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J. Mair: Anthropological reflections on belief, and a sketch for the study of post-truth.


Prof. Jonathan Mair (University of Kent):

When: April 4, 2017, 2:05 PM till 3:35 PM
Where: University of Hradec Kralove, building of PdF, Room #C5

Belief is usually treated as a human universal in the humanities and social sciences. Where its complexities are recognized, we usually seek to understand them in similarly universal terms. In this talk I will present findings from my ethnographic study of Mongolian-Tibetan Buddhists in northern China, arguing that in order to understand their engagement with their religious tradition, it is necessary to take into account some rather elaborate local theories and practices concerning belief, knowledge and ignorance. The Buddhists I studied with presented two similar, but subtly contrasting, approaches to belief, which can be thought of as distinct metacognitive stances. I will explain how the differences between these two stances explain the existence of very different relationships to the knowledge that constitutes the Buddhist tradition, and argue that understanding them is thus absolutely central to understanding religious life in this context. On this basis I will draw some general conclusions about understanding belief in general, and outline a proposed programme of research into the phenomenon of post-truth, which is currently perplexing many inside and outside of the academy.

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