On How Religion Creates New Life-stories
The book will be essential assigned reading in university courses in development studies, anthropology, and missiology.
Chapter 3. The Setting
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In this chapter I shall first discuss in a general way the concept of religion. Although I have used it many times, here I shall give an anthropological sense of religion in Madagascar. Secondly, I will present the two dominant religions in Madagascar, the ancestral Malagasy religion and Christianity. A particular focus will be put on the Malagasy Lutheran Church and how this church is engaged in development work. I will also give a presentation of Fifohazana, a local Christian initiative within this church.
Religion and religious rituals occupy a central place when anthropologists study groups and societies. However, it has been a challenge for anthropologists to translate religious phenomena in a non-ethnocentric and comparatively useful way. This is because religious concepts have a particular meaning in the anthropologist’s own society and professional terminology, and do not correspond to concepts used by those who are being studied. Etic,13 comparative concepts are therefore never completely unproblematic (Eriksen 2010, 207).
The problem of translation is relevant when trying to define the phenomenon of religion, and the concept has long been under debate in ← 29 | 30 → the social sciences. Religion belongs to that group of concepts which are unproblematic to understand until one tries to define them, the sociologist Zygmunt Bauman is reported to have said (Bauman 1998). In a historical perspective, this saying is very telling. Religion has been defined in various ways and in attempts to cover...
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