chapter  6
18 Pages

Doing violence with impunity

Religious activity among Ngati Uepohatu has a purpose that struck me as surprising or even shocking when I rst read Te Pakaka Tawhai’s introduction to “Maori Religion” (Tawhai [1988] 2002). It became the major inspiration for this book when I found myself wondering whether Tawhai’s statement that “the purpose of religious activity here is to … do violence with impunity” (ibid.: 244) applies to religious activities elsewhere. Perhaps it may even be true of religious activities everywhere. e entirety of Tawhai’s article deserves a place in a shortlist of excellent discussions of religions. It exemplies careful reexivity, respectful engagement and clear analysis of data. It oers correctives to the ways religions are sometimes studied and written about. But, most signicantly for the question of how religion might be dened, Tawhai’s article takes us far from the Protestant and Enlightenment rooted treatment of religion as believing of hyperseparated individuals in transcendent deities. Instead, it attends to the performance of religion by relational persons in a participatory, material world.