Introduction to Cultural Anthropology - PowerPoint PPT Presentation

1 / 65
About This Presentation

Introduction to Cultural Anthropology


Title: Slide 1 Author: Tianshu Pan Last modified by: admin Created Date: 8/28/2004 11:26:36 PM Document presentation format: (4:3) Company – PowerPoint PPT presentation

Number of Views:9
Avg rating:3.0/5.0
Slides: 66
Provided by: Tians7


Transcript and Presenter's Notes

Title: Introduction to Cultural Anthropology

  • Introduction to Cultural Anthropology
  • Religion Culture the Supernatural

Culture and the Supernatural
  • What is religion?
  • - Anthropological / sociological perspectives
  • What are religions identifying features?
  • What functions does religion serve?

  • Sociologist Peter Bergers definition of religion
    as a cultural system of commonly shared beliefs
    and rituals that provides a sense of ultimate
    meaning and purpose by creating an idea of
    reality that is sacred, all-encompassing, and
  • Anthropologist Wallaces definition (1966)
  • a set of rituals, rationalized by myth, which
    mobilizes supernatural powers for the purpose of
    achieving or preventing transformations of state
    in man and nature.

What is religion?
  • Organized beliefs in the supernatural that guide
    humans in their attempts to make sense of the
    world and deal with problems they as important
    but defy solution through application of known
    technology or techniques of organization.
  • To overcome these limitations, people appeal to,
    or seek to influence and even manipulate
    supernatural beings and powers.
  • - Part of all cultures (cultural universal)

Problem with the anthropological/ sociological
definition of religion (from a Euro-centric
  • There is no mention of God.
  • Sociologists / anthropologists are not concerned
    with whether religion is true or false but with
    the social organization of religion.
  • Religion/superstition dichotomy
  • Religious economy religions can be best
    understood as organizations in competition with
    one another for followers.

How sociologists think about religion
  • Sociologist are NOT concerned with whether
    religious beliefs are true or false
  • Sociologists are esp. concerned with the social
    organization of religion.
  • Sociologists often view religions as a major
    source of social solidarity.
  • Sociologists tend to explain the appeal of
    religion in terms of social forces rather than
    personal, spiritual, or psychological factors.

The sociological significance of religion
  • Marx Religion and IEQUALITY
  • Marx argued that religion is the opium of the
    people. In this sense, he posited that happiness
    is deferred to the afterlife and therefore people
    become accustomed to a sort of resigned
    acceptance of conditions in the here and now.
    Attention is diverted from inequalities and
    injustices of everyday life in favor of rewards
    after death.
  • Religion contains a strong ideological element
    the religious beliefs can provide justification
    for those in power.

  • Weber The World Religions and Social Change
  • Weber contended that religiously inspired social
    movements produced dramatic social
  • Focus on the relationship between Protestantism
    and capitalism.

  • Durkheim Religion and Functionalism
  • Durkheim argued that religion had the function
    of coalescing society by ensuring that people
    regularly to affirm common and values.
  • Distinction between the sacred (actions, images,
    and symbols associated with religion that are
    held to be divine) and profane the profane (which
    represents the routine aspects of everyday life)
  • Ex. Totems as sacred objects.

Totemism ??
  • Totemism is a religion in which elements of
    nature act as sacred templates for society by
    means of symbolic association. Totemism uses
    nature as a model for society

Totems and Modernity
(No Transcript)
Identifying features of religion
  • Various beliefs and rituals prayers, songs,
    dances, offerings, and sacrifices people use to
    interpret, appeal to, and manipulate supernatural
    beings and powers (gods and goddesses, ancestral
    and other spirits or impersonal powers) to their
  • Certain individuals are especially skilled at
    dealing with supernatural beings and powers and
    assist other members of society in their ritual
  • A body of myths rationalize or explains the
    system in a manner consistent with peoples
    experience in the world in which they live.

The PRACTICE of Religion
  • Supernatural Beings and Powers
  • Gods Goddesses
  • Ancestral Spirits
  • Animism (Tylor)
  • Religious Specialists
  • Priests Priestesses
  • Shaman
  • Rituals and Ceremonies
  • Rites of Passage
  • Rites of Intensification
  • Magic Witchcraft

Gods Goddesses
  • The patriarchal nature of Western society is
    expressed in its theology, in which a masculine
    God gives life to the first man. The first woman
    is created from the first man.
  • How men and women relate to one another in
    everyday life. Societies that subordinate women
    to men define the god godhead in exclusive
    masculine terms.
  • Goddess are apt to be most prominent in societies
    where women make a major contribution to economy
    and enjoy relative equality with men.

