“Are Meanings the Name of the Game? Religion as Symbolic Meaning and Religion as Power”



“Searching for symbolic meanings,” Talal Asad says, “is not the name of my game.” In putting things like this, Asad leads us to believe that the approach to the study of religion he favors, which focuses on social power, is at odds with the approach Clifford Geertz advances, which focuses on the interpretation of symbolic meaning. However, for a particular action or pattern of behavior to affect social power structures, it must possess symbolic meaning. So the social power approach and the interpretive approach are not as different as some of their respective advocates indicate.