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The Formation and Function of the Category "Religion" in Anthropological Studies of Taiwan

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image of Method & Theory in the Study of Religion

This paper has two sections. The first constitutes a reflection on anthropological analyses of religion in Taiwan. We try to demonstrate that a shift has occurred in the conduct of these analyses that reflect engagements with the notion of "orientalism" and debates about the concept of "culture". We argue that the formation of the category "religion" in anthropology served a specific function: to signify the pre-modern. We outline the breakdown of this idea of religion in light of orientalism and the critique of culture as a bounded unit of analysis. We then argue that the strength of contemporary approaches to religion in Taiwan lie in their acknowledgement that studying religion provides new ways to examine processes of place-making and representational practices. The second part of the paper is an interview with Stephan Feuchtwang who has been writing on religion in China and Taiwan for over thirty years.


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