Tuesday, December 4, 2012
"Ordered Universes: Approaches to the Anthropology of Religion"
Morton Klass, Ordered Universes: Approaches to the Anthropology of Religion (Boulder: Westview Press, 1995)
Klass' book will be primarily of interests to anthropologists, but it's written clearly enough to be accessible to those outside of that discipline. Much of the book is taken up with terminological issues: how should we approach, or define, concepts like "religion", "supernatural", "myth", and "magic"? Much of the intra-disciplinary wrangling on these issues has little to do with law and religion generally, but Klass' emphasis on the constant need for neutrality and the avoidance of ethnocentrism is extremely valuable. Legal issues such as what constitutes a religion for tax exemption, what constitutes a religious practice for constitutional protection, and whether "witchcraft" or fortune-telling can be prosecuted as fraud all involve definitional issues in which legal scholars need to be extremely careful not to bring their cultural baggage with them.