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

Restarting from Anthropology Beyond Good and Evil

starting overMy blog Islam, Muslims and an Anthropologist started in 2007 and since then 228,803 people (an average of 38,000 per year) have read my posts concerning various aspects of Muslim lives.

During this time I had the honor of discussing events and topics with readers on this and other platforms. Some posts have been extremely popular such as Gaza: bad politics needs blood (which had 13,000 readers) to “Mamma li Turchi!!”, Italy and the Saladin Syndrome (discussing the situation of Italian Muslims) and back in 2007, this blog was among the first to highlight the condition of Rohingya Muslims in The other, invisible suffering of Burma.

We also cannot forget the ‘polemics’ with some of the main demonizers of Islam, such as with Dr Denis MacEoin regarding his infamous report for Policy Exchange (my blog was the first to highlight the incredible problems with the methodology); or my, sometimes sarcastic, exchanges with Mr Jihad Watch.

Today Islam, Muslims and an Anthropology moves on to another more general dimension, a blog titled Anthropology Beyond Good and Evil, a blog which encompasses all my interests in the field of anthropology, from anthropology of  religion, youth, globalization and modernization processes, to the anthropology of crime, identity, and so on. Surely Islam and Muslims will remain one of the main topics of discussion, but I felt that after six years I needed to expand the themes to more fully reflect my research and interests.

Another change will be the length of the posts. Other than for some exceptions, my posts will be normally between 500 and 1000 words in length, so that I can contribute more often than usual and keep up with current events with short commentaries.

I hope that many of you whom have followed Islam, Muslims and an Anthropologist for these past six years will find the change interesting and refreshing. As usual you are welcome to debate the posts and I hope to read more of your comments.


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

Five years of Contemporary Islam

I was a very young scholar, in the second year of my PhD, when I noticed how difficult it was to find an international academic journal that focused on social scientific, and multidisciplinary, approaches to contemporary Islam and Muslim lives. I then moved from reading articles to publishing them, and again, I discovered that although my first publications appeared in reputable journals, they were certainly not in those devoted to the study of contemporary Muslims. I then appreciated how important it was to have such an international forum for scholarly debate. I started to plan to found a journal. Continue reading