The Study of Religion in Anthropology

Science, Non-Science, and Nonsense


  • H. Sidky Miami University



anthropology of religion, science, shamanism, supernaturalism


The present article examines the pervasiveness of non-scientific/anti-scientific hermeneutical perspectives in the study of religion in anthropology, tracing their foundations to the works of Mircea Eliade and Clifford Geertz. Pseudo- and anti-scientific approaches have also been bolstered by a long-standing paranormalism in anthropology championed by Margaret Mead and others. Hermeneutical/interpretive approaches, which emphasize the insider’s perspective and treat religion as an independent variable, have not only hampered scientific studies of religious phenomena, but they have also enabled the development of approaches advocating paranormal beliefs and religious supernaturalism as scholarship. The article concludes by highlighting the problematic nature of these non-scientific and pro-paranormal and religious perspectives as scholarly enterprises.

Author Biography

H. Sidky, Miami University

H. Sidky is Professor of Anthropology at Miami University in Ohio, USA. He is a cultural anthropologist, with strong interests in the history and theory of anthropology, and the anthropology of religion. He has worked in the Middle East, South Asia, Australia, and Easter Island, and is now researching Shamanism in Nepal. Dr. Sidky received his PhD. from The Ohio State University. He is the author of Religion, Supernaturalism, the Paranormal, and Pseudoscience: An Anthropological Critique (2020), Religion: An Anthropological Perspective (2015), Haunted by the Archaic Shaman: Himalayan Jhakris and the Discourse on Shamanism (2008).


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How to Cite

Sidky, H. . (2022). The Study of Religion in Anthropology: Science, Non-Science, and Nonsense. Journal of Cognitive Historiography, 6(1-2), 217–228.



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