Mary Douglas at AAR '95 !

John Nemec 6500jwn at
Fri Nov 10 07:19:40 UTC 1995

Forwarded on behalf of Professor Barbara Holdrege; please repost to 
appropriate lists. . . .

Dear Colleague:

The American Academy of Religion recently established a
Consultation in Comparative Studies in "Hinduisms" and
"Judaisms," which will convene its first session at the
Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Religion in

The 1995 session will be held on Monday, November 20,
from 9:00am to 11:30am and will focus on the theme
"Purity, Hiercharchies, and Boundaries," with emphasis
on the ways in which conceptions of purity serve to
circumscribe the ethnic-cultural boundaries of Jewish and
South Asian traditions and to delineate the hierarchical
models operating within each community.  As indicated on
the enclosed schedule, the session will feature the
eminent anthropologist Mary Douglas as the keynote
speaker and will include papers and responses by
specialists in Judaica and South Asia, respectively.

We hope that you will be able to join us for the session. 
Please also invite any colleagues who you think might be
interested in the Consultation.  

We look forward to your participation in the Consultation
in the coming years.


Barbara A. Holdrege
Consultation in Comparative Studies in "Hinduisms" and

American Academy of Religion Consultation

The American Academy of Religion Consultation in
Comparative Studies in "Hinduisms" and "Judaisms" has
been established to bring together scholars of South Asia
and Judaica to engage in a series of sustained
reflections on topics within "Hinduisms" and "Judaisms,"
with the intention of developing alternative categories
and conceptual frameworks to the Christian-based
paradigms that have tended to dominate the academic study
of religion.

The politics of comparison has played a major role in the
academic study of religion, and comparative studies in
particular are replete with evaluative scales that
hierarchize traditions or specific aspects of traditions. 
Up until recently the comparative study of religion, and
the academic study of religion generally, has been
dominated by evaluative scales based on paradigms of
religious tradition that arose out of a specific and
discernible Christian context.  These paradigms have
emphasized a series of hierarchical dichotomies between
such categories as sacred and profane, belief and
practice, doctrine and law, individual and community,
universalism and particularism, and tradition and
modernity.  While perhaps appropriate for the study of
some religious traditions, such taxonomies become a
strait jacket when applied to others.  The Consultation
focuses on traditions--Hinduisms and Judaisms--that
construct other categories that bring to light different
sets of relationships, such as those between religion and
culture, ethnic identity and religious adherence,
observance and nonobservance, and purity and impurity. 
Such relationships are obscured by the application of the
prevailing models.  

While Christian paradigms give precedence to such
categories as belief, doctrine, and theology and
delineate notions of tradition-identity that are rooted
in the missionary character of Christian traditions,
Hinduisms and Judaisms provide alternative paradigms of
religious tradition, in which priority is given to issues
of practice, observance, and law, and notions of
tradition-identity are delineated primarily in terms of
ethnic and cultural categories that reflect the
predominantly nonmissionary character of these
traditions.  It could be argued that brahmanical
"Hinduism" and rabbinic "Judaism" in particular
constitute two species of the same genus of religious
tradition:  as elite textual communities that have
codified the norms of orthodoxy in the form of scriptural
canons; as ethnocultural systems concerned with issues
of family, ethnic and cultural integrity, blood lineages,
and the intergenerational transmission of traditions; and
as religions of orthopraxy characterized by hereditary
priesthoods and sacrificial traditions, comprehensive
legal systems, elaborate regulations concerning purity
and impurity, and dietary laws.  The purpose of the
Consultation is to challenge scholars of religion to
reconsider the Christian-based models that have tended
to dominate the study of religion and to reconfigure our
scholarly discourse to include alternative paradigms of
religious tradition arising out of case studies of
Hinduisms and Judaisms.

American Academy of Religion Consultation

Purity, Hierarchies, and Boundaries

Session A174 
Monday, November 20, 1995, 9:00am-11:30am--C-103B


Barbara A. Holdrege, University of California, Santa

Nathan Katz, Florida International University


Mary Douglas, Avalon Foundation Professor in the
Humanities Emerita, England
"Fig Leaves and Other Coverings in the Bible"

Robert Goldenberg, State University of New York at Stony
"Purity and Boundaries in Ancient Judaism"

Bonna Devora Haberman, Brandeis University
"Ritual Impurity in Mishnaic Tractate Kelim:  A Feminist
Textual Analysis"

*Gloria Raheja, University of Minnesota
"Problematizing `Purity':  Contending Hierarchies in
North India"

Christopher Chapple, Loyola Marymount University
"Purity, Vows, and Boundaries in Jaina Traditions"


Richard H. Davis, Yale University

Paul Morris, Victoria University of Wellington, New

*  Gloria Raheja may not be able to join us for the
session due to scheduling problems.



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