Ritual and Belief
Readings in the Anthropology of Religion
Edited by David Hicks
Publication date:16 June 2010
Length of book:496 pages
Ritual and Belief: Readings in the Anthropology of Religion is a collection of 41 readings in religion, magic, and witchcraft. The choice of readings is eclectic: no single anthropological approach or theoretical perspective dominates the text. Theoretical significance, scholarly eminence of the author, and inherent interest provide the principal criteria, and each reading complements its companion chapters, which are pedagogically coherent rather than ad hoc assemblages. Included among the theoretical perspectives are structural-functionalism, structuralism, Malinowskian functionalism, cultural materialism, and cultural evolutionism; also included are the synchronic and diachronic approaches. The book offers a mixture of classic readings and more recent contributions, and the "world religions" are included along with examples from the religions of traditionally non-literate cultures. As diverse a range of religious traditions as possible has been embraced, from various ethnic groups, traditions, and places.
David Hicks has a magician's touch in blending essential readings in the history of an anthropological approach to religion with an array of cross-cultural case studies that draw on the earlier theorists and display the diversity of not only religious beliefs and rituals but of ethnographic interpretation itself. Distilling the large corpus of anthropological literature on religion, past and present, is no easy task. All anthologies suffer from a relevance half-life, but Professor Hicks is to be commended for building on the pillars of past scholarship with the best recent research in the field and from the field. I plan to use the third edition and look forward to the innovations to be expected in a fourth, and why not a fifth.