Balancing Acts: An Ethnographer’s Thoughts on Studying Religion

Anthropologists sometimes study sensitive topics and it is therefore not uncommon for ethnographic work to attract serious criticism along such lines. In a recent social media thread, I encountered one such critic whose principal argument was, that both I the ethnographer and the academic study of religion in general had no business writing about religious traditions (Shaligrams, in my case), should not be participating in rituals or engaging with sacred objects. What should the ethnographer’s response to this be then? What is our role in all this?

Living Fossils

One of the most popular jokes among anthropologists is how often our work is mistaken for palaeontology. Almost every one of my colleagues and even a few of my students can relate an anecdote involving a situation where they were asked if they “dug up dinosaurs.” Imagine the difficulty I now face in my own work where the answer is effectively, “Yes, but not for the reasons you’re thinking.”

Ep. #14 Thesis writing, picturing cults, Muslims with caste, & fieldwork boredom: this month on TFS

Ian (1:25) starts us off by asking, just how well-written does a thesis need to be? "As anthropologists, basically what we do is write... whether it's writing your field notes, or whether it's writing up your articles or your dissertation... and most of us have never actually been trained in how to write." As Julia says, "there … Continue reading Ep. #14 Thesis writing, picturing cults, Muslims with caste, & fieldwork boredom: this month on TFS