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Do religions mix?

"Syncretic" religion, "creole" culture and the politics of authenticity

Ryan Schram

Mills 169 (A26)


13 April 2016

Available at http://anthro.rschram.org/2667/6


Romberg, Raquel. 1998. “Whose Spirits Are They?: The Political Economy of Syncretism and Authenticity.” Journal of Folklore Research 35 (1): 69–82.

Palmié, Stephan. 2013a. “Mixed Blessings and Sorrowful Mysteries: Second Thoughts about 'Hybridity'” Current Anthropology 54 (4): 463–82. doi:10.1086/671196.

———. 2013b. The Cooking of History: How Not to Study Afro-Cuban Religion. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Stewart, Charles. 1999. “Syncretism and Its Synonyms: Reflections on Cultural Mixture.” Diacritics 29 (3): 40–62. doi:10.1353/dia.1999.0023.

Stewart, Charles, and Rosalind Shaw, eds. 1994. Syncretism/Anti-Syncretism: The Politics of Religious Synthesis. London: Routledge.

Other media

Movsesian, Mark. 2015. “Yoga at the University: Those Canadian Students Have a Point.” First Things. November 30. http://www.firstthings.com/blogs/firstthoughts/2015/11/yoga-at-the-university.

Meakins, Felicity. 2015. “Some Australian Indigenous Languages You Should Know.” The Conversation. May 8. http://theconversation.com/some-australian-indigenous-languages-you-should-know-40155.

"Practical" and "ethical" religions?

  • Practical: healing, protection, solving problems
  • Ethical: Being good, achieving salvation, seeking truth
  • From James's perspective, do these ideal types apply to Horizon and Vodou?

Theories of culture and culture contact

  • Diffusionism and historical particularism
    • Diffusionism: Cultural traits or patterns are invented and established in one culture, and then spread to other cultures, leading the recipients to change.
    • Franz Boas (1940, 281): “Each cultural group has its own unique history, dependent partly upon the peculiar inner development of the social group, and partly upon the foreign influences to which it has been subjected.” (Boas 1940 [1929], 286)
  • Creolization
    • Creole languages, e.g. Haitian kreol, Jamaican patois, etc.
    • Ulf Hannerz: creole languages : “creole” cultures
    • The creolization of culture creates a new culture. Is it a “modern” culture? Why or why not?

Syncretic religions

  • What are some examples of religions based on syncretism?
  • Is the Twelve Tribes a syncretic religion?
  • Is the Horizon Christian Fellowship?
  • Is Christianity itself syncretic?
  • What if there are syncretic religions but we do not label them that way? Why wouldn't we?

The term 'syncretism'

  • Alliance
  • Political union
  • Mutual recognition of sacraments
  • Borrowing, corruption, acculturation, transition…

The politics of syncretism and antisyncretism


Boas, Franz. 1940 [1920]. “The Methods of Ethnology.” In Race, Language and Culture, pp. 281-289. New York: The Macmillan Company.

Stewart, Charles, and Rosalind Shaw, eds. 1994. Syncretism/Anti-Syncretism: The Politics of Religious Synthesis. Routledge.

A guide to the unit

2667/6.txt · Last modified: 2021/06/29 02:27 (external edit)