Lecture 7: July 4, 2013
Chapter 9: Religions
How do relational ontologies (animism, Totenism, mana), polytheism, monotheism, and science
differ in their relation to nature?
Stories that work to guide how to deal with critical problems that humans face as well as
an explanation of things that are not understood.
Often they encode cultural values and instruct people on their place in the world and how
they should relate to it. Tell what is right or wrong, how they relate within society.
Sometimes used to justify certain relationships (e.g., gender norms, human-environment
Origin Myths describe how the world began, and often where people fit into this scheme.
Is something that we all do in our society.
Formal (stylized, repetitive, and stereotyped) behaviour performed in specific places at
set times - not necessarily religious.
A ritual must fit into four categories.
1) Must be repetitive social practice,
2) it must be set off from the routines of day to day life,
3) it must follow some sort of ritual scheme, and
4) it must be encoded in myth, symbols, and meaning.
Types of Ritual
1. Ancestor Worship
2. Life-Cycle Rituals: which are aimed at transitioning people from one life stage to other. E.g.,
graduation is consider as life stage ritual, Baptist, Birthdays are example.
3. Seasonal Rituals: Happen at the same time in calendar. E.g., Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving.
4. Pilgrimage: Form of travelling from one place to another, the place identified as sacred. E.g.,
many Muslim travel to Hajj (sacred place), many Jewish people travel to Israel.
5. Sacrifice: Key form of ritual. This is when people actually give something up to regain some
spiritual aspect. Giving something to earth, in order get something. 6. Inversion (Halloween, Carnival): Normal taboos are allowed to take place. Halloween is
something in inversion of celebrating in Dark.
Rites of Passage: Customs associated with the transition from one place or stage of life to
Separation - leaving normal everyday life (profane).
Liminality - temporary suspension and even reversal of ordinary social distinction,
behaviours, and expectations (sacred)
Communitas: intense community spirit, feeling of great social, solidarity, equality,
and togetherness during collective liminality
Incorporation - re-incorporation into everyday life (profane), but in new status.
A specific form of ritual in which supernatural techniques are used to accomplish specific
Imitative magic: magicians produce desired effect by imitating it - imitate effect of
negative effect on image of victim (e.g., Vodoo doll)
Contagious magic: whatever is done to object believed to affect person who once had
contact with that object (hair, clothing etc..)
Magic can be associated with animism, mana, polytheism, or monotheism, or even
atheism or science.
- Uncertainty, Anxiety, and Solace
- Religion and magic can help reduce anxiety
- Malinowski: People turn to magic as means as control when they face uncertainty and danger.
- Trobriand Islanders: used magic only in situations they could not control.
- Magic was used for fishing on the open seas, but not for fishing on the reef close to shore.
- Mayan farmers in Belize Pray and give offerings to gods of the hills and valleys before the
hunt, fish or plant crops.
In contemporary societies, magic persists as means of reducing psychological anxiety in
situations of uncertainty.
E.g., Baseball Magic
Players have routines and/or superstitions to help deal with uncertainty. Routines/Superstitions most often connected to hitting, not defence.
A good hitter will get a hit (30%) of the time, but a good fielder will be successful over
90% of the time.
Religious change can take different forms
Missionization - conversion from one religion to another (forced or voluntary)
- Often results in syncretic religious.
2) Diffusion - voluntary conversion and spread of religion - New Age.
3) Independent Invention - cults?
- Syncretism is the process by which elements of one religion are assimilated into another
religion resulting in a change in the fundamental beliefs of those religions.
- This change does not always result in a total fusion of the religions but bits and pieces that one
religion has adopted from another.
- Examples: 1) Voodoo
2) Rastafarianism: Blend of African religious and Christianity near Jamaica Island.
3) Melanesian Cargo Cults: from south pacific. Emerged in pacific island primarily around
WWII and cold-war era.
4) New Age
Chapter 8: Gender Chapter 11: Ethnicity and Race
Social Organization: Age, Gender, Race, Ethnicity
Nature or Nurture?
Age, gender, race, ethnicity are essential to anthropology because these categories reflect
the most basic principles of sociality- how societies divide individuals into social
groups and roles.
Distinctions based are Age, Gender, Race, Ethnicity are universal - Some form of
organization based perceived sexual differences and concept o