Anthropology of Religion and the Economy Lecture Series
During the 2008-2009 academic year, the Berkley Center and the Department of Anthropology arranged a series of talks by well-known anthropologists of religion, culture, and political economy. The talks, based on fieldwork conducted in a range of ethnographic settings in Africa, India, Japan, and the United States, brought together anthropological work on religion and more recent work in the discipline on money, markets, and finance to consider the complex relationship between the economy and religion in the contemporary era.
February 13, 2009
A dynamic tension exists in practices of giving: while impulsive philanthropic giving allows no claims on the donor by the recipient, welfare-oriented giving transforms the recipient into a claimant with rights. These conflicting pressures on giving frame this examination of contemporary humanitarian and philanthropic practice in New Delhi, and its relation to sacred Hindu conceptions of dān (donation) in light of the response to the 2004 tsunami disaster. The February 13, 2009 talk, part of an ongoing series The Anthropology of Religion, Money and the Economy, co-sponsored by the Anthropology Department and the Berkley Center, drew upon a nexus of institutions and individuals: schools raising money for tsunami relief, NGOs delivering charitable goods, and individuals giving donations, to show how humanitarian efforts mirror larger ethical struggles about how money should be spent and tracked, how need is identified, and what constitutes a worthy recipient.
November 14, 2008
In this lecture, Professor Miyazaki examined personal hope as an emergent locus of articulation between the secular and the nonsecular in public debates about political and economic futures in the U.S. and Japan. From the recent encyclical of Pope Benedict XVI to the speeches of Barack Obama, hope has emerged as a key concept in the political theology of the present moment. Hiro Miyazaki seeks to bring the political-theological deployment of hope in conversation with current debates about the economy; in particular, turning to several recent efforts by Japanese public intellectuals to theorize Japan’s increasing inequality in terms of the uneven distribution of hope.
October 15, 2008
Caitlin Zaloom, Assistant Professor of Social and Cultural Analysis at NYU, gave a lecture entitled "God’s Economy: Living with Debt in Evangelical America." For contemporary American evangelicals, debt meets God in financial ministry, which offers help for the financial trials so widespread today. Church teachings encourage believers to bring their intimate relationship with God into the marketplace, to resist the powers that tempt them to keep on buying, and to redirect their consumption in light of God's purpose. This talk analyzed how financial Bible study, church-sponsored budget coaching, and Christian media reshape the relationship between money and the divine, and, at the same time, offer new models and techniques for living in today's volatile economy. The messages and practices of Christian finance illuminate the complex relationships between economic reason, faith, and consumer culture in the United States today.
September 26, 2008
Jane I. Guyer, Professor of Anthropology at Johns Hopkins University, presented a paper entitled Prophecy and the Near Future: New Observations. This paper is one in a series of five that address economic theory, policy, and people’s practice in our present moment of increased uncertainty. Others are devoted to confusion, hope, price, and rhetoric. They result from the need to frame better the key questions we engage with during intensive fieldwork on current economic life, which in this case has concerned the past and present economies of West and Equatorial Africa, most recently in Marginal Gains.