Friday, July 11, 2008

A Christian's Anthropology?

Yesterday I said that I expected there would be as many Christian anthropologies as there are Christian anthropologists. I firmly believe this, even though I expect there will be many overlaps among those anthropologies.

Lately, as a "Christian anthropologist," by which I mean an anthropologist who happens to be a Christian, and also vice-versa, I've found it useful to think of Christianity in my professional identity less as a set of moralities to be taught (while being violated almost daily by yours truly), than as an additional set of languages that I speak (in dialect, no less). Or as one of the palettes from which I paint. Or perhaps an additional set of fonts and symbols from which I can draw in addition to the sets I share with other anthropologists (and with educated people in general).

The former approach tends to intimidate, while often making us seem hypocritical (for we often fail to practice what we preach). But the latter seems to fascinate, and the resulting engagements encourage me to continue exploring my own cultural resources"cultural" in the fullest set of the term. Yet, while drawing on these shared resources, the products of my work remain uniquely mine. In their uniqueness, they are not really determined by those resources, but are rather enabled by them. In other words, like any other cultural resource, they give me additional ways to speak in a voice that nevertheless remains my own.

Does this approach resonate with others?

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