Archive for religion

Episode 22 Converting Belief at a Creationist Theme Park with Dr. James Bielo

Dr. James Bielo (Photo courtesy of Dr. Bielo)

The Ark Encounter creationist theme park in Kentucky was developed with one purpose in mind, to convince visitors of the truth of Creationism, the evangelical Christian history of the origins of life on earth. To do that, anthropologist Dr. James Bielo explains, Ark Encounter deploys strategies to entertain and evoke emotional reactions in order to legitimate and give authority to its message. Dr. Bielo researched the backstage creative labor of the design team who led the conceptualization and choreographing of the theme park, which is designed not simply to entertain but to transform the minds of attendees.

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Episode 20 American Mosques with Dr. Jacqueline Fewkes

Dr. Jacqueline Fewkes (photo courtesy of Dr. Fewkes)

As an anthropologist of religion, it’s hard for Dr. Jacqueline Fewkes to pin down her research focus to just one element of life. Rather, her expertise in anthropology allows her to see how religion is lived and practiced, how material goods transform us as much as we transform them, and how spaces reflect our lives while helping to craft them.

Tying these elements together, Dr. Fewkes latest project is a focus on the sometimes surprising, always interesting history and architecture of mosques in America.

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Episode 9 The River is a Goddess: Environmental Anthropology with Dr. Georgina Drew

Dr. Georgina Drew (Photo courtesy of Dr. Drew)

The Ganga River in India is a goddess, who has a long history of protecting and caring for her followers. But as a source of water, how do followers balance their respect for the goddess amid the various ways they are supported by her? The practical needs of the surrounding population, like fresh water, electricity, and industrial development, meet the spiritual needs of absolution through water burial, redemption through bathing in her free flowing waters, and the broader desire to protect the goddess who provides for so many.

Hydroelectric dam redirects flow out of the riverbed in the Garhwal Mountains (Photo courtesy of Dr. Drew)

Environmental Anthropologist Dr. Georgina Drew explains how a river is many things to its surrounding inhabitants—they have religious concerns, economic concerns, and ecological concerns—but different people prioritize them differently. There’s no one perspective on how to use the river. Dr. Drew discusses how our cultural ideas, practices, and beliefs about the earth are central to how we impact it. Taking a humanistic, anthropological approach means viewing the partnership between the environment and ourselves, and how each impacts the other.
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Episode 6 “Bharat Babies” Books & Business Anthropology with Sailaja Joshi

Bharat Babies C.E.O. Sailaja Ganti Joshi (photo courtesy of Sailaja Joshi)

Sailaja Joshi is the CEO and founder of Bharat Babies, an independent publishing house that “designs and produces developmentally appropriate books for young children that tell stories about India’s Heritage.” She was inspired to launch her business when she struggled to find books for her young daughter that would represent the unique hybrid nature of growing up American with Indian or Pakistani heritage.

Bharat Babies’ books cover Hinduism, Islam, and a myriad of South Asian subcultural identities, and readers have responded with gratitude. For CEO Sailaja Joshi, it has been affirming, not only of the need for multiple voices in literature, but of the need for more anthropology in the business world
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Episode 5 God, Politics, and Anthropology – with Rev. Dr. Miranda Hassett

Rev. Dr. Miranda Hassett (photo courtesy of Rev. Hassett)

Rev. Dr. Miranda Hassett received her Ph.D. in anthropology before becoming an ordained priest in the Episcopal Church. In her book, Anglican Communion in Crisis: How Episcopal Dissidents and Their African Allies are Reshaping Anglicanism, she explores how political polarization drove a global wedge in the Anglican church, driving some conservative white American Episcopalians to break from the broader American church, instead allying with conservative African congregations. Rev. Hassett continues using anthropological methods today to better understand her congregants at St. Dunstan’s Episcopal Church in Madison, Wisconsin, and discusses how anthropology can help people foster more meaning in their lives.
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