Introduction to the special issue
Beyond Self-Fashioning and Freedom—Bending, Breaking, and Adhering to Rules in Religious Contexts
Rules are a crucial part of much religious thought and practice. Their importance or insignificance, their strictness or laxness, and their rigidity or flexibility in the face of change are constant themes of debate, both within and outside religious communities. Yet they have arguably not been given the attention they deserve within recent anthropology. Since the rise of practice theory, rules have more often been considered something to look past in the search for agency. Where the new anthropology of ethics has addressed religious orthopraxy, it has largely been through the lens of the cultivation of virtuous self, or the ways in which moral rules may become especially salient in extraordinary circumstances, such as moments of radical cultural transformation. But religious rules are not just a function of ethical crisis or virtuoso projects of the self. They are also a taken-for-granted part of everyday life for millions of people worldwide. In this introduction and the case studies that follow, we thus aim to move beyond current perspectives, reflecting on both the nature of religious rules themselves and the ways in which they are negotiated in believers’ everyday lives.
Keywords: Rules; anthropology; religion; ethics
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Copyright (c) 2022 Henni Alava, Morgan Clarke, Alessandro Gusman
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