Anthropology has two tasks: the scientiﬁc task of studying human beings and the instrumental task of promoting human ﬂourishing. To date, the scientiﬁc task has been constrained by secularism, and the instrumental task by the philosophy and values of liberalism. These constraints have caused religiously based scholarship to be excluded from anthropology’s discourse, to the detriment of both tasks. The call for papers for the 2009 meetings of the American Anthropological Association (AAA) recognized the need to “push the ﬁeld’s epistemological and presentational conventions” in order to reach anthropology’s various publics. Religious thought has much to say about the human condition. It can expand the discourse in ways that provide explanatory value as well as moral purpose and hope.We propose an epistemology of witness for dialogue between anthropologists and theologians, and we demonstrate the value added with an example: the problem of violence.
Previously published in Current Anthropology, 2014, 55(1). 82-104. Posted with permission. http://www.journals.uchicago.edu/doi/abs/10.1086/674716