Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Alternative Archaeology and Religious Legitimation

[[RCK: Excavating tradition: alternative archaeologies mentions LDS in its abstract at least and points out how people come to archeology, and often with alternative strategies to professional academic archeology, with their religious legitimation needs.]]

Lewis (p.203) points out how Mircea Eliade's in illud tempore has been replaced as the target of the rear projections by a historical time in the twenty-first century.
However, rather than an explicitly mythological past (Eliades illud tempus), modern human beings tend to project their idealizations onto a “real,” historical past. Archaeology enters into this pattern by providing the scientific “facts” that are supposed to legitimate these idealized reconstructions. (p.203)
Lewis in 2011 commented on this fact in his chapter contributed to Religion and the Authority of Science [[RCK: does he mean this 2010 Brill handbook?]]  which captures the need of religions to find their claims substantiated by an independent authority, science, given the market place of conflicting religious ideas (p.204).

Part of Lewis' description is based on his 2003 monograph Legitimating New Religions, where he discusses Max Weber's Wirtschaft und Gesellschaft scheme of charismatic, traditional, legal and rational (which are sometimes lumped together, as Lewis notes, already by Weber, cf. (p.204)) legitimation. [[RCK: Lewis also has written on the invention of sacred traditions in a 2007 monograph coauthored with Olav Hammer (p.207), conceptualized as an extension of Hobsbawm and Ranger's classic 1983 The Invention of Tradition] (kindle edition)]]

Lewis sees this rethinking necessary (p.205) because in practice legitimations mix and match; charismatic leaders appeal to traditions when founding new religion, even though it is at least a reinterpreted and sometimes even a recreated tradition in many cases. Thus, the founders of new religious movements will appeal (p.206) to charismatic, rational and traditional arguments for supporting their claims (p.206f), and Lewis gives a few examples not meant to be exhaustive.

Lewis now addresses a fundamental gap in Weber and his own work, namely understanding that the charisma is at the core of the appeal. In that sense, Lewis can talk about the charisma of science and technology.

It has even been said by some observers that science is viewed quasi-religiously, as the ultimate authority in matters of “Truth.״ Thus any religion claiming that it is in some way scientific draws on the prestige and perceived legitimacy of natural science. (p.208)
Lewis cited biblical archeology as an endeavor where the a priori assumption of the correctness of the Biblical record is to receive further validation for archeological investigation (p.209). This is contrasted from the a posteriori archeology of modern Pagans, who want to know how to perform rituals and turn to science for answers (p.209, p.204).

Lewis then (p.209) turns to a discussion of Carole Cusack's 2011 paper on the use of archeology in the LDS church, for Atlantis believers, and in support of the Goddess.  Lewis points out that a claim to the validity of the BoM entails an interest in archeological validation (pp.211f). As far as the relationship between religious movements and archeology is concerned, Lewis distinguishes (p.212) between full immersion (as in LDS), shallow (as in the case of Atlantis believers not interested in funding Bahamas excavations), and half-full/half-empty strategies such as the worshippers of the Goddess, who can either engage with the Çatalhôyük archeology or let it be. The product of full immersion and half-full is a distinctly partisan archeology, akin to the old Biblical archeology or "creation science" (p.213) [[RCK: that is, an archeology looking for support, not for problematization]].

Lewis points out how this approach to the past has the structure of a "pick 'n' mix" (p.213), where modern druids would accept white robes and golden sickles if archeology documented them, but not human sacrifices, if archeology could document those (p.213).

[N]ew religions often justify their innovations by attributing them to the authority of tradition, though it is often only through a reinterpretation of the past that they are able to portray themselves as embodiments of tradition. (p.217)

Bibliographic Record

Lewis, J. R. (2012). Excavating tradition: alternative archaeologies as legitimation strategies. Numen, 59(2-3), 202-221. doi:10.1163/156852712X630789 (UB Wien)

No comments:

Post a Comment