Luhrmann, “Talking back about…”

Luhrmann, Tanya Marie. 2013. Talking back about When God Talks Back. Hau: Journal of Ethnographic Theory 3(3): 389-98.

Excerpt: These responses are terrific and fascinating—not least because two of them contradict each other directly, and on a matter of considerable importance. Pascal Boyer argues that my observations about American charismatic Evangelicals are generalizable: that everywhere in the world, the intuition that gods or spirits are present takes work. In this sense, they are conjectures. Anthropologists, he writes, tend not to recognize this because their subjects present belief statements as assertions and then the anthropologists describe them in turn as indirect reported speech: “among the Fang, only the ancestors can make one sick.” After reading all those ethnographies it is startling to encounter the claim that the existence of these invisible agents is not matter of fact. But Boyer points out that there is no other good way to make sense of all the work people do in ritual.

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