Religions in Transition

Mobility, Merging & Globalization in the Emergence
of Contemporary Religious Adhesions
Uppsala Studies in Cultural Anthropology, No 37

Edited By Jan-Ake Alvarsson & Rita Laura Segato
December 2003
Uppsala University Press
ISBN: 91-554-5852-1
277 pages, 6 " x 8 "
$55.00 Paper Original

With the possible exception of the forced conversions of the Reformation, the world has never seen more massive transitions in religion than around the turn of this century. During the last three decades of the 20th century, more people converted from one religion to another than at any previous time in history. The rapid growth of Pentacostalism was perhaps the most notable change.

Simultaneously, we saw great changes in many established religions. Some became more overtly literalist or fundamentalist, others showed signs of massive secularization. Political conflicts were often clad in religious overtones. Religion and religious change were suddenly on the world agenda. Within the social sciences, we did not see a corresponding adjustment as regards new foci in ongoing research. Religious change - not to mention agents of this transformation, for example the religious missions - were not given much scholarly attention at all.

Theologians had developed methods for studying conventional church history, but complained that they did not have the adequate tools for studying the new forms of spirituality. Anthropologists were notably late in discovering this growing cultural transformation, articulated in a religious discourse. In the present situation of secularization, religious pluralism, polyform spirituality, and continuous religious transition in Western society, it is time to open up for a more neutral 'culture crititque' also of mission and missionaries, as well as of their "brothers under the skin," anthropology and anthropologists.

The international network 'Missionary Work in an Anthropological Perspective,"(1993-2003), of which the contributions of this book are an outcome, was an attempt to encourage a tradition of scholarly work on religious change, missions and missionaries, taking into account the actors' own views and discourses - and using them in the process of elaborating the data. The project brought together anthropologists, ethnologists and theologians in a cross-disciplinary network that fostered a multi-faceted approach that was new to many of us.

It included joint field visits in Latin America as well as separate case studies of religions in transition. It is the hope of the editors that in publishing this collection of essays, brought together and discussed within the project, the endeavor to open up new ground for research in this liminal area will be followed by others.


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