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ETHNOGRAPHY, ANTHROPOLOGY, AND COMPARATIVE RELIGIOUS ETHICS: Or Ethnography and the Comparative Religious Ethics Local

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Recent ethnographic studies of lived ethics, such as those of Leela Prasad and Saba Mahmood, present valuable opportunities for comparative religious ethics. This essay argues that developments in philosophical and religious ethics over the last three decades have supported a strong interest in thick descriptions of what it means to be human. This anthropological turn has thereby laid important groundwork for the encounter between these scholars and new ethnographic studies. Nonetheless, an encounter it is. Each side brings novel questions to the other. The second part of the essay focuses on one of these questions: How, exactly, are these ethnographic studies to inform normative reflection on ethical questions?

Keywords: Mahmood; Prasad; Schofer; comparison; ethnography; normativity; philosophical anthropology

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Department of Religious Studies at Brown University

Publication date: September 1, 2010


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