The proposed project is guided by the Big Question: What can theology contribute to cultural anthropology and ethnography? There is a great need in anthropology for a theologically-engaged theoretical framework. Anthropologists experience new insights when they allow various theological perspectives to illuminate their research. This project will facilitate a three-year collaboration among members of a Core Collaborators group that includes: Derrick Lemons, Francis X. Clooney, Douglas Davies, Brian Howell, Alister McGrath, Joel Robbins, and Don Seeman. Core Collaborators, along with additional Invited Collaborators, will develop a framework for theological reflection to be used in anthropological research. The work will be stimulated by mini-conferences held at Emory University and The University of Cambridge.

The theoretical framework will protect the integrity of the scientific nature of anthropology and the scientific possibilities of theology. At its heart, this framework will seek to better understand the religious cultural assumptions and behavior of humans. The project’s working hypothesis is that anthropologists will produce more theologically-engaged ethnography because of the resulting theoretical framework. The framework will provide anthropologists with a rationale and a model for using theology in their research. The outputs of the team’s work will be disseminated through the Society for the Anthropology of Religion, the American Academy of Religion, and the American Anthropological Association. Additionally, the team will seek to publish our products in Current Anthropology, Cultural Anthropology, the Journal of the American Academy of Religion, the Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute and through a monograph and an edited book. The journal articles, monograph, and edited book will serve as a repository for anthropologists and theologians to study and cite as they consider how theology can deepen their ethnographic research.