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Religion and TradeCross-Cultural Exchanges in World History, 1000-1900$
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Francesca Trivellato, Leor Halevi, and Catia Antunes

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780199379187

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2014

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199379187.001.0001

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Religion and Cross-Cultural Trade

Religion and Cross-Cultural Trade

A Framework for Interdisciplinary Inquiry

(p.24) 1 Religion and Cross-Cultural Trade
Religion and Trade

Leor Halevi

Oxford University Press

This historiographical essay examines disciplinary and transdisciplinary approaches to the subject of trade across religious boundaries. It shows that this field of inquiry emerged in the wake of World War II, enabling scholars such as Clifford Geertz to reflect on both interfaith relations and economic development in a non-Western context. The field developed further by the century’s end, as multiculturalism, globalization, and fundamentalism stimulated cultural anthropologists, world historians, and institutional economists to explore the intersection of religion and trade. The author criticizes unreflective uses of “religion” as a category of analysis in scholarship on cross-cultural trade; he also points to problems with the construction of cultural and religious typologies by sociologists and economists ultimately interested in explaining why Protestant societies or European nations developed more effective capitalist institutions. Instead, he argues for the need to pay close attention to local religious responses to foreign commerce. He draws attention in particular to the urban spaces where contentious exchanges took place and to the material objects that provoked theological or legal reactions. These spaces and these commodities served, he argues, to mark symbolically an otherwise fluid frontier between cultures. Finally, he shows how medieval Islamic jurists thought concretely about things such as Christian sandals, wax candles, holy books, horses, pork, wine, and slaves, when they reflected on their cross-cultural entanglements.

Keywords:   world history, cultural anthropology, institutional economics, law, theology, trade, entanglements, commodities

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