Robbins, “Crypto-Religion and the Study of Cultural Mixtures”

Robbins, Joel. 2011. Crypto-Religion and the Study of Cultural Mixtures: Anthropology, Value, and the Nature of Syncretism. Journal of the American Academy of Religion 79(2):408-424.

Abstract: Although anthropologists rarely use the term crypto-religion, one can argue that they tend to analyze the cultures of most non-western converts to Christianity in crypto-religious terms. This tendency, which follows from the theoretical investment anthropologists have in cultural continuity, inflects anthropological approaches to conversion and syncretism in disciplinarily specific ways. This paper works to develop a model of syncretism that is not haunted by crypto-religious analysis and to demonstrate its value in considering cases in which people have converted to charismatic and Pentecostal forms of Christianity. The argument is illustrated with field materials from research in Papua New Guinea and concludes by considering what this rethinking of anthropological notions of syncretism might mean for placing the concept of crypto-religion in the theorization of processes of religious transformation more generally.

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