J. Brent Crosson is Assistant Professor of Religious Studies and Anthropology at the University of Texas-Austin. Crosson is a socio-cultural anthropologist of religion, secularism, and politics. His research has focused on contestations over the limits of legal power, science, race, and religion in the Americas. His first book–Experiments with Power: Obeah and the Remaking of Religion in Trinidad–is published with University of Chicago Press (2020). This monograph won the 2021 Clifford Geertz Prize from the Society for the Anthropology of Religion. His research on Caribbean spiritual practices of problem-solving and legal intervention–known as obeah, spiritual work, or science–has been published in a number of journals, including Method and Theory in the Study of Religion, Ethnos, The Journal of Africana Religions, and Anthropological Quarterly. His special issue in the journal Ethnos–“What Possessed You?”–explores the relationship between spirit possession, material possessions, and conceptions of self. His work on race relations has appeared in Anthropological Quarterly and the Duke University Press journal Small Axe, winning that journal’s Question of the Social Sciences award. The journals American Religion and Anthropology and Humanism have published his ethnographic poetry. His current research focuses on climate change, religion, and conceptions of energy, with chapters on these issues in the edited volumes Mediality on Trial (De Gruyter Press), Climate Politics and the Power of Religion (Indiana Univ. Press), and Critical Approaches to Science and Religion (forthcoming from Columbia Univ. Press).
…dialogues between these two disciplines have revolved around anthropology’s socially situated “is” and theology’s normative “ought,” asking how these disciplines can take what they are allegedly missing from each other. In this way, anthropology and theology recapitulate a much broader divide between religion (as a moral realm) and science (as a purely descriptive domain). This division is fairly recent, growing up since the late nineteenth century (Numbers 2010), but it is now part of our common-sense. I want to question this division in what follows.
We are shocked. Morally outraged. How could a US president tout “law and order” to incite a blatant attack on “American democracy” and “the rule of law,” encouraging his supporters to storm the US capitol? Commentators decry such hypocrisy, stating the obvious contradiction between US constitutional law and violent coups. My contention in this essay is that no such contradiction exists.