Thursday, January 15, 2009

Sources on Contemporary Anthropology - 5

From Brian Howell, Associate Professor of Anthropology, Wheaton (IL) College, and Chair, Network of Christian Anthropologists (NCA):

For those who didn't read all of Ed's earlier post, I would recommend you do. It's very good! I won't rehash his critique, but I do have my own in a 2006 article in Christian Scholar's Review. I agree with Ed that the Worldview concept, though not completely moribund in mainstream anthropology, is extremely marginal. If you can find even one paper at the 2008 American Anthropology Association Meetings with “worldview” in the title, I'll buy you lunch.

Unfortunately, this has become a go-to concept in missiology and people often assume it is standard fare in anthropology generally. I think Paul Hiebert worked the concept as well as anyone, but in the hands of most, it has become a far more problematic concept than it's worth. It's interesting that Steve points to Mike Rynkeiwich's article as a defense of worldview [actually, it turned out Mike was merely commenting on something observed in Anthropology News], because I would recommend two of Rynkeiwich's articles in Missiology as good places to go for a Christian anthropologist who does NOT use worldview, but rather works with the concept of culture itself in some very helpful ways. The two with which I am familiar that I believe would be very helpful for missionaries seeking a more nuanced discussion of culture are:

1) “The world in my parish: rethinking the standard missiological model.”
Rynkiewich, Michael A. Missiology 2002-07-0130:3

2) “Person in mission: social theory and sociality in Melanesia”
Rynkiewich, Michael A. Missiology 2003-04-0131:2, 155

Both of these articles are specifically concerned with the missionary application of social theory and present the issues in accessible and well-reasoned ways.

Not as well reasoned, but perhaps helpful is my own article (Brian M. Howell, “Globalization, Ethnicity and Cultural Authenticity: Implications for Theological Education,” Christian Scholars Review Vol. 36 (3), Spring 2006, 3-31), which contains a critique of the world view concept, particularly as it concerns phenomena of globalization.

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