“A provocative and problematizing look at the history and present state of anthropology in the United States, a century after the ‘sacred bundle’ was first questioned by its patron saint and uniquely preeminent practitioner, Franz Boas. Revolutionary in editorial intent, diversely dialogical in the essays themselves, this volume should be read and pondered by all those interested in the future of anthropology and its role in general intellectual discourse.” — George W. Stocking Jr., Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus, University of Chicago
“Anthropology is perhaps the last of the great nineteenth-century conglomerate disciplines still for the most part organizationally intact. Long after natural history, moral philosophy, philology, and political economy have dissolved into their specialized successors, it has remained a diffuse assemblage of ethnology, human biology, comparative linguistics, and prehistory, held together mainly by the vested interests, sunk costs, and administrative habits of academia, and by a romantic image of comprehensive scholarship. In this intense, precise, and sharply written book, six leading anthropologists from a variety of subfields question both the logic and the effectiveness of such sentimental ‘holism’ and produce a powerful critique of their profession's mythology.” — Clifford Geertz, Institute for Advanced Study
Abraham on Trial
Abraham on Trial questions the foundations of faith that have made a virtue out of the willingness to sacrifice a child. Through his desire to obey God at all costs, even if it meant sacrificing his son, Abraham became the definitive model of faith for the major world religions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. In this bold look at the legacy of this biblical and qur'anic story, Carol Delaney explores how the sacrifice rather than the protection of children became the focus of faith, to the point where the abuse and betrayal of children has today become widespread and sometimes institutionalized. Her strikingly original analysis also offers a new perspective on what unites and divides the peoples of the sibling religions derived from Abraham and, implicitly, a way to overcome the increasing violence among them.
Delaney critically examines evidence from Jewish, Christian, and Muslim interpretations, from archaeology and Freudian theory, as well as a recent trial in which a father sacrificed his child in obedience to God's voice, and shows how the meaning of Abraham's story is bound up with a specific notion of fatherhood. The preeminence of the father (which is part of the meaning of the name Abraham) comes from the still operative theory of procreation in which men transmit life by means of their "seed," an image that encapsulates the generative, creative power that symbolically allies men with God. The communities of faith argue interminably about who is the true seed of Abraham, who can claim the patrimony, but until now, no one has asked what is this seed.
The Seed and the Soil: Gender and Cosmology in Turkish Village Society
How do the metaphors we use to describe procreation affect our view of the relative worth of each gender? Carol Delaney discloses the powerful meanings condensed in the seemingly innocent images of "seed" and "soil." Drawing on her work in a small Turkish village of Sunni Muslims, she shows us that the images are categorically different, hierarchically ordered, and unequally valued.
The ways in which the creation of a child is understood in Turkey furnish a key to understanding a whole range of Turkish attitudes toward sexuality and gender, honor and shame, authority and submission, time and space, inside and outside, open and closed. Moreover, the symbols and meanings by which they represent procreation provide the means for understanding relationships between such seemingly disparate elements as the body, family, house, village, nation, this-world and other-world. Delaney points out that these symbols do not embellish reality; they provide the key to a particular conception of it, a conception that gives coherence to social life. The patterns revealed are not distinctly Turkish; they also comment on some of our own deeply-held assumptions and values about procreation.