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Lecture

Week 9 Lecture


Department
Anthropology
Course Code
ANTA02H3
Professor
Victor Barac

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RELIGION – OVERVIEW
1.James Frazer
2.Animism
3.Animatism
4.Myth & Ritual
5.Emile Durkheim
6.The Social Organization of Religion
7.Religion and Society
8.Religion and Social Change
James Frazer (1854 1941) – focused on religion as an aspect of discourse of discuss 
1.The Golden Bough (1890)
Multi volume work and kept on being published and successive in
editions
2.Study of ancient cults, myths, and rites
It became so popular in 19th century in intellectual circles
3.Magic -> Religion -> Science
Idea was primitive societies had magic, intermediate societies
advanced to religion, and the highest level of society focused on
science
Societies that believed in magic were people that were trying to deal
with arbitrary forces
Religion was something else for Frazer, represented an evolutionary
event, had to do with advancing the will of God rather than simply
trying to manipulate supernatural forces
Sciences was more of a rational investigation
When anthropologists looked at religious phenomenon
Religion was primarily an intellectual activity
Animism
Belief in spiritbeings (Edward Tylor – religion had to do with beliefs)
1.Souls, ghosts, witches, demons, spirits, gods, etc.
2.Discrete, individual beings
Often have names, dress, titles often
3.Specific beliefs central to all religions
All religions have some sort of beliefs
Animatism – another class of phenomenon
Belief in impersonal, diffuse forces (Robert Marrett)
1.Hebrew el
2.Greek – dynamis
3.Latin – noumena
4.Polynesia mana = supernatural power that comes from Polynesia
5. Iroquois – orenda = a type of life giving power that people draw from and give
back to in the course of their lives
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Myth and Ritual
The Two Basic Elements of Religion
1.Myth = Grand narratives (stories that they tell themselves) of culture –
language, linguistics, chants, etc.
1.Explanations
Explain the universe
They tell us about foraging, what to expect in the future
2.Value systems
They tell you what are the good things to value, what things to
avoid/punish
It’s in the myths and grand stories/narratives that define cultural
values
2.Ritual = Rites (smaller domain of specific formalized behaviours) &
ceremonies (consist of a series of rites)
Rites involve behaviour that are non-narrative (e.g. fasting, dancing,
marking of the body in various ways)
Rituals are framed by myths/narratives
1.Collective – shared, intense, emotional
2. Individual – empowerment, catharsis, healing
Emile Durkheim (1858 1917) – was a grand historical thinker, drew upon the studies
of antiquity and ethnographic work in 19 th century and early 20th century, had a radical
influence on Malinowski
1.Student of Fustel de Coulanges (The Ancient City, 1864) – one of the first founders of
history
How religion of antiquity bound gens into cities
Looked at available historical evidence on Greek societies, looked at how
ancient city arose, and what had to happen in a society that have
previously been tribal and governed by tribal laws
Had to establish all sorts of civic and cultural practices, rituals, narratives,
in order to secure the allegiance of people beyond their clan (kinship) and
tribal
Did this through religious rituals to secure loyalty
2.Primitive Classification (1903)
The social, symbolic order
Concluded that religion was a symbolic representation of society, getting
individuals to function as social creatures
3.The Elementary Forms of Religious Life (1915)
Sacred & profane
Essence of religion is what religion does is it divides universe into sacred
and profane spheres
Sacred = holy, set apart from the profane everyday life
oCertain times are sacred and holy (e.g. Christmas)
Gets people to conform – if you don’t agree you’re not part of us
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