RELIGST 3AR3 Lecture Notes - Lecture 5: Talal Asad

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Lecture 5
I. Three theoretical insights into the nature of religious authority:
1. Authority is…
- Historical product of social processes;
- Presented throughout institutional infrastructure
- Present in private/public, small/large settings
(Talal Asad)
- Authority gets upheld by multiple laws (Pope -> priests, bishops, cardinals ->
churches -> community
2. Authority may be bureaucratic or charismatics (Weber); authority is layered, much like
a political system = maintaining the status quo; inertia. Bureaucratic authority is
meant to keep things the way they are.
- Oriented toward change, explicit of discourse/discussion, tends to be embodied by
an individual, whereas the other is embodied by the office/procedures itself where
various people fil them (people change but positions/roles stay). CA depends on
individual and their ability +to persuade their audience to make changes
(CA=charismatic authority) -> PROBLEM: entirely based on the persuasive powers of
that individual, but if that individual dies or is imprisoned, there is no institutional
backbone in place.
3. Authority’s poer is poerful and ontestale: onstrutie and orrosie disourses.
(does not go through theological lens)
- Constructive = uphold authority, tries to construct it.
- Corrosive = the ways in which we challenge authority; sometimes this is done
anonymously through music, rap, song, even video/art.
II. Locations of religious authority
1. Religious specialist (who?)
- priest (not talking about Catholic, fulltime; hierarchal bureaucratic support
themselves)
- shaman (regular people endowed with regular powers, also need to fulfil special
roles; uses altered states of consciousness, trances
2. Ritual authority (how?)
Ritual’s 5 coo traits
Ritual’s function with authority
1. It is distinct from everyday life it’s ot what we always see
2. Marked by procedural a process
3. Multisensory and embodied engaging in a bodily way
4. Ritual is highly communicative says something meaningful to an audience
5. Ritual is performative, not just reflecting
How do religious rituals uphold religious authority?
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