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date: 29 November 2022

Anthropology and Catholicismlocked

Anthropology and Catholicismlocked

  • Christine LeeChristine LeeUniversity of St Andrews

Summary

This is an advance summary of a forthcoming article in the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Anthropology. Please check back later for the full article.

Roman Catholicism has often been a subject of interest for anthropology, from Julian Pitt-Rivers’s early ethnography of an Andalusian Catholic community to Talal Asad’s historical anthropological work on medieval monastics. Furthermore, a number of prominent social anthropologists of the mid-20th century (for example, E. E. Evans-Pritchard, Mary Douglas, Victor Turner, and Godfrey Lienhardt) were themselves Catholics—a fact which infused not just their biography but also, often, their subsequent work. At the same time, anthropologists on the whole have rarely taken Roman Catholicism as the focus of study; instead, Roman Catholicism has often been the invisible backdrop against which the main ethnographic action takes place. In more recent years, however, an anthropology of Catholicism has burgeoned in the wake of the development of the anthropology of Christianity. The modern Catholic Church, with around 1.3 billion members worldwide, is the largest institution in history. Scholars have often examined the way the Church maintains itself as a unified institution even while containing vast spectrums of diversity in practice, theology, and lived experience. Resulting literature has often focused on this, examining institutional continuity over both time—such as the legacy of Catholic evangelization as a key part of colonial endeavors—and space—such as the question of syncretism and the nature of Catholicism’s relationship with Indigenous cultures around the world.

Subjects

  • Archaeology