Is there a Place for Faith in Anthropology? Religion, Reason and the Ethnographer’s Divine Revelation

Rane Willerslev, Christian Suhr

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Anthropological insights are not produced or constructed through reasoned discourse alone. Often they appear to be given in “leaps of faith” as the anthropologist’s conceptual grasp upon the world is lost. To understand these peculiar moments, we adopt the Kierkegaardian concept of religious faith, not as certitude in some transcendental principle, but as a deeply paradoxical mode of knowing, whose paths bend and twist through glimpses of understanding, doubt, and existential resignation. Pointing to the ways in which such revelatory and disruptive experiences have influenced the work of many anthropologists, we argue that anthropology is not simply a social science, but also a theology of sorts, whose ultimate foundation might not simply be reason but faith.
Original languageEnglish
JournalH A U
Issue number1-2
Pages (from-to)65-78
Number of pages14
Publication statusPublished - 2018


  • Anthropological knowledge
  • Faith
  • Doubt
  • Fieldwork
  • Religious experience

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