God is everywhere: Islam, Christianity, and the immanence of transcendence

Fabio Vicini


This article weaves together major lines of inquiry in the anthropology of Christianity and Islam to consider how to approach and think about transcendence within anthropology at large. It does so by exploring one particular kind of Muslim ontology and illustrating how it can contribute to these major anthropological debates. As a point of departure, the article takes the researcher’s reflection on his experiences of transcendence in and just after fieldwork. Though ephemeral, such occurrences raise both methodological and theoretical questions. Methodologically, they query the way the anthropologists’ faith and their interlocutors’ experiences of God have been bracketed off by a secular logic that has for long shaped anthropological thought. Theoretically, they call for an engagement with material approaches within the anthropology of Christianity, the ontological turn, and recent dialogues between anthropology and theology to shed light on how Muslim ontologies can help think of transcendence in a different, more immanent, way. In this light, the article proposes to take Muslim ontologies and related theologies seriously as sources for broadening anthropological theory and not just as an interpretative tool to better understand the anthropologist’s “religious” interlocutors.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.1086/729821