Ancestral Spirits
  • Consistent with the wide-spread notion that human
    beings are made up of two parts, a body and a
    some kind of vital spirit (the idea that the
    spirit being free from the body by death and have
    an existence seems logical).
  • Ancestral spirits resemble living human beings in
    their appetites, feelings, emotions, and
  • Belief in Ancestral spirits is found in societies
    with unilineal descent systems.
  • The vital importance of deceased ancestors in the
    patrilineal society of pre-revolutionary China.

Ancestor Worship and Food Exchange
  • For the gift of life, one is forever indebted to
    his/her parents, owing them obedience, deference,
    and a comfortable old age provide for their in
    the spiritual world after death. Offering food,
    money and incense on the anniversaries of their
    births and deaths.

Ancestor Worship and Food Exchange in Hong Kong
(research by Harvard anthropologist Watson in the
  • Descendants of Man lineage ???? are gathered at
    tomb of their ancestor. Roast pigs are presented
    at the tomb. The local school master is reading
    a annual report to the ancestor (in classical
    Chinese) detailing the accounts of the founders
  • Major lineages in the HK New Territories share
    pork among the male descendants of key ancestors.
    Elders of the Man lineage carefully weigh and
    divide shares of meat paid for by the ancestor
    himself (who was alive socially through the
    mechanism of his ancestral estate).

  • Sir E. B. Tylors original contribution to the
    anthropological study of religion. Animism was
    seen as the most primitive and is defined as a
    belief in souls that derives from the first
    attempt to explain dreams and like phenomena. A
    belief in spirit beings thought to animate
  • EX Trees, plants, rocks, and mountains have a
    life of their own.

Orthodoxy vs. orthopraxy(James Watson)
  • Orthodoxy (correct belief)
  • Ex. Hindus, Orthodox Jews, and Taliban
  • Orthopraxy (correct practice)
  • Confucianism in practice (EX. Man lineage members
    participating in ancestor worship)

Priests Priestesses
  • Societies with the resources to support full-time
    occupational specialists give the role of guiding
    religious practices and influencing the
    supernatural to the priests or priestess.

  • Part-time religious specialist whose special
    power to contact and manipulate supernatural
    beings are forces in an altered state of
    consciousness comes to him or her thorough some
    personal experience.
  • Religious entrepreneur acting on behalf of some
    human client.

Religious Specialists
  • Shamans are essentially religious entrepreneurs
    acting on behalf of some human client, often to
    bring about a cure or foretell some future event.
    Shamans tell supernaturals what to do.
  • May collect a fee.
  • Deities are the clients of the Priests and
    Priestesses who tell people what to do.
  • Accept donations.

Functions and Expressions of Religion
  • Rituals are
  • - formal, performed in sacred contexts.
  • - convey information about the culture of the
    participants and, hence, the participants
  • - inherently social, and participation in them
    necessarily implies social commitment. (DURKHEIM)
  • NOTE this is where you see the anthropological
    contribution to the study of religion!

Functions of ritual the Durkheimian perspective
  • Collective consciousness
  • Group solidarity
  • Collective identity
  • Sense of community
  • Relationship
  • Collective representation

(No Transcript)
Rituals and Ceremonies
  • Rites of Passage
  • Rituals that mark important stages in the lives
    of individuals, such as birth, marriage, and
  • Rites of Intensification
  • Religious rituals enacted during a groups real
    of potential crisis.

Rites of Passage
  • religious rituals which mark and facilitate a
    person's movement from one (social) state of
    being to another.
  • 1) Separation the participant(s) withdraws from
    the group and begins moving from one place to
  • 2) Transition (Liminality) the period between
    states, during which the participant(s) has left
    one place but has not yet entered the next.
  • 3) Incorporation the participant(s) reenters
    society with a new status having completed the
  • Transition / Liminality is part of every rite of
    passage involving the temporary suspension and
    even reversal of everyday social distinctions.

Wedding as rite of passage in pre-revolutionary
  • Ethnographic Example the transfer of bride
  • Separation the bride withdraws from the group
    she belongs (natal home) and begins moving from
    one place to another (wife-takers) .
  • Transition/Liminality the period between
    states (transfer), during which the bride has
    left one place but has not yet entered the next
    (Note bride is considered to be dangerous and
    has the potential to pollute if not properly
  • Incorporation the bride reenters society with a
    new status The death of the daughter (for the
    wife-givers) and the birth of the daughter (for
    the wife-takers)!

Ritual cannibalism in Christianity
  • Its SYMBOLIC rather than actual, although some
    Christians believe that the communion water
    actually becomes the body of the Christ (the
    Eucharist meal).

