Jonathan Benthall




From 1974 to 2000, Jonathan Benthall was Director of the Royal Anthropological Institute. He was the Founding Editor of Anthropology Today, editing the journal from 1985 to 2000; today he is Director Emeritus. He is currently studying Faith Based Organizations with special reference to Islamic charities and has been retained by a number of legal teams, including the American Civil Liberties Union. From the study of Islamic humanitarianism he has gone on to consider the potential for an ‘Islamic humanism’, devised by Muslims in the light of the human sciences and consolidated in durable institutions throughout the Muslim world. More theoretically, he has explored how a ‘polythetic’ definition of religion can fruitfully be applied to a number of ideological movements that are in appearance wholly secular, and is also exploring how analytical concepts of ‘purity and danger’, derived from the work of Mary Douglas, can be applied comparatively to the understanding of many ideological systems, both religious and secular.