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date: 24 January 2021

Abstract and Keywords

This article argues that current anthropology provides historians with the opportunity to enrich their understanding of medieval Christianity. Both disciplines share similar goals, though these have been differently shaped by the conditions in which they encounter their evidence. The first half of this article reviews classic evolutionary, structural, and functionalist anthropological approaches to religion, and considers how these have influenced Annales, North American and English empiricist historians. It then presents an interpretation of developments in both fields through what have been variously labeled the post-structuralist, post-colonial and linguistic turns of the later decades of the twentieth century. This will trace Anthropology’s fragmentation into symbolic, cultural, interpretive, historical, and discursive strands, and address its implications for questions of cultural translation, causation, and periodization in the historiography of medieval Christianity. The article closes with a brief discussion of the convergence of each discipline upon material cultural approaches.

Keywords: Anthropology, structuralism, functionalist, post-structuralist, post-colonial, cultural translation, material culture.

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