In The Value of Comparison Peter van der Veer makes a compelling case for using comparative approaches in the study of society and for the need to resist the simplified civilization narratives popular in public discourse and some social theory. He takes the quantitative social sciences and the broad social theories they rely on to task for their inability to question Western cultural presuppositions, demonstrating that anthropology's comparative approach provides a better means to understand societies. This capacity stems from anthropology's engagement with diversity, its fragmentary approach to studying social life, and its ability to translate difference between cultures. Through essays on topics as varied as iconoclasm, urban poverty, Muslim immigration, and social exclusion van der Veer highlights the ways that studying the particular and the unique allows for gaining a deeper knowledge of the whole without resorting to simple generalizations that elide and marginalize difference.
Material religion is a rapidly growing field, and this volume offers an accessible, critical entry into these new areas of research. Each "key term" uses case studies and is accompanied by a color image – an object, practice, space, or site. The entries cut across geographies, histories, and traditions, offering a versatile and engaging text for the classroom. Key topics covered include: - Icon, ritual, magic, gender, race - Sacred, spirit, technology, - Space, belief, body, brain - Taste, touch, smell, sound, vision Each entry demonstrates in clear and jargon-free prose how the key term figures prominently in understanding the materiality of religion. Written by leading international scholars, all entries are linked by the ways materiality stands at the forefront of the understanding of religion, whether that comes from humanistic, social scientific, artistic, curatorial, or other perspectives. Brent Plate brings his expertise and extensive teaching experience to the comprehensive introduction which introduces students to the themes and methods of the material cultural study of religion. Key Terms in Material Religion provides a much-needed resource for courses on theory and method in religious studies, the anthropology of religion, and the ever-increasing number of courses focused on material religion.
How can we engage in a market relationship when the quality of the goods we want to acquire is unknown, invisible, or uncertain? For market exchange to be possible, purchasers and suppliers of goods must be able to assess the quality of a product in relation to other products. Only by recognizing qualities and perceiving quality differences can purchasers make non-random choices, and price differences between goods be justified. "Quality" is not a natural given, but the outcome of a social process in which products become seen as possessing certain traits, and occupying a specific position in relation to other products in the product space. While we normally take the quality of goods for granted, quality at a closer look is the outcome of a highly complex process of construction involving producers, consumers, and market intermediaries engaged in judgment, evaluation, categorization, and measurement. The authors in this volume investigate the processes through which the quality of goods is established. They also investigate how product qualities are contested and how they change over time. The empirical cases discussed cover a broad range of markets in which quality is especially difficult to assess. The cases include: halal food, funeral markets, wine, labor, school choice, financial products, antiques, and counterfeit goods. The book contributes to the sociology of markets. At the same time it connects to the larger issue of the constitution of social order through cognitive processes of classification.
In his editorial introduction, Jack Goody explains that his aim has been to provide 'essays dealing with general themes rather than ethnographic conundrums or descriptive minutiae' in the hope of achieving 're-consideration of some central problem areas including those examined by an earlier generation of anthropologists and still raised by scholars outside the discipline itself'.