Functions and Expressions of Religion
  • Magic
  • Magic refers to supernatural techniques intended
    to accomplish specific aims.
  • Magic may be imitative or contagious
    (accomplished through contact).
  • Witchcraft
  • 1. Explanation of events based on the belief that
    certain individuals possess an innate psychic
    power capable of causing harm, including sickness
    and death.
  • EX the practice of fengshui the strategy
    employed by the Boxers (???)

Functions of Magic and Witchcraft
  • Although many westerners seek to objectify and
    de-mytholgize their world try to suppress the
    existence of magic mysteries in their own
    consciousness, they continue to be fascinated by
  • Ex. Abraham Lincolns wife Nancy Reagan

Functions and Expressions of Religion
  • Anxiety, Control, Solace
  • Magic/witchcraft is an instrument of control, but
    religion serves to provide stability when no
    control or understanding is possible.
  • Malinowski saw tribal religions as being focused
    on life crises.

Functions of Religion
  • Psychological Social
  • Reduce anxiety by explaining the unknown and
    making it understandable
  • Provide comfort with the belief supernatural aid
    is available in times of crisis
  • Sanction human conduct by providing notions of
    right and wrong and transfer the burden of
    decision making from individuals to supernatural
  • Maintain social solidarity.

  • Religion and Cultural Ecology
  • Western economic development experts erroneously
    cite the Indian cattle taboo to illustrate the
    idea that religious beliefs stand in the way of
    rational economic decisions.
  • Hindus seem to be ignoring a valuable food
  • Dont Indians even know how to raise proper

Sacred Cow
  • Gau Mata (cow) as the central symbol of Hindu
  • Indians revere zebu cattle protected by the Hindu
    doctrine of ahimsa (principle of nonviolence
    which forbids the killing of animals)
  • Divine Mother

Sacred Cow
  • Hindus use cattle for transportation, traction,
    and manure.
  • Bigger cattle eat more, making them more
    expensive to keep.
  • Lesson the material and spiritual are
  • Note we may explain the Kosher rules in the same
    line of analysis

Mosaic Food Restrictions
  • Summary
  • Orthodox Jewish rules prohibit eating meat and
    dairy products at the same meal proscribe eating
    meat which has not been drained of blood, or made
  • Ban on pork eating
  • Food laws were important in Jesus time. Each
    Jewish sects interpreted Gods gastronomic
    intentions in its own way. Food rules stand for
    the whole of their law.

  • Kosher Treyf
  • (clean/fit) (unclean/torn)
  • Separation of Milk and Meat
  • Thou shalt not seeth a kid in its mothers
  • Exodus 2319 3426 Deuteronomy 1421.
  • Kashrut/Kashruth (Fit, Appropriate,
  • suitable)
  • Kasher/Kosher (Clean, Fit)

More Consumers Ask Is It Kosher (Hunter 1997)
  • Kosher foods, formerly sought by devout Jews, are
    now purchased by Seventh Day Adventists, Muslims,
    Buddhists, vegetarians, individuals with milk
    allergies, and health-conscious people
    Currently, more than 75 if certified kosher
    foods are purchased by non-Jews, who favor them
    because of a perception that such foods are of
    good quality due to high standards and strict
    supervision (p. 10)

  • Kosher dining at Mont Holyoke College
  • Kosher kitchen at Smith College

(No Transcript)
(No Transcript)
(No Transcript)
Halal The pig as haram
  • Islamic rejection of pig and pork was commonly
    accompanied by strong feelings of revulsion and
    scrupulous avoidance of both pigs and their
    flesh. The writings of western travelers contain
    abundant references to Muslims ridiculing
    Christian pork eating. At the close of the 15th
    century, Venetian merchants had to pay a
    substantial sum for the right to keep pig at
    their establishment in Alexandra. Christian
    minorities living in Muslim lands were special
    targets too. Some of them gave up raising pigs
    and denied they ate pork. The Armenians who
    lived in Turkey prior to WWI would capture young
    wild swine to raise for their flesh.
  • The contrast between Muslim and Christian
    practices has made the present-day pattern of pig
    keeping in the Mediterranean and Near East fairly
    simple. Christians on the north shores of the
    Mediterranean generally keep pigs and eat pork
    though Muslims of the Balkans do not. In North
    Africa, pork has been eaten by European Christian
    settlers in various places. And to the east of
    Mediterranean pork is rejected by Orthodox Jews
    and Muslims.

