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Abstract

In this response to Sarbeshwar Sahoo, and Eliza Kent, I attempt to address some of the questions, challenges and insights they have put forth in their comments on To Be Cared For. I focus, in particular, on the methodological question of how I define the object of that and what it leaves out, and how I justify my own epistemological stance in relation to those I study, whose views I sometimes challenge. I do so by highlighting a basic distinction between ethnographic studies which take religion itself as an object of investigation, and an anthropological study such as mine, in which religion is approached as an aspect of social reality. I then draw a distinction between two ways of understanding “culture,” and the links I see between them and the two contrasting views of religious conversion described in the book. I end by clarifying what I see as the ethical imperatives of this sort of research and its relation to the question of religious tolerance.

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