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Revista de Estudios Sociales

Print version ISSN 0123-885X

Abstract

CAGUENAS ROZO, Diego. The Distances of Belief: Secularization, Idolatry, and the Thought of the Other. rev.estud.soc. [online]. 2009, n.34, pp.123-134. ISSN 0123-885X.

Is it necessary to believe what the other believes to understand him? This paper explores different perspectives through which anthropology has addressed this question. The main argument is that because it is a discipline that arose alongside modernity and the secularization of the world, anthropology has tended to ignore what is specifcally "religious" in believing so as to reduce it to a social and symbolic phenomenon. The importance of the problem of belief is reconsidered in respect to anthropology's approach to the other once the researcher has dismissed the possibility of sharing the other's beliefs. Turning to the ideas of distance and the defection of the sacred, I question the consequences that secularization brings to the exercise of ethnography and to the study of the problem of belief. Finally, I show that the return of the sacred responds to the logic of idolatry, which seeks to reinstate the authority of the orthodoxies that have been weakened with secularization. I conclude with a brief sketch of the kind of political action that could thwart the violent advance of idolatry in the political sphere.

Keywords : Secularization; Belief; Distance; Idolatry.

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