Ramadan ? ?
  • Keeping the fast during Ramadan, the month-long
    period set aside for that purpose, distinguishes
    pious Muslims from those who casually follow
    Islams precepts. No one in the Muslim community
    publicly admits to breaking the fast.
    Accordingly accusing anyone of failing to fast
    constitutes a serious charge that can lead to
    fighting, bloodshed, and even murder.
  • Fasting has simple, unambiguous rules during
    Ramadan nothing should pass ones lips during the
    time between the calls to morning and evening
    prayers. Muslims should not eat, drink, smoke,
    and take snuff. Nor should Muslims reorganize
    their daily activities to escape feeling the
    uncomfortable effects of the fast. One should
    not sleep excessive amounts of time during the
    day but, to the contrary, should fully experience
    fasting so that one can contemplates, and most
    importantly, wholly embraces Islamic faith.
    Keeping the fast continually reinvigorates the
    power of Muslim identity to dominate self.

Religion as a control mechanism
  • The power of religion affects action
  • Religion can be used to mobilize large segments
    of society through systems of real and perceived
    rewards and punishments.
  • Witch hunts play an important role in limiting
    social deviancy in addition to functioning as
    leveling mechanisms to reduce differences in
    wealth and status between members of society.
  • Many religions have a formal code of ethics that
    prohibit certain behavior while promoting other
    kinds of behavior.

Ex Religion and Social Control in Afghanistan
  • Social conditions in Afghanistan under Taliban
  • The Taliban are invoking a very strict
    interpretation of the Koran as the basis for
    social behavior Women are required to wear
    veils, remain indoors, and are not allowed to be
    with males who are not blood relatives. Men are
    required to grow bushy beards and are barred from
    playing cards, flying kites, and keeping pigeons.

Religion and the development of capitalism
  • Christian Values
  • Max Weber linked the spread of capitalism to the
    values central to the Protestant faith
    independent, entrepreneurial, hard working,
    future-oriented, and free thinking.
  • The emphasis Catholics placed on immediate
    happiness and security, and the notion that
    salvation was attainable only when a priest
    mediated on ones behalf, did not fit well with

England vs. France
  • The Industrial Revolution began in England but
    not in France.
  • The French did not have to transform their
    domestic manufacturing system in order to
    increase production because it could draw on a
    larger labor force.
  • England was already operating at maximum
    production so that in order to increase yields
    innovation was necessary.
  • Weber argued that the pervasiveness of Protestant
    beliefs in values contributed to the spread and
    success of industrialization in England, while
    Catholicism inhibited industrialization in

Religion and Change
  • Revitalization Movements
  • Religious movements that act as mediums for
    social change are called revitalization
  • Examples Mormanism, Unification Church of Sun
    Myung Moon, the Branch Davidians (David Koresh)

Revitalization movement in the US
New Age Religions
  • Since the 1960s, there has been a decline in
    formal organized religions.
  • New Age religions have appropriated ideas,
    themes, symbols, and ways of life from the
    religious practices of Native Americans,
    Australian Aborigines, and east Asian religions
    (Buddhism, Daoism, Fengshui /geomancy).

Globalization New Age Movement

Explaining the popularity of NAM
  • New Agers deny that there is much value in
    clinging to well-defined religions traditions
    (which have become too ritualistic and devoid of
    spiritual meaning)
  • Individuals possess unparalleled degrees
    autonomy/freedom to chart their own lives one
    should pick and choose spiritual beliefs and
    practices that suit him/her best listen to ones
    intuition or inner voice
  • Response to the rise of scientism

NAM Philosophy
  • Relativism- it is absolutely true that no
    absolute truth exists and there is no absolute
    Creator God
  • Tolerance
  • Monism all reality is one (? ? ? )
  • Pantheism god is the universe (? ? ? )
  • Humanity is God - human sin is only an illusion
    brought about by ignorance of ones own divinity
  • A change in consciousness - through alteration of
    consciousness we are opened up to a salvation
    through knowledge of deeper truths, reality, and
    the escape from ignorance and illusion
  • Syncretism - all religions are one
  • A Cosmic Evolutionary Optimism -- giving voice to
    a hope in a coming universal order of peace and

Christian Responses to NAM
  • Dialogue / Bridging / Addressing issues of mutual
  • "Watch out for false prophets. They come to you
    in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are
    ferocious wolves"

Sociological perspectives on NAM
  • Differing from traditional forms of religiosity
    not a unified, traditional cult system of beliefs
    and practices no official leader, headquarters,
    nor membership list
  • a network of groups seeking out and developing
    alternative ways of life in order to coping with
    challenges of modernity
  • EX. the popularity of holistic healing practices

Sociological Perspectives
  • Compared to a serious religious commitment,
    participation in NAM appears little more than a
    hobby or lifestyle choice (acquiring
    cultural/symbolic capital)
  • -- the appeals of fengshui /geomancy
  • -- celebrities who are involved in NAM
  • Shirley MacLaine, ex-Beatle George Harrison, Tom
    Cruise and Tina Turner.

Hare Krishna
(No Transcript)
(No Transcript)
New Age Movement and Popular Culture
Write a Comment
User Comments (0)