that Islam has horrible consequences for practising individuals. The gist of the article is as follows. Muslims pray five times per day, and as part of the Muslim prayer (salah), the Muslim prostrates and  touches the ground with his or her forehead and nose (sujud). The article proceeds to inform the reader that in doing so, millions of Muslims develop what, in Islamic jargon, is called  zebibah (Arabic for raisin), or a prayer bump. In other words, the repeated pressure of the head on the prayer mat will produce a discolouration of the skin in the area of contact, and in some cases, apparently, provoking a ‘bump’. Continue reading

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Academia, anthropology, Australia, Democracy and Justice, Ethnic Minorities, Europe, Immigration, Islam, Journalism, Politics, Refugees, Religion, Research, Research Metodology, sociology, The UK

Integration, statistics and mistakes of logical typing

Are Muslims integrating or not? Are they loyal to their non-Muslim nations or not? Do we have an enemy within? Many questions for many answers. Normally mass media and in particular newspapers are the main sources of these questions and surveys and polls are the answers. Many questions and many surveys, more or less official, methodologically sound or unsound, private and public, ideological or apologetic have followed 9/11 all around the ‘Western world’. Many numbers and few words are used to convince the public that Muslims are either dangerous aliens or better citizens than the non-Muslims. A battle of opposite perspectives with only one thing in common: numbers.

The main discussion tends to be integration. Muslims are tested and re-tested about the state of their integration, even when they have been an integral part of a country for three or more generations.  Continue reading

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Academia, anthropology, Arts, marranci, Religion, Research, Research Metodology, sociology

Worldwide Association for the Study of Religion: a work in progress

The Worldwide Association for the Study of Religion is an association for scholars studying religion or with an interest in religion that aims to develop a platform accessible to any scholar or student wherever he or she might live.  The goal of the association is to study religion in all of its forms and not to lobby for any particular religious or non-religious belief.

The Worldwide Association for the Study of Religion is intended to be a forum that is extremely wide in scope for scholars in the humanities and social sciences as well as biological and evolutionary sciences, such as cognitive neuroscience. The Worldwide Association for the Study of Religion is a non-profit organization. Continue reading

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Academia, anthropology, Islam, marranci, Politics, Religion, Research, Research Metodology, sociology

Leaving the AAR (American Academy of Religion): lacking transparency

After nearly ten years of membership and $2000 US dollars, I have finally decided to leave the American Academy of Religion, the most important association representing scholars from different fields of the study of religion. I pondered my decision for a while, hoping that my doubts, questions and suspicions might have been answered and clarified. This was not the case. The AAR, which also acts as a lobby in the US  to preserve and foster the field of religious studies, aims to be an international association. My experience, as I suggest below, shows the contrary. The reality is that the AAR is fully US-centric both in privileging scholars in any aspect of the association’s life and in the topics discussed and how they are discussed.  Continue reading

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