Anthropological Studies of Religion:
An Introductory Text

Brian Morris

Cambridge University Press 1987
A book review by Danny Yee © 1993
The "Anthropological" in the title of Anthropological Studies of Religion is taken in the broadest sense of the term. Morris's book covers psychological and sociological approaches as well as the more narrowly anthropological. The theorists covered include Hegel, Marx, Weber, Mueller, Spencer, Tylor, Frazer, Durkheim, Radcliffe-Browne, Mauss, Malinowski, Freud, Jung, Eliade, Levy-Bruhl, Evans-Pritchard, Douglas, Leach, Turner, Levi-Strauss, Geertz and Godelier. Between them they cover the whole range of different ways of looking at religion, including functionalist, structuralist, symbolist, intellectualist, dialectical and psychological viewpoints.

No doubt that all sounds rather dense and perhaps a little off-putting, but this is an introductory text. Morris steers clear of jargon as much as possible and explains those technical philosophical ideas he does use. Before discussing Marx's ideas on religion, for example, he gives a brief description of his more general philosophy. As a result the novice reader is likely to learn almost as much about the general development of anthropology and sociology as he is about their particular application to the study of religion.

This is, in any event, a very impressive book. The sometimes conceptually difficult subject material is clearly presented and the overall framework (roughly historical, but with theories often presented together with later criticism) works well. The author takes the standpoint of "critical sympathy" and his evaluation of the disagreements over different issues seems even-handed enough. I recommend Anthropological Studies of Religion to anyone interested either in the nature of religion itself or in the history of its study.

May 1993

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%T Anthropological Studies of Religion
%S An Introductory Text
%A Morris, Brian
%I Cambridge University Press
%D 1987
%O paperback
%G ISBN 052133991X
%P ix,369pp