I was expecting to find a substantial and recent anthropological literature on prayer but it seems that many researchers are "blind" to the culture of western world. Why so little interest in a subject long debated in psychology?
You can read my perspective in my article "Rethinking Prayer and Health Research":
How many universities provide a course about transpersonal anthropology, for example?
You might want to read this article also:
"Transpersonal Anthropology: What is it, and What are the Problems we Face Doing it?" - Charles D. Laughlin
Have you, instead of searching for "prayer," tried searching for such key words as "body," "meaning," or "healing"? I ask with an unread, but interesting looking, book beside me: Thomas Csordas (2002) Body, Meaning, Healing.
His work is mentioned in the article...
Sorry. I didn't get around to reading the paper. A wee hint about online communication—you cannot assume that others are interested in what interests you or that we will leap to read something because you mention it. Life is too short. If you look for response you must either seduce or annoy. You need what people in the communications trades call, depending on context, a strong lead sentence or a great elevator speech.
There is a thin line between a topic suitable for a general Forum discussion and a more personal item which should appear in a Group or as a Blog post. See the guidelines. Posting a reference to ones own work seems to be more like the latter, but with traffic rather slow recently, I have not policed the boundary as severely as I would if posting this kind of thing meant that an item like the online seminar were pushed off the main page.
On the other hand, prayer and health are or should be topics of general interest to anthropologists. Marcel Mauss chose prayer as his doctoral subject because it is "the unity of thought and action". How can a puny self make a meaningful connection with a vast, impersonal world? By scaling the self up and scaling the world up. Once people did this by praying to God and many still do. As anthropologists have increasingly come back home to the western world, it seems that some topics thought of as being "archaic" have moved out of view.
I think a group would be a great idea. I read the articles with interest - I'm currently conducting my MA fieldwork on health & spirituality and recovery experiences. I'm very keen to learn more about transpersonal anthropology - to think there's a name for what I'm interested it is fab!
Ingvild, I am delighted that you responded so positively to Adrian's post. There is indeed scope for discussion of such matters here. I would suggest that you say some more here about your interests or maybe respond to the work Adrian posted. If it appears that a small network of people with shared interests emerges through such discussion, one of you might launch a group. I would only warn that we have many groups formed in this way, most of them no longer active. Those which persist are run by individuals who take care to keep them alive. Good luck.
Thanks for feedback and guidance, Keith! I'll try to post a comment expanding on my interest - and my work - and see what happens. I'll just do some reading first...
Hi Adrian, in my view there's a difference between courses taught in universities and articles published. I also think it necessarily has to be that way - because articles are published on such a wide variety of topics. That's not to say that it would be great with a greater variety in courses taught, but this quickly becomes an issue of funding.
I think there is an interest in prayer and related topics, perhaps the issue is more of how this research is categorized - and in what publications we can find it - than a lack of interest. I read your article with great interest, and really appreciate the wealth of references you included. This will be a valuable recourse for me! I have read more about phenomenological anthropology than transpersonal, so I find this an illuminating experience.
My own work is somewhat on the side of your own interest - I'm researching notions of health and spirituality and attempting to see how these relate to self-reported recovery or healing from illness and poorer states of health. I'm looking at the relationship between health and spirituality, spiritual dimensions to the recovery process, and different aspects of liminality to mention some of my topics of interest. As I wrote in an earlier post, I'm currently in the field. It's really interesting to have this anthropological debates now that I'm away from academia - being surrounded by my interlocutors rather than professors. I'm trying to capture something of the individual experiences of recovery and of spirituality (it's too early to hint at any findings). Worldview as you point out in your article, is clearly an important part of this.
I'd be delighted if you, or anyone else, would like to continue this discussion - perhaps both in relation to where research is heading in this area and to theorists and lines of thought. I'm a fan of Jung and find his work a huge inspiration, at least for thinking with and processing of information. I read the article by Charles D. Laughlin that you posted, and I found that interesting too, but your article more so perhaps due to the fact that you have used so many - and newer - references. I've got much reading to do.