Anthropology of Religion: The Basics: 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Anthropology of Religion: The Basics

1st Edition

By James S Bielo


176 pages

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pub: 2015-03-23
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Anthropology of Religion: The Basics is an accessible and engaging introductory text organized around key issues that all anthropologists of religion face. This book uses a wide range of historical and ethnographic examples to address not only what is studied by anthropologists of religion, but how such studies are approached. It addresses questions such as:

  • How do human agents interact with gods and spirits?
  • What is the nature of doing religious ethnography?
  • Can the immaterial be embodied in the body, language and material objects?
  • What is the role of ritual, time, and place in religion?
  • Why is charisma important for religious movements?
  • How do global processes interact with religions?

With international case studies from a range of religious traditions, suggestions for further reading, and inventive reflection boxes, Anthropology of Religion: The Basics is an essential read for students approaching the subject for the first time.


"Anthropologist Bielo uses a wide range of ethnographic examples to highlight human interactions with spirits, the embodiment of spirits in language and material objects, and the multiple roles of ritual, time, and place in religious expressions. He astutely focuses on interactions between major world religions (Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism) and local religious traditions…Chapters follow a logical progression, giving readers a sense of the anthropology of religion as a discipline. 'Reflection Boxes' invite readers to think critically and analytically about particular anthropological issues by applying conceptual models to specific case studies. The book is well indexed and ends with useful suggestions for further reading. A highly accessible and authoritative text organized around key issues anthropologists encounter in the study of religion. Summing Up: Highly recommended." - S. D. Glazier, University of Nebraska, Lincoln, CHOICE Review

"What makes the text particularly helpful and interesting is Bielo's theoretical contribution…It also conveys something often lacking in academic books - a palatable passion for the subject." - Religion (review by Abby Day and Simon Coleman)

"this is a short but powerful book, and one that I would recommend to anyone who is searching for an engaging introduction to the anthropology of religion" - Kate Yanina DeConinck, University of San Diego

Table of Contents

Chapter 1: What is "Religion"?

Chapter 2: Doing Religious Ethnography

Chapter 3: Bodies, Words, and Things

Chapter 4: In Time, In Place

Chapter 5: Who Do You Trust?

Chapter 6: Going Global

About the Author

James S. Bielo is Assistant Professor in the Department of Anthropology at Miami University, Ohio, USA.

About the Series

The Basics

The Basics is a highly successful series of accessible guidebooks which provide an overview of the fundamental principles of a subject area in a jargon-free and undaunting format.

Intended for students approaching a subject for the first time, the books both introduce the essentials of a subject and provide an ideal springboard for further study. With over 50 titles spanning subjects from Artificial Intelligence to Women’s Studies, The Basics are an ideal starting point for students seeking to understand a subject area.

Each text comes with recommendations for further study and gradually introduces the complexities and nuances within a subject.

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Anthropology / General